Her face was plastered on every tree in Cherry Lane. Every townsperson, every stranger that passed through, knew her face. The blonde, bobbed hair that barely reached past her ears. The roundness to her face and soft, sunken in eyes.
Above her photo were the words, “MISSING PERSONS: COLETTE HENDERSON.”
The thirteen-year-old girl had been missing for three weeks now. The last place she was seen by her parents was in the forest surrounding the village. The police had searched for Colette, but found no trace of anything in the woods. No clump of mysterious hair laying on the ground, no piece of clothing hidden near a bush. Nothing. Nobody was quite sure if she had been abducted or ended up being a coyote’s meal.
Either way, the townspeople were devastated. Colette was popular around Cherry Lane, even before her death. She was always seen riding her bike and spending most of her time outside. She was a quiet girl, though. Never said much.
Her parents seemed to be the most affected by her disappearance. Mrs. Henderson carried mounds of tissues in her purse and hadn’t worn anything other than black dresses for the past days. Mr. Henderson hadn’t gone to work. He mostly sat at home, staring at the TV, but the only thing he ever watched was the news.
Even though nobody could be sure if the young girl was still alive or not, there was a funeral for her. It was clear Colette was not going to be found anytime soon. Her parents thought she never would be.
Five years later, the townspeople thought the same. Or really, they didn’t think about it at all. Colette was just a forgotten memory that popped every now and then to spark the conversation, “Hey, remember when that girl went missing?”
However, she wasn’t forgotten by everyone. The image of Colette still haunted her parents’ minds. They had lost their daughter, their only child. They knew that they were never going to get her back, and it was a hard fact to live with.
On the fifth anniversary of Colette’s disappearance, Mr. Henderson woke up to the sound of a phone ringing. He rubbed his groggy eyes and rolled over in bed, blinking in the harsh light of his clock. It read for three a.m.. He sighed, pushing himself to sit up straight. Mr. Henderson wondered why someone had called the house phone. It hadn’t been used in years.
The noisey ringing woke up Mrs. Henderson, as well. They shared a look of confusion as they both climbed out of bed and slumped over to where the phone was resting on the wall. Before Mr. Henderson could check the phone number, someone began speaking through the phone.
It was a little girl’s voice. A giggly, smiley, childish voice that sounded too energetic for three a.m.
“Hi mommy, hi daddy.”
Mr. and Mrs. Hendersons’ hearts stopped. Once they heard her voice, all the memories from that fated night flooded back. It brought tears to their eyes.
It was the last week of October, only a few days before Halloween. Colette was coming home from school that Friday. Mrs. Henderson was cleaning the kitchen table. Mr. Henderson was outside, mowing the lawn. Colette waved to her father as she walked inside her house, calling out a greeting to her mother.
“Mommy, am I allowed to go to the forest today?” she asked, placing her pink backpack on the floor.
Mrs. Henderson looked up from her chores and responded, “Yes, you may darling. Your father and I need to get fresh wood for the fireplace later today, so we will go with you.”
Colette fidgeted, twirling a strand of blonde hair around her finger. “But I want to go now!”
“That’s enough, Colette.”
She frowned and dragged her backpack upstairs, pouting as she went. Her mother sighed. She squeezed out the sponge into the sink and went outside to speak to Mr. Henderson.
After the Henderson family ate dinner, they gathered their axes and hiked through the forest together. Colette was still sulking from not being able to go alone, pushing her parents to their last nerve. Their daughter begged and begged to go farther into the forest, but it was already growing dark outside. Mrs. Henderson held Colette’s arm to stop her from running off. Colette screamed and cried, writhing in her mother’s grasp. She managed to slip her arm from her grip and ran, her parents chasing after her. And just like that, she disappeared.
“It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? Do you remember what happened to me? Because I do.”
The call ended abruptly, filling the room with a flat beeping sound. No words could describe the looks on the Hendersons’ faces, because they had killed Colette.