"My parents aren't really dead. I saw them on TV. Do you know where they are?"
"They're on their way here." Officer Franklin paused while Izzy absorbed that information. "What do you mean you saw them on TV?"
"The last night I was at the Pattersons', before I forgot everything, I saw them on TV." She looked thoughtful for a moment. "I thought they looked familiar, but I couldn't place them. There was a story about the tenth anniversary of my kidnapping. I didn't realize they were talking about me. There was something about it that made me very uncomfortable. I didn't know why, but it really bothered me."
"You didn't recognize the pictures of yourself?" Officer Franklin asked.
"No, I don't think so. Maybe I was in denial. I'm not sure. I just know that I went to sleep that night thinking I was Ali Patterson and woke up the next morning not having a clue who I was. When I woke up and didn't recognize anything, it scared me and I screamed. You know what happened after that."
Dr. Vickers had been listening to Izzy's story. "Izzy, I think you were protecting yourself. You saw something that was very upsetting – something that indicated that you had been kidnapped. I think when you went to sleep, your brain, or your memory, shut down because you weren't ready to deal with that. At what point did you remember what happened to you?"
"When Officer Franklin handed me the "Missing" poster. It all clicked." Izzy looked back toward the officer. "When will they be here? I really want to see them."
"They should be here soon. They live in Kennesaw now, so they aren't too far away, only about an hour."
"Okay. I think I can wait that long." Her body language, however, told a different story. She was fidgeting, bouncing her legs, playing with her long, chestnut hair, shifting in her seat every few minutes. Eventually, she got up and began pacing the office. All she could do was wait.
Everyone in the office jumped when the silence was broken by a loud rap on the door. While Dr. Vickers went to open the door, Izzy grabbed the hands of the two women who had taken her in, in one way or another – Dr. Butler and Officer Franklin. Looking back at Izzy to see if she was ready and getting a nod in return, she opened the door to an anxious looking couple.
"I'm Jackson Kemper. This is my wife Victoria. We were told that our daughter, Isabella was here." They took a step into the room and froze when they saw Izzy.
Izzy hesitated a fraction of a second before dropping the hands that she was holding and running toward her parents. She threw an arm around each of her parents and buried her face in the crook of her mother's neck. All three Kempers were crying tears of joy. The other four occupants of the room felt as if they were intruding, but there was still more of Izzy's story to be told.
An hour later, everyone was seated around Dr. Vickers's office. There had been tears and laughter as the Kempers talked to Izzy, looked at Izzy, taking in the changes that ten years had wrought in their child. Neither parent was willing to completely let her go, keeping a hand on her or an arm around her, needing the contact to believe that she was really there.
Now it was time for the rest of the story. This time it was Jackson and Victoria with the story to tell.
Victoria started, "I waited at home that day for you and Seth to come home. We lived so close to the school, that I could watch you almost the whole way. I waited about fifteen minutes past when you would normally be home and walked to the school myself. When I got there, I found Seth in hysterics and a teacher trying to calm him." She took a deep breath to hold off the threatening tears. "When the teacher saw me, the first thing she said was that the police had been called. I had no idea what was going on and it scared me to death."
Jackson took over the story at that point. "Your mom called me and I got to the school as fast as I could. There were people out looking for you, but we didn't find anything. No one had seen you taken. We looked every day for weeks. Then it was just on weekends. And years went by, but we never gave up."
"We stayed in the same house, in case you ever came back. Then, two years ago, Seth graduated from high school and decided to go to Georgia Tech. We couldn't bear to be almost four hours away from him. So, we moved to Kennesaw. Now, we're only about a half hour away from him." Victoria looked at Izzy and smiled. "We called him on the way here. He's so excited to see you. He'll be waiting for us at the house when we get there."
"How did you end up on TV the other night?" Izzy was still trying to put the pieces together.
"The tenth anniversary of your kidnapping was last week. A TV station in Asheville called us about doing a story. It was big news in Black Mountain when you were kidnapped. No one could remember any other kidnappings in town. It just didn't happen. So, we jumped at the chance to get your name and your face back in front of the public. We always hoped someone would see you and call us." Jackson shook his head. "We never gave up hope of finding you. Never. Anyway, when the story aired in Asheville, it came out that we had moved to the Atlanta area. One of the Atlanta stations picked the story up and ran it here. I guess that's what you saw."
"I still can't believe this is true. I get to go home with you. We'll be a family again." Izzy smiled and hugged her mother.
Jackson Kemper looked at Officer Franklin, one question on his mind. "What happens to the people that did this to her? They need to pay for taking her from us for ten years."
Officer Franklin had been dreading this question. "It appears that they left town before we figured out what was going on. We're looking for them. I will do everything that I can to find them. For now, I think it's time for you to take your daughter home and start being a family again."
Izzy made her way around the room, hugging each of the women who had helped her. They made promises to keep in touch. Officer Franklin and Dr. Butler had become attached to Izzy in a short time and they wanted to keep those connections alive. Jackson shook each woman's hand and thanked them for everything they had done. Victoria tearfully hugged each woman, unable to express what she was feeling. Izzy gave a final wave good-bye and the family walked out of the office toward their new life together.
One year later
Izzy and her parents lived in Kennesaw. Seth visited every weekend and usually one night a week. Izzy had kept in touch with Melanie and her group of "warrior women" – Drs. Butler and Vickers, Officer Franklin and Mary English. They had fought to help her regain her memory and find her family. Now, they were a part of her extended family. She was very grateful for the life that she now had.
Izzy's group of supporters was gathered on the steps of the Federal Courthouse in Asheville, North Carolina. The group included Bethany Franklin, Julie Butler, Angela Vickers and Izzy's friend, Melanie. They had just been witnesses to the conviction of Mark and Carolyn Patterson for the kidnapping of Isabella Kemper. Even though the prosecutor assured them that they had more than enough evidence to convict, they hadn't taken it for granted. They had decided not to return to Asheville for sentencing. Instead, the prosecutor would read letters written by all four of the Kempers.
They would be going on a family vacation to Ireland to celebrate the end of their eleven year ordeal. All of them, but especially Izzy, were ready to get on with the rest of their lives and not give the Pattersons another thought.
A/N - This is the end of Izzy's story. I hope you have enjoyed it and that maybe there was a twist or two that you didn't guess. Please let me know if you liked this story by leaving a review in the box below. Thanks again for reading and if you haven't read any of my other stories her on FictionPress, please give them a try. ~ craftyjhawk