Family Fiction posted November 14, 2023 Chapters:  ...13 14 -15- 16... 

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Miranda calls Mitch.

A chapter in the book Miranda's Trouble In Paradise

Star Sixty-nine


Miranda Jessup Buckley has decided to find out what happened to Dougie Wilcox.
So far, Miranda has been investigating Dougie Wilcox's disappearance. She and Mitch have parted company and she's agreed to talk to a therapist. This morning, someone who sounded like Dougie, called and told her to stop looking for him.


The wake up call this morning still has me on edge. Poor Waylon is like a five year old, asking the same questions over and over. I'm not sure he should go to school but he waves off my suggestion to stay home.

"I'm not even sure it was your dad," I say, crossing over to sit by him on the couch.

"You said it sounded like him."

I nod slowly. "The voice did. But it was cold. Your dad was a lot of things but never cold."

Waylon stares off into space. I'm not even sure he's listening. All I can see is hurt and pain etched on his face.

I remember when we thought Dougie was texting Waylon that night to meet behind the Piggly Wiggly. Turns out it wasn't him. It was looney tunes, Missy Toblerone. But we figured it out because not once did the person sending the texts ask about Waylon. If it had been Dougie, he would have given me a message for Waylon.

I jump up and run back over to the phone. I dial star then six and nine.
The line rings. It rings eleven times and no one picks up. "Dammit."

"Who did you call?" Waylon mumbles.

"Old phone trick. Redials the last number that calls your phone. But there was no answer. I'm sorry, Way."

"I need to go to the bus stop."

"I can drop you off, if you want."

He shakes his head and walks towards the door to grab his backpack. "See ya tonight."

"Okay." I watch him walk out the front door. I feel just terrible for him. I couldn't care any more for him if I had given birth to him. But those three little words have never been uttered by either one of us.

And why not? What is it that is so intimidating about saying love?

Usually, there is no going back after those words are uttered. It's stepping from the friend zone into uncharted territory. This urgency comes over me, so I run out onto the porch.

"Hey, kiddo. Have a good day. Love ya."

He stops and half turns to look at me. A slight smile comes briefly to the corners of his mouth. "Back at ya."

I stand out there watching him as he makes his way down the gravel road to the stop. When he disappears around the bend in the road, I reluctantly go back inside.

Since I'm feeling so soft and lovey I dial Mitch's number.

"Hello," his voice is deep, the way it sounds first thing in the morning.

"Hey, look, I know you don't want to talk to me right now. So, please just give me a few minutes to say something."

He clears his throat. "Go ahead."

"I'm sorry. I know I love you. And I hope you love me. You try to protect me and I, I guess sometimes I just get overwhelmed. No one, other than my momma and daddy, has ever had my best interest at heart. I don't understand what you see in me, because frankly, I'm a mess."

"Miranda, yeah, you are a mess. A beautiful, passionate, and smart mess. You've never been anything but honest."

I close my eyes and listen to his voice.

"Can I come over?" I ask. "Would that be alright?"

He laughs softly into the phone. "That'd be nice. Miranda, don't get a speeding ticket but hurry."


He has breakfast on the stove when I get to his house. It's a small kitchen with appliances that date back to the seventies. He's standing in front of the stove in jeans and a gray t-shirt that has PCSD in black on the front.

"I'm sorry," I say as I wrap my arms around him. "I'm so sorry I didn't listen to you when you tried to talk it out. And, I'm sorry my momma talked you into it."

He moves the pan to a back burner and hugs me back. "It's okay. I crossed the line. The first time I had to see a counselor, I was so indignant. I almost quit the department. I was a man," he says, pulling away just enough to pound his fist into his chest. It's a dramatic gesture. "I didn't need to talk about my feelings. I needed to go to the gym, drink shots with my friends. But I went. Sat in the chair across from this grizzled old guy who looked as old as my grandfather. He was unimpressed with my surly attitude and quickly put me in my place. It took some time but I learned to trust him. I realized he wanted to walk me through it, not judge me."

I nod and place my head on his chest. I draw in his scent and listen to the rhythmic beat of his heart.

"I love you, Mitch. I don't know what I did to deserve you, but I can't imagine my life without you in it."

He looks into my eyes for a moment before touching his lips to mine. "This is a beautiful moment, and I hate for it to end, but I'm hungry enough to chew my own foot off. Sit. I'll bring the eggs and sausage over."

I sit at the table and watch him move around the kitchen with ease. Breakfast is delicious and even though he tries to stop me, I help him clean up the kitchen afterward.

"I think Dougie called the house," I blurt as I put the last plate in the cabinet. I need for someone else to hear it. I just need to share it with the one person I know I can trust.

He turns around, a stunned look on his face. "I'm sorry, what did you just say?"

"This morning. The phone rang and I thought it might be you but it wasn't. Somebody said 'stop trying to find me.' It sounded like Dougie. From what I can remember anyway."

"What else did he say?"

"Nothing. Just said that and hung up. I tried to hit star sixty-nine but it just rang."

Mitch frowns and scratches his chin. "Anybody else know about this?"

"Just Waylon. He's devastated."

"Poor kid. He's had a rough go in life. I'll give Dougie credit in one aspect. He did the right thing leaving Waylon with you."

I smile at him. "I need to ask you something, Mitch," I say, garnering strength to ask for something I'm pretty sure he won't like.

"Save your breath. I'll help you figure out what happened to or where Dougie is. One stipulation."

"And that is?"

"Open lines of communication. You and I work together as a team. No secrets."

"No secrets."

Secrets keep the world turning round. Big secrets and small secrets roll around daily like a giant ball of twine. But inside that ball of twine is one strand that belongs to Dougie Wilcox. At least, now I have someone I can trust helping me tug that strand of secrets out.

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