Natalie couldn’t believe this was happening. For thirteen years she had wondered where her dad was, “who” her dad was, and why he had left. Her mom never wanted to talk about it and only said he wasn’t worth thinking about. All Natalie knew about her dad was that his name was Robert Miller, he had gotten into trouble with the law and left when she was four years old.
“He’s probably in prison where he belongs,” her mother had said. “It doesn’t really matter, Natty. You don’t need someone in your life who doesn’t love you.”
But it did matter. Natalie tried to ignore the hole that seemed to grow deeper and deeper inside of her, but couldn’t let go of the thoughts she had about him. Why didn’t he love me? What did I do? She longed to be loved by him, and yet she hated him.
Yesterday there was a knock at the door and she found herself face to face with a man claiming to be her dad. Her deepest longing was mixed with conflicting feelings of pain and anger. Only it wasn’t true. It wasn’t her dad. It couldn’t be. And if somehow that man actually was her father, he was a liar and even more horrible than her mother had painted him to be!
“I know this is hard for you to hear,” he had said, “but your mother has been lying to you. My name isn’t Robert Miller. It’s Jim Buchanan. Your name is Elizabeth and you were born in Chicago at Children’s Memorial Hospital. Your mother and I had a lot of problems. She would get violently angry with me over the smallest thing. You and I had a special bond and I was very worried about you living in that environment. She was afraid of losing you to me, so she took you and left. She changed your name and moved here to Oregon. You have to believe that I am telling you the truth. I didn’t leave you. She took you away from me and I have been looking for you ever since.”
No! Natalie did NOT have to believe him and she refused to. She finally convinced him to leave, but before he did he gave her a piece of paper with his “real” name and contact information. The moment he left she tore it up and flushed it down the toilet.
She hardly slept that night. The next morning she called her best friend, Olivia, and told her everything.
“Can you even believe it? Either he’s some strange lunatic claiming to be my father, or he IS my father, but a total liar! What am I supposed to believe?”
“Natalie,” Olivia said hesitantly.
“Do you remember that movie we watched about the missing girl? Remember the photo they put up of that real live missing girl?” Natalie’s face went pale.
“Oh my gosh.”
They had laughed about how much the picture looked like Natalie and joked about her being abducted.
“Her name was Elizabeth. I remember because it’s the same as my cousin. And her last name started with a B. Buckner or ….. "
“Buchanan”, said Natalie.
“That’s it! Buchanan!”
Natalie grabbed the keys and rushed to the hotel the man had said he was staying at. Why didn’t she realize it before?! Her mom was the liar, not him. What if he’s gone when she gets there? She had made it clear she didn’t want anything to do with him and she had flushed his contact information down the toilet. She may never see him again!
Anxiously, she walked up to the counter in the hotel lobby.
“It looks like he checked out this morning.”
What? No! This couldn’t be happening. She had finally found her dad, or rather he had found her, and she had blown it!
She walked across the lobby in a daze and sank down into a leather chair.
“Beth?” she heard from a strangely familiar voice. “I mean, Natalie?”
She looked up and there he was. She flung herself into his arms and cried.
“I thought you had left. They said you checked out.”
“I would never leave you. I rented a house in town. I came back to get the picture I left in the room. I take it with me everywhere.”
She looked at the photo frame he held in his hands. It was a picture of her as a little girl sitting on her daddy’s shoulders.
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