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Regina's Miracle


Janet Owenby

Elisabeth Parkinson stares out of her kitchen window and watches her 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 capture it.

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 me!"

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 pasture."

"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 Sheriff's Department.

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, carrying radios, flashlights, and a first aid kit. "That was smart thinking, Son."

"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 footprints mysteriously 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 anywhere.

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 mutts."

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?"

"Yes, Mommy."

"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 understand.

"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. Come home."

"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 searched everywhere."

"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 Melissa.

"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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