Lizzie, the mother, never stopped looking for her son. After 15 agonizing years, faith suddenly brought him back into their lives. But Mickaël didn't remember them-and he didn't want to be back with his family.
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For A Brief Moment
By Mélanie Charbonneau
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Mélanie Charbonneau
All rights reserved.
"What's taking so long, Lizzie? We're boiling here!"
"I'm coming! I'm coming! I just need to put some diapers in the bag ..."
Through the twins' bedroom window, Lizzie could hear her three boys losing patience. Mickaël and Samuel were starting to cry at the same time Daniel was complaining to his dad. "It's too hot, Daddy! I'm thirsty! Where is Mommy?"
Lizzie ran downstairs to grab five cold water bottles for the road.
"Is everyone ready, guys?"
"Yes!" screamed Daniel.
At the sound of their mother's voice, the twins stopped crying.
"Jasper, here we come."
* * *
After 40 minutes on the road, with the twins finally asleep and Daniel quietly reading his picture book, Lizzie was lost in her thoughts. She looked at the unfamiliar scenery of prairies. She felt as if she were in a different country. It had been two weeks since their move to Edmonton. As someone born and raised in Montréal, she was feeling quite a culture shock.
She had always thought she knew her country well, being a geography teacher and all. But everything was new to her eyes. Everything was different, from the climate to the structure of the houses and streets, the fashion, the lifestyles, the scenery—hell, even the language! Although she'd been raised in a bilingual family, with a Francophone mom and an Anglophone dad, there was something different about the way the Albertans talked. It reminded her a little bit of a mixture of American and sometimes even ... she didn't know how to say it ... hillbillies? Or maybe it was just their neighbours. She would need more time to analyse the language and Albertans.
Lizzie wouldn't have thought in a million years that at 30 years old, she'd be living so far to the west. She had never appreciated the immensity of the country until she drove non-stop for 56 hours to search for a house.
She was six months pregnant with her fourth child—yes, a lovely surprise to all of them—and because Mike and Lizzie were both teachers, their income was not the greatest. Well, to be more specific, Mike was a teacher full-time; Lizzie was only part-time since returning from Daniel's maternity leave three years before. As a result, they were struggling financially, especially since the birth of the twins eighteen months ago.
Mike had seen an ad in a paper in May about a shortage of teachers in the Francophone school-board system. They talked about it and decided to apply for the next school year in 2002, without really expecting anything to come of it. To their surprise, they both received job offers within a few weeks: for Mike, a principal position in École Maurice-Lavallée, and for Lizzie, a grade-3 maternity-leave replacement until November in École Saint-Jeanne-d'Arc. The school board even offered to pay the cost of moving. After going over all the pros and cons, they decided to make the big move. They thought that this could be their way out of debts and financial problems.
Although they couldn't really afford it, Mike insisted that the family would spend three days in the Rockies at the Jasper Park Lodge before he started his new job. He planned to spend the full month of August getting familiar with the school, his new tasks and responsibilities and every member of the staff before the school year started.CHAPTER 2
"Mommy! Look in front of you! It looks like clouds on the ground!"
Lizzie couldn't help but smile when she saw Daniel's shining eyes. Nothing made her happier than seeing her kids and husband happy. Taking in the stunning sight before her eyes, she started to get excited too.
"It sure does, sweetie! Only it is not clouds ... it's snow on the mountains! Can you imagine? That's incredible! We are well into the summer, late in July, and there is still snow on the mountains!"
"Wow! What a sight!" said Mike.
"Take a picture, Daddy!"
"Grab the camera, Lizzie! Wow! It's so beautiful! Almost as beautiful as you, my love!"
"If I was that beautiful, I would be a famous supermodel!" She took several pictures. "Hey! Look on top of this one! Is that a mountain sheep, Mike?"
"It sure is! Look, boys! There, on the mountains!"
Lizzie started to sing gently, "Quand le soleil dit bonjour, aux montagnes!"
Daniel and Mike joined her. The twins clapped their hands. For the rest of the ride, the Lauzon choir sang a series of old songs, both in French and English.
* * *
"Look, Mom! A water park!"
"Yes it is! That's nice to see, especially on a hot day like today. And it's supposed to be warm like this all week! We will have to check it out. Hopefully it's not too far from our cabin."
"Nothing gets past you, little man," added Mike with pride. "The water park is far behind the trees. You have eagle eyes! You would be a great hunter or detective, little Mr. Lauzon!"
Once at the Jasper Park Lodge, all of them were amazed by the beauty of the location. Even Mickaël and Samuel were looking everywhere with their big blue eyes. The kids were running around while Lizzie and Mike unloaded the van and placed everything in the cabin.
"I can't believe how beautiful it is, Mike! We are right by the mountains. And the colour of the lake ... it looks like a postal card! I can't imagine a more perfect place to be."
"In your arms, looking at your shining blue eyes."
"Oh, stop it."
Mike stopped unpacking and admired his wife. Her wavy light blonde hair fell on her naked shoulders. The colour of her summer dress brought out her light-blue eyes. Even pregnant, she was still stunning. Her dress showed off the sexy curves of her body and was cut at a perfect length, exposing her gorgeous thighs. He felt a sudden thrill of pleasure, and it gave him an erection. He wanted to take her now, right this minute, on the kitchen table. Lizzie knew right away what he wanted by the look in his eyes.
"Seriously, Mike? The children could walk in any minute."
"Not if I lock the door and close the blinds ..."
"Really now, Monsieur Lauzon," said Lizzie with a big grin on her face.
* * *
"Mommy, can we go to the water park?"
"It's our first morning here, honey. There's lots to visit."
"Aw, pretty please? Just for a little bit, Mom?"
"You guys go ahead," Mike said. "It will give me a chance to write my welcome letter for the beginning of the year. You can come back here for lunch, and we'll have the rest of the day to do something together."
Mike took the twins outside and started buckling them into the double stroller while Lizzie stayed inside to prepare the diaper bag. As she came out of the cabin, she heard a high-pitched scream from the stroller and instantly knew her son was in pain. She started for the stroller.
"Oh no!" said Mike.
"What is it?"
"Samuel just got stung by a bee on his knee."
Holding Samuel in her arms, Lizzie tried to comfort him by singing a lullaby while she removed the stinger from his right knee. Using the first-aid kit in the van, she sprayed his knee with AfterBite, put on a Scooby-Doo Band-Aid, and would have given him a spoonful of Benadryl but he kept on spitting it out. When he finally stopped crying, she tried to put him back in the stroller, but he wouldn't cooperate.
"You guys go ahead," Mike said. "Samuel can stay with me."
Lizzie checked the tourism map to find her way to the water park on foot. It looked like a good twenty-minute walk, maybe more with Daniel by her side. She decided to take a shortcut—an isolated trail on a hill. Suddenly the wind picked up, and Daniel's hat flew away, over a wooden fence and down to the left side off the path.
"It's not me! It's the wind! But look! I see it down there!"
"Where? I don't see it."
He was pointing down to the left side.
"I'll go get it, Mommy. I can do it. You wait here with Mickaël."
Daniel climbed the fence before she even had time to say a word. Within two seconds, he was on the other side, going slowly down the hill. Lizzie was amazed by how smart and courageous he was. He was only 4 years old but was already becoming a little man.
"Be careful, Daniel. Take your time. Mommy's right here, watching over you. If it gets too steep, turn around and come back. Watch your step!"
She soon lost sight of him. Then she heard, "Waaaaaaaaa!"
There was a brief silence, and finally, "Mommy! Mommy!"
Her heart stopped. "Daniel!"
She climbed the fence and started down the hill until she could have a better view of what was going on. She could see him from a distance, sitting on a rock, holding his right leg.
"What happened, Daniel?" screamed Lizzie from up the hill.
"I fell and rolled down the hill and hurt my leg."
"Can you walk on it, sweetie?"
Daniel tried to stand up but fell instantly down and started to scream in pain.
"Okay. Don't move. I'm coming to get you. Mommy is right here, sweetie, I am coming!"
She took a quick peek at Mickaël, who was sound asleep. Hesitantly, she pushed the stroller along the fence and put on the brake. Then she climbed back over the fence and started down the hill to find Daniel. His left ankle was already swollen. It didn't look good.
She took off her vest and rolled it around his leg for support. Then she took him in her arms. With great effort, she slowly managed to climbed the steep and bumpy hill. Halfway up the hill, she saw a white ice-cream truck passing very slowly on the path. Lizzie put Daniel down and started waving her arms in the air, screaming for help. She saw the truck stop and for a minute, she thought the driver had seen her. But the truck suddenly picked up speed and disappeared.
When Lizzie finally made it up the hill, she put Daniel in the front seat of the stroller where Samuel would usually be sitting. She took the brakes off the stroller and started running back to the cabin. Daniel could not stop crying. It took her a few seconds to realize that Mickaël was not in the backseat. Her heart froze for the second time that day. She stopped dead and could not move.
"Mickaël! Mickaël! Where is Mickaël? Daniel! Can you see Mickaël?" screamed Lizzie in a panic.
"Maybe he fell down the hill!"
"No, that's impossible! He was sleeping, and he was buckled up!" She called out, louder and louder, "Mickaël! Mickaël! Micckkaaëëllll!"
Lizzie turned to Daniel, who was wailing in pain over his leg, and snapped, "Daniel! Stop crying! I need you to look very carefully everywhere. You are good at finding stuff. Focus, Daniel, focus!"
Daniel stopped crying for a few minutes. He knew something terrible must have happened by the strange tone of his mother's voice. He knew he must not disappoint his mom. He had to find his little brother. He looked everywhere. After five minutes of intense search, he started to cry again. The pain was too intense. He felt weak and thirsty.
"Mommy ... it hurts ... it really really hurts," he managed to say before he fainted in the stroller.
Lizzie turned around and pushed the stroller up the hill. She knew she was close to the water park. Once she got there, she took out her cell phone from her diaper bag. At the sound of Mike's voice on the phone, Lizzie started to cry and couldn't manage to talk.
"What's wrong, honey?"CHAPTER 3
When Mike and Samuel arrived at the water park, he found Daniel sitting on a couch in the first-aid room, his right leg propped up on cushions, with Lizzie by his side. As soon as she saw him, she gave Daniel a kiss on his head and started running for the door.
Mike stopped her and said, "Wait! Where are you going?"
"Going to search and find Mickaël."
"On the hill behind the water park."
"Did you phone the cops?"
"Why would I?"
"To report that Mickaël is missing!"
Lizzie turned white.
"Never mind," Mike said, "I will phone them. Wait here for them."
As soon as Mike left to bring Daniel to the hospital, taking Samuel with him, Lizzie immediately started running toward the hill. She didn't have time to wait for the police. In fact, she didn't want to talk to them. What could she say? She had nothing to say to them. All she wanted was to find Mickaël. He was only eighteen months old, for Christ's sake. Where could he possibly be?
Once on the hill where the stroller had been, she started to look for footprints—any kind of prints, any clues she could find. But really, what clue could Mickaël have left on the scene? Again, he was only eighteen months old. He had been sleeping, and he was buckled up when she went to find Daniel. He couldn't unbuckle himself, so he couldn't have fallen down the hill.
What could she find here? His little hat? His little blue rattle? Nothing. She could find nothing. She walked far and wide, lost in thought for what seemed to be hours, until a serious voice startle her: "Mrs. Élizabeth Lauzon?"
She jumped and said, "Yes? That's me!"
"I'm Gordon Jones from the RCMP, and this is my partner Kevin Kushack. I understand that your son is missing? Where and when did you last see him?"
"He was right here in the backseat of the stroller. He was sleeping and was buckled up. My oldest son Daniel had fallen down this hill and injured his leg. Mickaël was sound asleep. So I parked the stroller along the fence and put the brakes on. Then I went to help Daniel. I had to bring him up the hill in my arms. He couldn't walk. When we got back to the stroller, Mickaël was gone.
"How old is Mickaël, ma'am?"
"Eighteen months old."
"So he can walk?"
"Of course, but he can't unbuckle himself. It's a pretty tricky one."
"Are you certain he was buckled?"
"Yes, it's always the first thing we do when we put them in the stroller."
"Maybe Daniel unbuckled him."
"He doesn't know how."
"I see." Gordon was taking notes of everything that was said. "Did you hear a scream or a cry while you went down the hill?"
"No! Like I said, he was sleeping."
"I see. So what you are telling me is that he could not get out of the stroller because he was sleeping?"
"And because he was buckled up."
"Uh huh. Could you see the stroller from down there?"
"Not the whole time."
"Did you see someone by any chance walking by or a vehicle while you were down the hill?"
"No ... wait a minute ... Yes, I saw an ice-cream truck passing by. It was driving very slowly at first and then it sped away."
"Did you happen to see the driver?"
Gordon took his cell phone and called the office.
"Sydney, I want you to give up what you are doing and find a full list of employees who drive an ice-cream truck in Jasper that worked today. I need names, history, and phone numbers. Get back to me ASAP."CHAPTER 4
One week had passed and still no trace of Mickaël. The cops had interviewed every company that owned an ice-cream truck in Jasper working that day. It turned out to be a dead end. There were no suspects. No valid information came out of it. Nobody had noticed the stroller. What was even stranger, nobody had taken that route. It was an isolated path and not worth the money. Nobody had a motive to kidnap a baby. The average age of the workers was 18 years old. They were all students working for a summer job.
Mickaël's picture was on every post and commercial door in Jasper. A rescue crew had searched the woods nearby for two days. Not a clue was found. Mickaël remained missing.
"Lizzie," said Mike, "we need to get back home to Edmonton by tomorrow. I have missed already a week of work and ..."
"Our baby is missing, and you are only thinking of your job? I will not abandon Mickaël here alone in Jasper! You hear me? I will not go back without him!"
Mike tried to talk sense to her. "A crew of 25 men has been searching every wood and path in Jasper for 10 days. They even searched the canyon! They would have found him by now. He couldn't have gone far on foot, Lizzie! He is only 18 months! They called off the search last night. It is impossible that he would have survived all this time if he was still here. Gordon is certain that he was kidnapped and is long gone, far away from Jasper. He reported Mickaël missing across Canada. He has been on every channel on TV across Canada, from coast to coast, and will be for the next two weeks. There's nothing more we can do from here, in Jasper, that we can't do from home."
Lizzie was firm. "Mike, he couldn't have been kidnapped, I was right there, close, down the hill."
"Yes, but your full attention was on Daniel at that time, not up the hill."
Lizzie slapped Mike hard on the face. "How dare you accuse me of ..."
"I am not accusing you of anything, Lizz. All I am trying to say is that while you turned your back to attend to Daniel, a car or someone must have passed without you noticing it and ..."
"The only vehicle that passed was the ice-cream truck."
"And the cops interviewed everyone. Nobody is a suspect, Lizz. Every employer was very cooperative and answered all the questions. Nobody saw the stroller. Nobody went on the hill."
"I didn't imagine the truck, Mike."
"I didn't say you did. Maybe it just looked like an ice-cream truck. You couldn't have seen clearly from down the hill with all the trees."
"So you are willing to give up on him. They can't find him, so that's it, it's over, case closed, and you are ready to go back to work."
Excerpted from For A Brief Moment by Mélanie Charbonneau. Copyright © 2013 Mélanie Charbonneau. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1, 1,
Chapter 2, 5,
Chapter 3, 11,
Chapter 4, 15,
Chapter 5, 19,
Chapter 6, 25,
Chapter 7, 31,
Chapter 8, 35,
Chapter 9, 41,
Chapter 10, 49,
Chapter 11, 57,
Chapter 12, 61,
Chapter 13, 67,
Chapter 14, 71,
Chapter 15, 77,
Chapter 16, 83,
Chapter 17, 95,
About the Author, 99,
About the Book, 101,