Dereck sat on the rock, soaking his feet in the stream, while carving a stick into the shape of a pencil. He heard footsteps coming up behind him and thought it must be his brother coming to tell him supper was ready. “Just a minute, I’m almost done. Look at what I’m making.” Dereck turned around to show his brother the make-shift pencil, but no one was in sight.

“Hello? Travis?” Dereck set the knife and the pencil on the rock and stepped out of the stream. He picked up his shoes, but waited to put them on. Dereck walked around the trees, calling Travis’s name. The sound of crushing leaves came closer, but when Dereck turned around to check, no one was in sight. So, Dereck walked further into the forest. A sharp pine needle poked at his bare foot and he decided to put his shoes on. He slipped one shoe onto his foot and began tying the laces, then a hand covered his mouth. Dereck tried wiggling out of the man’s grip, but the man tied his hands behind his back, and a bandana around his head to cover his eyes. Then he swung Dereck onto his shoulder and carried him off.
***
“I don’t understand.” Dad sat at the table rubbing his head.

Travis sat beside Dad, watching the police men. He heard Mom softly crying in the corner, but he didn’t try to comfort her—it wouldn’t work.

“Sir, do you have any family members who—”

“No!” Dad yelled at the officer. “No, everyone in the family is . . . fine.”

The officer nodded and began talking again. “Thousands of children are abducted every year and many of them have been brought home to their parents . . . alive.”

Dad swallowed and nodded.

The officer stood up and pushed the chair back in its place. “We’ll tell you something as soon as we have more information.”

Again, Dad nodded. When the officers were outside, Dad slammed his fist on the table and got up. He turned toward Mom; slowly he walked over and placed his hand on her shoulder. Mom turned around and hid her face in Dad’s arms. Travis listened as they softly cried together. He stood up and walked to the window, watching the police officers drive away. He starred into the distance, and prayed, Lord, keep Dereck safe . . . until he returns.
***
Travis tossed and turned as his dream came to life. “Travis, Travis I’m over here. Can’t you see me?” Travis jogged around the empty room, and turned his head side to side. “No, Dereck! It’s too dark.” Again, his brother called him, and he ran toward his voice. “Travis I’m over here.” Travis began panting as Dereck’s voice came closer. “Dereck!” Travis screamed the words as he woke up from his dream. Covered in sweat, he sat up in his bed. Thirteen years since his brother had been abducted and still, he had the same dream every night.

Travis swung his legs unto to soft carpet and rubbed his eyes. They hadn’t heard from the police in ten years—Travis wondered if the case was still open . . . he doubted it. His parents hadn’t asked a word about Dereck’s whereabouts since then. As if they didn’t care.

Travis walked down the hallway, into the kitchen. He picked up a glass from the counter and filled it with water. Once he had his fill, he set the glass on the counter and looked out the window. “Lord bring my brother home.” Travis slowly let his head down and starred at the counter top as a tear ran down his cheek.
***
The birds chirped in the trees and in the distance, he could hear the neighbor’s rooster crowing. Travis opened the pickup’s driver side door, took a deep breath of fresh air and said, “God’s promises are new every morning.” Just as Travis was about to climb behind the steering wheel, he saw a black and white car coming down the driveway.

He waited until the police car parked beside his pickup and two officers climbed out: one man and one woman. “Good morning sir, ma’am.” Travis nodded his head when he spoke to the lady. “What can I do for you?”

The male officer walked around the vehicle to the passenger side and stood beside the woman—four feet in front of him. “We received information about who we believe could be your brother.”

The blood drained from Travis’s face and his arms went numb, as he starred at the officers.

“We ran another search for missing persons in all the hospitals and orphanages; a Dereck Simms showed up in a hospital in Chicago. He was brought in six months ago and released last week.”

After the man finished talking the lady spoke up. “His description matches your description of Dereck: brown eyes, blond hair, with freckles.”

“That could be any one. Chicago’s a big city.”

“Yes, but he has the same birthmark on his neck and a thumb missing on his left hand, like you described.” The woman paused, “Sir, we have a reason to believe that this is your brother.”

Travis stood still for a moment, letting the information sink in. His brother might still be alive. Travis’s head sprung up; his head full of questions. “Is that it? That’s all you know? Why was he in the hospital? What happened to him?”

Now the male officer spoke, “The FBI is looking into it as we speak. We will let you know as soon as we hear anything.”

Travis nodded. He took a deep breath, pushed his hands into his pockets, and closed his eyes, then he looked at the police officers.

“Thank you . . . for telling me.” Travis forced a smile and waited until they drove off before he hopped into his pickup.

Travis placed his hands on the steering wheel and let out a sigh. Could it be Dereck? Could Dereck really still be alive? Travis shook his head and started the engine. God Only knows.
***
Travis walked up the porch stairs and through the back door. “Hello? Mom?” Travis walked into the kitchen where Mom stood peeling potatoes.

“Oh Travis!” Mom wiped her hands on her apron and wrapped her arm around Travis’s neck. “You came just in time for supper.” Mom backed up and examined her son.

“Thanks Mom, but I came to speak to Dad. I would stay but I have a feeling after I’ve said what I’ve come to say he won’t want me to stay.”

Mom looked confused and Travis explained. “The police came by this morning.” Travis saw the emotion disappear from Mom’s face. “They believe they found Dereck.”

“A-a-alive?”

“Yes Mom, alive.”

Mom slowly turned around and placed her hands on the edge of the counter. She starred out the window, not blinking once.

“I, I better tell Dad.”

“No!” Mom yelled just as sharp as her head turned. “Your father won’t believe you.”

“But Mom—”

“I said no!” Mom lifted her shaking hands and picked up the potato peeler, but her hands shook so much she dropped the peeler onto the floor. Then she swirled around and jogged to the bathroom.

Travis stood in the middle of the kitchen, starring at the peeler that laid on the floor. He heard the shrieking of the door and turned around to see his father taking off his boots. Travis quickly picked up the peeler and placed it on the counter.

“Oh, I’m starving son! Where’s your mom?”

“In the bathroom. I think dinner will be a little late, Mom wasn’t feeling very well.” Travis washed his hands by the sink and thought he might as well stay for dinner now.

“That’s all right, I’ll wait.” His father plumped down on the couch and began reading the newspaper.

Should he tell his father anyways? No, he shouldn’t go against Mom’s wishes. But he couldn’t follow Mom’s wishes forever, he would have to tell his father sooner rather than later. A secret like this was to big to keep forever.
***
Travis flipped a bucket upside down and sat down on it, placing his elbows on his knees. He swung the keys around his finger, and thought. He’d come this close to telling his father about the information on Dereck. But every time he glanced at Mom, he saw her sad eyes and he just couldn’t do it. He had prayed every night since his brother left that God would bring him back to them. At times he’d nearly given up hope, but his dreams about Dereck made him believe that Dereck could still be in this world and now he had proof . . . if it turned out to be him. Ask and it will be given. Ask and it will be given. Ask and it will be given. Travis repeated those words in his head until he fell asleep that night.

The next morning Travis drove to his parent’s house determined to tell Dad everything. Keeping secrets from a father about his own son just wasn’t right; Mom had to understand. Travis pulled onto the yard just as Dad was about to start mowing the lawn.

“Good morning son. Twice in row—it must be a special week to see you here two times a week. What can I do for you?”

“I have something to tell you.” Travis slid his hands in his pockets and took a deep breath. “They believe they find Dereck. A man with Dereck’s description was treated in a Chicago hospital. He was released last week.”

Dad starred at the grass for a few seconds then he said, “It’s not true son. Your brother died thirteen years ago, it’s time you except it.”

“But Dad they have a good reason to believe.”

“They’re telling lies. Your brother’s dead.”

“But . . . don’t you want to have some kind of . . . hope.”

“Son I heard you pray every night after he left for his return and he hasn’t come. Your brother is dead and there’s nothing you can do about.”

Travis glared at Dad, then he asked, “Do you not want him to live?” Travis waited for Dad to answer; when he didn’t, Travis continued. “And yes, I’ve prayed the same prayer for thirteen years hoping that God would bring my brother back to me and until I have an answer I won’t stop hoping.”

Dad starred at Travis as though he felt sorry for him. “Son, it’s a sad thing to hope and be let down.”

“Well I rather hope than live believing something I don’t know is true.”

Travis waited for Dad to say something, but instead Dad nodded and started the mower. Travis watched Dad began to mow, then he turned around and walked toward his pickup. Perhaps Mom had been right—he shouldn’t have told him. What do I even know? That a man who looked like Dereck was treated at a hospital in one the country’s largest cities. That man they described could have been any one . . . but what if it wasn’t.

To be continued . . .

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