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Parkinson stares out of her kitchen window and
rambunctious daughter chase butterflies across the
nearby pasture. She can't
believe Regina will be starting kindergarten in
several weeks; it seems
like yesterday she was taking her first step.
The evening breeze tousles Regina's
strawberry-blonde tresses and her dumpy
legs desperately strive to keep pace with the
soaring butterfly. When it
lands, she tiptoes over and tries to capture the
insect in the plastic
container, but the butterfly soars away. Dimples
form in Regina's chubby
cheeks and she giggles at her futile attempts to
Elisabeth retrieves the pressure cooker from
beneath the sink cabinet and
places the last of the washed potatoes inside,
fills it to the brim with
water, then situates them on the stove. She returns
to the window and peers
out, but when she doesn't see Regina anywhere, she
runs to the nearby
pasture, hollering out her daughter's name.
"Regina! Where are you? Answer
Regina jauntily skitters along the narrow, densely
wooded pathway, imploring
the swallowtail butterfly to land; she is
determined to catch the
multicolored insect and has pursued it through a
section of the Blue Ridge
Mountain forest. She has wandered too far away to
hear her mother's
desperate screams and is oblivious to the dangers
of becoming lost.
Elisabeth anxiously forages in the surrounding
woods for two frustrating
hours, but she can't discover anything which would
indicate her daughter's
whereabouts. She feels incapable of locating Regina
on her own and runs to
where her seventeen-year old son and husband are
laboring in the hayfield.
She frantically waves her arms in the air to get
her husband's attention
because Bobby can't hear her over the tractor's
clangorous engine. He knows
something terrible has happened by the anxious look
on Elisabeth's face and
he quickly switches off the ignition. "What's
wrong?" he asks.
"Regina wandered into the woods and I can't find
her anywhere," said
Elisabeth, panicking and short of breath.
Elisabeth starts weeping and Bobby places a
consoling arm around his wife's
quivering shoulders for reassurance. "She couldn't
have traveled far."
"I'm not too sure about that; I searched all over
the woods near the
"Jeremy and I will find her. Don't worry."
"Call Sheriff Ellington and tell him to get a
search party out here. I'd
rather not take any chances." Elisabeth rushes home
and telephones the
Jeremy notices his father's apprehension and
hurriedly descends the ladder,
still balancing a hay bale on his muscular
shoulder. "What's wrong, Dad?
You're as nervous as a scalded cat."
"Regina has wandered into the woods. Go get the
two-way radios from the
pickup and I'll meet you in the pasture beside the
house," he replies, running
in the direction of the pasture.
Mr. Parkinson impatiently waits for his son in the
pasture; it seems like an
eternity passes before Jeremy sprints towards him,
flashlights, and a first aid kit. "That was smart
"Better safe than sorry," said Jeremy, searching
for Regina's footprints.
Mr. Parkinson is an experienced hunter who is noted
for his tracking
abilities. He and Jeremy immediately locate
Regina's footprints and follow
them for several miles to the park fence. Bobby's
heart beats frantically
when he realizes that she has crossed into the
Smokey Mountain National
Park. He notices the sun rapidly disappearing
beyond the mountains,
signifying the advance of nightfall.
Elisabeth nervously paces the floorboards and tries
to reassure herself that
her husband will find Regina, but she knows that
the woods are full of
poisonous snakes and dangerous wildlife; horrible
images of Regina being
attacked by the panther which lurks around the farm
enter her mind.
Isolated and terrified, Regina pauses in the middle
of a frigid mountain
stream because her legs are unable to carry her any
further. The lightweight
material of her dress is drenched and the
superficial wounds on her knees
are bleeding after she falls on the slippery creek
rocks. The ferocious man
in the moon viscously grimaces at her from above
and shadowy figures scurry
out of the darkness; underneath the water she feels
something slither across
her ankle and she quickly escapes up the slick
embankment and crawls into
the crevice situated between two large boulders.
Regina is terrified by the horrible screeching
noises of the night creatures
and she closes her eyes, covers her ears, and lies
down in a fetal position.
She is overwhelmed by fear and exhaustion and
trembles uncontrollably as her
tears soak the mossy earth beneath her.
Every second her daughter is missing seems like an
eternity to Elisabeth, and she imagines a horrible
fate has befallen Regina. Her gravel driveway
resembles a department store parking lot as
numerous volunteers arrive. She
meets Sheriff Ellington outside with an article of
Regina's recently worn
clothing and sees he's leading the famous blood
hounds, Blondie and Dagwood.
When they finally reach the location where Regina's
vanish, the bloodhounds sniff along the creek
banks; they circle and bark in
the same location as they try to pick up her scent.
Jeremy remembers what he
has told Regina. "Dad, I told Regina if she ever
became lost to follow the
creek downstream. She may have misunderstood and be
walking in the creek
which would explain why the bloodhounds keep
thinking she's still here."
Jeremy, Mr. Parkinson, and many volunteers follow
Sheriff Ellington and the
bloodhounds upstream. Blondie and Dagwood locate
Regina's scent up the
embankment and start barking in earnest; with no
hesitation, Jeremy crawls
into the crevice between the two boulders, but
can't find his sister
Mr. Parkinson's abdomen tightens with fear because
Regina's scent has been
located on the opposite side of the ravine from
where his oldest daughter's
fatal horseback riding accident had occurred. He
cannot bear to look over
the bluff, afraid he will find his younger
daughter's body mutilated on the
jagged rocks below. Several volunteers climb down
the steep ravine and
carefully comb the area, but find nothing. Her
footprints lead directly into
the crevice, but don't come out.
The bald-headed, potbellied Sheriff raises his
bullhorn and bellows out
orders. "I want every rock, stick, and leaf in this
forest overturned. One
of you deputies call the National Guard and get
some helicopters out here.
Call the television and radio stations and tell
them to make an announcement
asking for more volunteers. I better not see one of
you deputies even stop
to breathe until this little girl is found."
It is almost morning and the sun peeps over the
horizon; the Sheriff knows
that every second is vital because the longer
Regina is missing, the less
likely it is that they will find her unharmed.
Dagwood and Blondie continue
to bark and howl into the crevice between the
boulders and Sheriff Ellington
jerks on their leashes. "Shut up, you stupid
Elisabeth has reached a state of paranoia, certain
that something terrible
has happened to her precious little girl; the
thought of losing another
daughter nauseates her. Regina suddenly bursts
through the kitchen door and
runs into the cherishing embrace of her mother.
"Are you Ok?"
"Where's your father?"
"I don't know, Mommy."
"Did he bring you home?"
"No, Mommy. Melissa carried me home."
"Melissa who? Where is she, so I can thank her?"
"Her name is Melissa Parkinson, but she went back
to Heaven. Mommy, why
didn't anyone tell me I had a sister who died?"
Elisabeth is astounded and cannot figure out how
Regina knows she had a
sister who died. Melissa had passed away three
years before Regina was born
and her family had agreed not to tell her until she
was old enough to
"Did Jeremy tell you about Melissa?"
"No, Mommy, I told you she found me and carried me
home. She told me God
sent her to help me."
Elisabeth wipes the moisture from her eyes and
picks up the hand held radio
she keeps in the house to contact her husband.
"Bobby! Bobby! Can you hear me?"
"Elisabeth," he answers.
"Regina is here and she is safe.
"Thank God. We are on our way."
The paramedic is examining Regina when Jeremy and
Bobby run through the
door. "She is not dehydrated, nothing is broken,
and her vital signs are
normal. The wounds on her knees are not serious
enough to require anything
other than a daily cleansing with water and
antibacterial soap. I really do
not think she needs to be transported to the
hospital." Regina's family is
relieved at that news.
Bobby goes outside to thank Sheriff Ellington and
the volunteers for all
their help. After the driveway begins to clear he
goes back inside, grabs
his daughter and holds her close to his chest.
Jeremy runs over, holds out
his arms to Regina and dances her around the room.
Bobby turns to Elisabeth
with a curious look on his face. "Who found her and
where was she? We
"My sister brought me home Daddy."
Bobby looks at his daughter in disbelief, and then
recalls his oldest
daughter. Melissa was riding her horse down the
trail over the ravine when
it stepped on a hornet's nest. The hornets swarmed
the horse and he backed
over the cliff, taking Melissa with him. She was
only fifteen years old when
the fatal accident took place and Bobby cries as he
has never gotten over
the shock of finding his first born child at the
bottom of the ravine.
Elisabeth and Bobby stare at Jeremy, thinking he
must have told Regina about
"Dad, I never told her anything."
Regina walks over to console Bobby. "Daddy, Melissa
told me. I was hiding
from the ugly night creatures in the rocks and I
looked up and saw a bright
light. She was standing there and at first I was
afraid, but when she told
me who she was, I felt better. She picked me up and
carried me home." Regina's gaze turns heavenward. "Daddy, she said to tell
you, Mommy and Jeremy
that she is Ok and not to worry."
Regina reaches in her dress pocket, removes an
object and hands it to her
father. He is speechless and stares unbelievingly
at the necklace that once
belonged to his great grandmother; it was the same
necklace he had fastened
around Melissa's neck at her funeral. "I told you
Daddy," said Regina.
Regina falls asleep on the couch and after being
carried to her room,
Elisabeth, Jeremy and Bobby kneel by her bedside
and thank God that Regina
is safe at home. Elisabeth and Bobby Parkinson did
not practice any form of
religion and never had reason to believe in
spiritual beings until these
events took place; in their hearts they knew a
miracle had occurred because
there was no other possible explanation for the
necklace. The Parkinson
family is finally at peace with Melissa's passing.
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