(WARNING: This chapter contains brief partial-nudity. It is “Barbie” nudity, however, so it is not extremely graphic. I still felt I should put a warning here, though. It’s also slightly sexual, but again, nothing way off the wall.)

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Parker laid in bed that night, thinking hard about his family. While it was true that the Charms were generally a well put-together family, they had their problems. Parker had heard the story of his aunt’s teenage pregnancy about a million times throughout his life. His Aunt Marcie never seemed to mind people telling it over and over again. He supposed she was past it and happy that she had his cousin because of it. Speaking of his cousin, Christopher was gay and in a relationship with a guy named Jimmie Schmid. Jimmie was a nice guy. Parker really liked him, but his cousin’s relationship still certainly was not what was considered ‘normal’ for such a powerful and wealthy family such as his own.

“Now Mattie’s having problems with Mom and I’m torn…” Parker sighed to himself. He loved both his mother and sister dearly and hated being the one having to diffuse their fights all the time. His dad was too busy with making it big in the music industry to know what was going on at home. He was always performing concerts and writing songs. In fact, Parker never really saw much of his dad. He felt as though he was the one trying to hold his family together, even though his sister was the heiress of the estate. Sometimes, he wasn’t sure if Matilda had the kind of qualities that would make a good heiress, but as much as he’d like to be able to take over the Charm Manor, he was the wrong gender for the job. He had to just have faith in her and encourage her to do her best. What she needed was someone to believe in her and support her through all of her mistakes, which she certainly wasn’t getting from their mother.

Parker sighed again and put a hand to his head. The stress of it all was making his head hurt. I need to get some sleep. Mattie will be pissed at me if I sleep through her birthday party tomorrow, he thought to himself.

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Too soon, Parker was being shaken awake by his hysterical mother. His mother tended to freak out over every little thing, and Parker assumed she was having a panic attack because he had left a dirty pair of underwear on his bedroom floor or something. He just ignored his mother’s screaming and shaking, putting a pillow over his head. “I’ll clean it later, Mom. I’m tired. Wake me up for the party…” he mumbled sleepily.

“Parker, get up NOW! Matilda’s gone missing!” Mandy shrieked. That got Parker sitting bolt upright in bed. Matilda? Mattie? His baby sister? Missing? His heart started hammering painfully against his chest. Parker leapt out of bed and began dressing, not even caring that his mom was still in the room.

“What do you mean she’s missing?” he yelled in a panic, pulling on a pair of jeans. “She’s only twelve years old! Where could she have gone?” His mother was sobbing and struggling to breathe.

“I don’t know! We got into another fight and I left her in her room to think about what she did and when I came back to tell her to turn off her light and go to bed, she was gone! Your aunt and uncle have been running all over the manor and grounds looking for her. Your father’s driving all over town searching for her and I’ve called the police. Oh, my baby… my poor baby girl…” she sobbed into her hands. Parker’s face hardened. He knew his sister well enough to piece together what happened. His mother had yelled at her again for doing something or other and Matilda ran away, her feelings hurt.

“Great!” he snapped. “Just perfect! Thanks a lot, Mom!” Mandy looked at her son, shocked.

“F-For what?” she asked, trembling from head to foot.

“For making Mattie run away! You were mean to her and she left! She’s missing because of you! I hope you’re happy!” he shouted. Deep down, he knew he was being unfair and cruel, but he was scared. Very scared. His little sister was alone somewhere on the streets. Who knows what kind of trouble she could get herself into? Mandy sobbed even harder.

“I’m sorry! I never meant to make her run away! I love her!” Mandy wept. Parker could see she was wracked with guilt, but he didn’t care at the moment. He bolted out of his room without a word.

“Where are you going?” his mother demanded, hollering at him down the staircase.

“To find my sister!” he snapped.

Parker shivered slightly and pulled his jacket tighter around him. It was a very cold night. Matilda was probably freezing, wherever she was. He shuddered to think what sadistic sickos roaming the streets would do to a little girl wandering around by herself. His hands balled into fists at the thought of someone hurting his baby sister and quickened his pace. Okay, Mom said that Dad and the police were driving around, looking for her, but what if she’s not visible from the road? I should check the Maywood Glen area, he thought to himself.

Frank drove around the streets of Sunset Valley in search of his daughter. His eyes were red and puffy and his hands trembled on the steering wheel. Where is she? Where is my baby? he thought desperately to himself, turning around another corner. He kept expecting to see Matilda’s head pop out from every building he passed, or see her tiny figure walking down the sidewalk, but he had found no trace of her so far.

He remembered the day he had rushed to the hospital and seen her for the first time, struggling to breathe through a tube and barely strong enough to raise an arm. She was so sad and pathetic looking, but Frank thought she was the most beautiful, precious creature to ever bless the world with her presence. Frank caught a sob deep in his throat and forced it back down. He couldn’t cry right now. He had done enough of that when his wife had called him at work, screaming that their daughter was missing.

Please, he begged any higher power willing to listen to him. Please… bring my daughter back home safe. I promise I’ll be a better dad. I’ll be there more to help her with her homework and read her bedtime stories and tuck her in at night. I’ll pay attention to who her friends are, what she’s interested in, what classes are her favourite… please, just bring my baby home to me safe and sound… give me another chance to be a better father…

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