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Finding Eden(7)

By:Mia Sheridan



Plus, I was desperately going to need the income.

"Well then," Mr. Sutherland said, coming from around his desk, apparently spotting a good opening to shuffle us out of his office. Who could blame him? "Thank you all for coming in. Felix was not only a good client, but a good friend. He'll be missed."

Marissa stood and lowered her eyes and nodded. "Yes, he will," she said, taking my hand and squeezing it as I gave her a small smile. We followed along behind Claire and Charles.

Mr. Sutherland showed us to the door and we said our thanks to him one more time, ignoring each other. Just before he closed the door behind us, I turned and he paused. "Raynes," I said softly. "My last name is Raynes."

Mister Sutherland looked at me quizzically, and then smiled, nodding his head once. "Good day, Miss Raynes."

I nodded at him and turned to Marissa, taking her hand in mine. Claire and Charles were already halfway down the hall in front of us.



**********



Once I was back at Felix's house, on my bed in the room I'd woken up in three years before, hungry and grief-stricken, I opened the envelope, my fingers shaking slightly.

Inside was a manila folder with a letter paper-clipped to the front. It was dated one month earlier, right before he'd become so ill, he was only lucid part of the time.



Eden,

If you're reading this, then I'm gone. I fervently hope me writing this is just a safety measure. I hope I'm able to give you this information myself, but with my health, I have to take precautions. I have to make sure you're not left with nothing. I can't bear the thought of leaving you here with as many questions as you arrived with. I'm not a man who finds it easy to express my emotions, but I want you to know how much I've grown to love and care for you over these past three years. And I like to think you think of me as a father figure and that you've come to care for me as well. This is my attempt at caring for you when I'm no longer there.

I believe your parents' names are Carolyn and Bennett Everson.



I gasped and dropped the folder to my bed. The corners of two eight by ten glossy photos slid out and I stared at them for a second before reaching forward and pulling them all the way out. My heart stopped for a brief millisecond and then took up what felt like an irregular beat in my chest. I lifted the photo on top and gazed at it. It was my mother. I knew it was. Misty images danced through my mind - a ring of laughter, the smell of flowers. That face. It was my face, only older. She's alive? My mother is alive? How? Before looking at the second photo, I snatched Felix's letter back up with shaking hands and read the rest.



I believe you were abducted, Eden. And I have questions only you can answer about why you didn't know that. I hope I can ask you them myself once I'm done gathering all the information I can for you. But as I write this letter, this is all I do have. If I'm gone, I hope it's enough.

I started this investigation a few months ago and when I came across the photo of Eden Everson on the missing children's database, I suspected instantly it was you.

Your parents reported you missing fourteen years ago. It was all over the news for months, especially sensational because your father was a suspect in the case. He had been involved in a business scandal earlier in the year, and it was speculated he had gotten involved in something that led to your disappearance. He vehemently denied that to his dying day. He took his own life, his note spelled out his innocence and his grief. After your father's suicide, your mother went into hiding. I can only imagine that after everything she'd endured, being in the public eye was too much to bear.

My investigator found her and discovered that in recent years, she'd been re-married and her name is now Carolyn Collins. Her second husband passed away last year. She never had any other children. Her address is in the envelope.

With the help of a good friend who owns Cincinnati Savings and Loan, I've also opened an account in the name Eden Everson. I know that you've saved all the money you've earned from me so you'll be fine until you can get an ID in your real name and access the money I've left for you. It was the only way I considered that wouldn’t involve Claire and Charles.

I only wish I had started this investigation sooner, but you, your music, the smile you put on Sophia's face—on my face—you brought so much light into my home, and I was selfish with you. I wanted to provide comfort and healing—I hope I at least did some of that. I hope I was a temporary shelter in a storm. And now, my dear Eden, it's time for you to continue on your journey. It's time for you to take that brave step out and find your people, find your life, your destiny. I know in my heart it's a beautiful one.

All my love, Felix



Sadness, shock, and hope warred within me. I swiped at the tears running down my cheeks and swallowed the lump in my throat. Felix. You did save me—in so many, many ways I can't even count, I said in my mind, thinking of the scared, emotionally broken girl who had stepped off that bus here in Cincinnati three years earlier. In some ways, I was still that girl, but I had also learned to draw upon the strength Calder had seen in me. I liked to think that somehow he knew and was proud. Somewhere he was looking down and calling me his brave morning glory.

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