Loving Natalee

Loving Natalee

3.8 15
by Beth Holloway

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In May of 2005, Beth Holloway received the worst phone call a parent can imagine. Her beautiful daughter, Natalee, had vanished without a trace in Aruba during her high school senior class trip. Four years later, Beth Holloway steps forward to tell the story of her daughter's disappearance and her own harrowing ordeal—and her never-ending belief in the power

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In May of 2005, Beth Holloway received the worst phone call a parent can imagine. Her beautiful daughter, Natalee, had vanished without a trace in Aruba during her high school senior class trip. Four years later, Beth Holloway steps forward to tell the story of her daughter's disappearance and her own harrowing ordeal—and her never-ending belief in the power of faith that gave her hope against all odds.

When Natalee went missing, her photograph was splashed across newspaper front pages and television screens from coast to coast. Desperate for clues to the whereabouts of the lost eighteen-year-old, Beth searched relentlessly with the help of a dedicated army of volunteers, encountering roadblocks, obstacles, and misinformation at every step—and unbearable questions that had no answers. Loving Natalee is a shocking, tragic, yet poignant chronicle of an unthinkable event and its aftermath—and the inspiring true story of a mother's strength, courage, devotion, and unwavering love.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Loving Natalee
A Mother's Testament of Hope and Faith

Chapter One

In Natalee's Room

It's early morning, and the house is quiet. I'm still lying in bed, eyes closed. I don't want to open them, because when I do, I'll have to face the day I've dreaded the most for the past twenty months. Today I have to pack up Natalee's things for the last time. Today I will have to say the final good-bye. And I'm not ready.

Eyes still closed, I hear an occasional car pass in front of the house. Another one stops across the street, and I hear the car door open, letting music and cheerful muffled voices escape for a moment. Then close again. The stillness in the house is interrupted by the harmonious tapping of little paws as Macy the dog and Carl the cat move across the hardwood floors. Stopping for a moment. Then tapping again. The cold morning brings the sounds of life's activities as people step into another day of their routines. Maybe if I don't open my eyes this day will just pass, and I won't have to face what I have to do. The painful inevitable chore that has been looming over me since my beautiful daughter, Natalee, disappeared on the last night of her senior high school trip to Aruba. The day has come to take her room apart and box it up. I have to go through her belongings, which have remained untouched since she left home on May 26, 2005. The movers will be here day after tomorrow.

Nothing from my life before Natalee disappeared in Aruba has remained intact. Not my career. Not my home. Not my marriage. My husband, Jug, and I are divorcing after six years. My son, Natalee's younger brother, Matt, and I are moving in two days. I havea lot to do. I manage to swing my legs off the bed and sit up. Reluctantly, I open my eyes and sit on the edge for a few moments. I feel like concrete. Heavy. Very heavy. Finally I stand up and slowly walk a half dozen steps or so down the short hall and turn right at Natalee's bedroom doorway.

The morning light shines in through the wall-length windows at the far side of the room illuminating all her neatly organized things. It used to be in disarray most of the time. But today everything in here is in order. It's cheerful and sad at the same time. Light purple—her favorite—and delicate greens. A crisp white bedspread. Pillows with special sayings about friends and love and life. In the corner a purple-painted curio cabinet with four shelves holds all of her treasures. Her collection of Wizard of Oz memorabilia is prominently displayed in the tall narrow cabinet. To my right I see her white high-school graduation robe hanging on the outside of the closet door, the honors cords still around the neck. Inside this closet are two beautiful sundresses we bought for her to take to college, the tags still on them. And behind those is the little black dress she wore to her proms, both junior and senior. Photos of friends and certificates of her many achievements are visible everywhere. A bulletin board over her daybed is covered with reminders of meetings and events and parties coming up. She had big plans.

It's an average, modest bedroom. It was just right for Natalee, and she loved it in here. It was her place to work and her place of solace. It's where she giggled with friends and studied for tests. It's where she dressed for the prom. Where she donned her graduation robe. Where she packed for her trip to Aruba. It's Natalee's own space, and everything in it represents her. She was a hardworking young lady, full of life. Smart, gutsy, determined, and very dependable. She had always been that way.

Natalee and her younger brother, Matt, were born in Memphis, Tennessee, where my first husband, Dave, and I had moved after college. Natalee was three years old and Matt was one when we left Memphis and moved the family to Clinton, Mississippi. Dave and I divorced shortly thereafter. It was a long arduous battle, but I was finally awarded sole custody of both children.

The three of us were tight-knit. Matt and Natalee were very protective of their mother. One night when they were elementary-school age I was going to go out for dinner. I discovered my escort sitting on my front porch with his head buried in his hands. I looked up to see my two children pounding his car with Matt's metal cleats. I was so embarrassed! And very surprised—shocked—that they would do such a thing. They apparently didn't want anybody at their mama's house. They were punished accordingly, and I had to repair his paint job. I don't remember that guy ever coming back. The story must have gotten around, because I dated rather infrequently in the years that followed.

After I had been divorced from the children's father for about seven years, I met George "Jug" Twitty while he was on business in Mississippi. We dated for about three years before marrying in 2000. Matt and Natalee absolutely loved his two older children, Megan and George, and looked forward to moving to the lovely bedroom community of Mountain Brook in Birmingham, Alabama, to join their new family and start their new life. Mountain Brook is about as stark a contrast to where I grew up as one could imagine. Back in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, I was the only white girl in my ninth-grade study hall, and one of about three in my history class. Many of my friends were black in this small, unassuming town. All my life, including seventeen years teaching in Mississippi and Arkansas, I have lived in culturally and racially diverse communities. So have my children. It never occurred to me that it wasn't like that everywhere, because I simply never thought about it.

Loving Natalee
A Mother's Testament of Hope and Faith
. Copyright © by Beth Holloway. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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