September 13th, 2019: After

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"We're gonna take you straight to your room, the hallway is empty," Officer Richards says.

"Are you sure? He's not gonna be there, right?" I ask.

"He's not there, I promise you."

"Is my mom there?"

"She's already in your room."


"Alright let's wheel her out." Officer Richards gives the command to the paramedics.

"I wanna walk."

"Being wheeled in on the stretcher is protocol," one of the paramedics says.

"I don't care. I can walk, I wanna walk."

The two paramedics exchange glances.

"Tell them to let me walk," I say to Officer Richards.

"Let's make an exception, just this once."

The paramedics nod in his direction and the back doors of the ambulance are peeled open. I take a deep breath and let Officer Richards get out first. It's not until now that I realize how tall he is. Close to six and a half feet is my best guest. The muscles of his tanned arms are covered by his uniform. If he weren't a cop, I'd be deathly afraid of him.

I climb out behind Officer Richards and he holds my arms as I hop down.

We enter the hospital and there's a team of doctors and nurses waiting for us.

"Is all this for me?"

Officer Richards nods and every hospital staff member in sight is asking me a million questions.

"Excuse me." Officer Richards demands. "Let's let her get situated before we bombard her with a wannabe press conference, shall we?"

I give him a small smile and we walk down the hallway side by side. He leads me to my room and stops me just outside of it.

"Hey," he says. "You ready to go hug your mom?"

I smile as tears pour from my eyes and I take off into my room. My mother jumps from her seated position on my bed and greets me with open arms.

"Oh my baby, you're okay!" She beams.

I cry into her shoulder and I try to tell her how much I missed her and how sorry I am for not being the perfect daughter but my mind and body are overwhelmed and I can't do anything but hug her.

"I love you so much," she whispers in my ear.

I sob into her shoulder and she holds me tighter.

"I looked for you every day, sweetie. I knocked on every door and put flyers on every telephone pole. I called every newspaper and news channel. My gosh, you're finally home."

"Mom, I'm sorry."

"You're sorry? Honey, you did nothing wrong."

"I hate to interrupt," a man in a white coat says, "but we need to do an exam to make sure you're not injured."

I nod and sit down on the hospital bed.

"Before that, Doctor, we need her clothes as evidence," Officer Richards says. "I'm gonna have a female officer help you change into a gown."

The boys leave the room and a woman in a police uniform enters.

"Hi, Blair." She smiles. "I'm Officer Ryan, but you can call me Jen."

I nod.

"I'm gonna need to bag up what you're wearing as evidence. This way, our team will analyze it, and if there's any DNA on it from your kidnapper, we'll find it and we'll find him."

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