Her name was Cara, and she loved boys. Barely seventeen years old, she had already suffered the twinges of an abandoned heart. Her father left home when she was seven, and no other man could fill his shoes. There was a photo of him on the night stand; a crumpled reminder of a father who had long ago forgotten his daughter. Her mother worked swing shift at a cannery, so Cara would come home from school to an empty house.
At fifteen, she brought home her first boyfriend and coaxed him into bed; although it really didn’t take much coaxing. With long, blonde curls, she was beautiful with a sharp, intelligent brain. In the bedroom, she learned that sex helped fill an emptiness in her that was both lonely and terrifying.
“I don’t wanna be alone!” She clung and pleaded with Harry one night.
“Baby, I gotta get home. My mom; she will kill me if I stay any longer.”
“I’ve got one more condom left.” She rubbed her bottom against him. It wasn’t long before he was hard again.
“I want you to stay with me forever,” she murmured against his lips.
When Cara awoke the next morning, he was gone. Climbing out of bed, her toes sank into his jeans. His shoes and belongings were strewn on the floor. Harry’s cell rang. “Mom” flashed on the screen.
“Harry?” She whispered, not wanting to wake her mom. The bathroom and all the other rooms were empty. His skateboard was propped up on the side of the house, just as he had left it last night.
Despite her young age, she maintained a steely reserve; weighing all options. Sitting on the bed, she took deep breaths. Her eyes raced all across the room; seeking out any clue that would explain what could’ve happened to Harry. Calling the police would be the right thing to do, but suspicion would fall on her. There would be an investigation, and her life would never be the same. No one would believe he willingly walked out of the house completely naked. Could someone have abducted him? The doors and windows were locked, and no one else besides her and her mom had the key. Over and over, she tried finding any semblance of logic in this maddening situation.
Wait a minute! Her mother’s room was next door. Could he have used the bathroom last night and accidentally slipped under her mom’s comforter; thinking it was her bed? Through a sliver from the slightly ajar door, she discerned her mom’s bright red hair peeking out from the sheets, but no Harry. Hope burst like glass in her chest, and the jagged edges embedded into her heart. Her mom snored softly, and Cara bit her lip to stop from screaming hysterically and waking her. Grabbing a garbage bag, she stuffed all of Harry’s belongings into it. Wiggling into jeans and a Rolling Stones t-shirt, she grabbed the car keys and headed outside where she crammed his skateboard into the garbage bag before sliding into her VW Beetle.
After a couple of miles driving aimlessly, Cara parked the car on the side of the road. Nausea struck like a pummel to her gut, and she barely had time to hit the gravel before throwing up. Her stomach wrenched and trembled. There was something hanging from her mouth. After tugging it, she realized with horror, it was Harry’s gold necklace. In mid-scream, she slapped a hand over her mouth. Blinded by tears, Cara stumbled back into the car; dropped his necklace into the garbage bag, and collapsed sobbing against the steering wheel. His cell rang. She shakily reached into the bag; turning it off. After taking deep breaths and drying tears with a rag found on the front seat, she steered the car towards Linger Longer Beach.
The sand against her bare feet felt comforting. The rays of the early morning sun were warm on her arms. There was a spot on the beach where Harry and she would perch on a driftwood log to watch the sunset. It didn’t take long to find their log. She crumpled onto the beach; hugging the garbage bag against her. Her dad’s old army shovel was thrown into the bag earlier, and she grasped it to start burrowing beside the log. It was difficult digging in the sand; the grains would surge back into the hole as if to taunt her efforts. After a half hour of digging and satisfied the hole was deep enough, Cara shoved the bag into the sandy ground.
The drive back home was excruciating. Her stomach gurgled. Nausea swept over her once again. About every half hour, she had to pull the car to the side of the road. Each time she vomited, Cara found an anomaly of items that terrified and stunned her – a molar, three fingernails, and a toenail. Finally home, she barely unlocked the door before fainting to the floor.
At the hospital, Cara’s mom, Charlotte, paced the hallway. Dr. Gorman approached her with a quizzical expression on his face.
“Is she gonna be okay?” Charlotte wrung her hands.
“The blood work came out negative.”
Charlotte sighed in relief. “That’s good news, isn’t it? I know my daughter. Cara doesn’t do drugs or alcohol.”
“Yes, of course it’s good news.” Dr. Gorman cleared his throat. “Mrs. Carson, have you ever heard of dermoid cysts?”
Charlotte shook her head. “Is that what she has?”
“Not necessarily, but it’s quite similar. Dermoid cysts can contain hair, nails, bone, eyes, etc. They’re usually benign. Now, the theory is that the inclusion of these ectodermal cells occur early in embryonic life, and the displaced tissues then form into dermoid cysts. I’m puzzled, because what we found in your daughter, contained organic matter similar to these cysts, but tests show they belong to an adolescent male whose DNA does not match Cara’s…”