I close my eyes and there she is: my baby, Isabella. I see her holding my hand as we walk down the street, ice cream all over her face; chocolate ice cream, of course. Her long black hair flows like silk in the slight breeze, glimmering in the sunlight; her jade green eyes dazzlingly beautiful, staring up at me with curiosity and wonder. Her smile is the sort to melt even the blackest of hearts; her front tooth is missing, leaving a black hole in a row of gleaming white pearls. Her pink lips compliment the warm rosiness of her cheeks. Isabella, my baby, where have you gone?
I open my eyes and reality suddenly flushes over me. I lay across my bed, the shutters casting shadows across the room like the bars of a jail cell. I had already lost everyone and everything that was important to me. All I had left was Bell. My parents kicked me out when my girlfriend fell pregnant. My girlfriend, Lidia, left me with our baby 3 weeks after she was born. I never had any close friends at school. The only other chance I had at having someone close was my twin; he never made it past birth. All I had left was Isabella, but now I don't even have her.
She was born on 16th April 2007, my 17th birthday. Lidia and I thought she was the worlds present to me. She took the 'present to me' a bit too seriously. At 3 weeks old, Bella's mother left us. I woke up and she was gone. Not so much as a goodbye. I haven't seen her since. Except for once I think I may have caught a glimpse of her. I couldn't be sure.
The fact is: she's gone. Never to return. I was left alone to care for a 3-week-old baby. Although, sometimes I'm glad I raised her as my own. Lidia had certain beliefs I wouldn’t want Isabella to pick up on. Like the belief that it’s okay to leave a 3-week-old baby motherless.
Sometimes I sit and wonder if she really did leave by her own choice. If she went missing, surely it would’ve been on the news. Surely. I called her and called her, until finally giving up. There was only once that the call went through and to that I was greeted with a gasp and a dialtone.
I sit up and look from the portrait of Bella on the wall to my reflection in the mirror. She looks just like her mother, but she has my eyes. Exactly my eyes. How can she be gone? Will I ever see those eyes again outside of my own reflection?
NO! I shake my head as if to rid these bad thoughts from my brain. I can't think like that. She has to be somewhere. Of what significance would a 3 year old be to anyone but her family? And the only family she had was- I stopped mid-thought. I'm not the only family she has. Surely though, she wouldn't have taken her away from me. Not even Lidia would stoop that low. Would she? It all fits though. She probably still has a key to my apartment, and if it were anyone else, surely Bella would have been screaming as they took her from her bed. She knows her mother from the photos, and recognises her when she sees them. Even Lidia, surely would have given me a warning at the very least.
What did I do to deserve this? I was never a bad kid. Never getting into fights, always handing in homework on time, I barely even swore (except in some rare cases). Was I some sort of serial killer in a past life? Is that why all this is happening?
Who do I expect to answer all these questions? Some mystical mind reader? Of course not, that would be far too simple. In my life, nothing ever happens the easy way. I need to find out these answers for myself. I dig into the pockets of my denim shorts, rifling through the contents: my wallet, a small picture of Isabella I carry with me everywhere, chewing gum wrapper... Ah, here we go, my mobile. I scroll through my contacts and find Lidia. My finger hovers over the little green button as a thousand thoughts race through my mind at once. Will she pick up? Does she even have the same number? What do I say when she answers? Do I bluntly accuse her or start with idle chitchat?
My hand shaking, I press the button. I feel beads of sweat form on my forehead. I press the speaker to my ear. I wait nervously as the dial tone rings. Each second that passes, I can feel my heart trying to push its way out of my chest. Ba boom. Ba boom. Ba boom. I hear a beep. Message bank.
"Hi Lidia, it’s me, Luke. Could you please call me back? I have something important I need to ask you." I place the phone back in my pocket, my hands still trembling.
I turn around to look back in the mirror. I see a man staring back at me. A man who is the picture of good health. Medium length blond hair, the surfy look. Straight, white teeth framed by light pink lips, which would usually form a bedazzling smile, but if you look a little harder, that smile seems to have gone on holiday. The man staring back at me was not his usual bright happy self, but a picture of heartache and pain. Droopy eyes, ruffled hair, nose red from crying. The darkness of the room only added to the shadows across his face, making him look sadder still. That man's only wish was to have his little girl back. Just to see her face, feel her touch, hear her laugh.
Just as I think that, I hear it: her laugh. Clear as day. I spin around on the spot, my heart soaring, only to sink right back to my feet. No one was there. Great, now I'm hearing things. WAIT! Her laugh, it's my message tone. I hurriedly dig around my pocket for my phone. My fingers fumbling over all the keys, I open the message. It's from Lidia.
Luke. If you ever want to see Lidia or your daughter again, be at Corp Creek at midnight tonight.
My stomach sinks. My head spins. My feet collapse from under me and I fall onto my bed. Who has my baby? And what do they want with her and Lidia? My heart racing I check the time. 8:32 PM. Corp Creek is at least a half hour drive from here. That gives me about 3 hours to prepare. But prepare how? Do I arm myself? Or will that just anger them if they find out? I walk over to my bedside table and open the second drawer. I search through it and pull out my grandfather’s switchblade. It's a perfect fit between my belt and the pants at my back. I slip it in and the cold metal feels nice against my skin. It gives me a sense of danger, strength. I lay back on my bed. Now all that’s left to do is wait. I close my eyes, and my thoughts start to slow. The world slowly slipped to black.