12-year-old Molly descended into a downward spiral when she discovered her parents were getting divorced. Her mother didn’t worry too much about Molly’s behavior until she went missing one day.
Molly stared at her parents in shock. Tears blurred her vision of them sitting on opposite ends of the sofa, yet an inexplicable urge to laugh filled her chest. This had to be a joke, after all. Her parents couldn’t be getting divorced!
“Your father will be moving out tomorrow while you’re at school,” Mom continued.
“Where am I going to live?” Molly looked at Dad. His face was lined with worry and sadness.
Mom cut in before Dad could reply. “You’ll stay here with me, of course. A twelve-year-old girl needs her mother.” Mom’s smile was as thin as a knife. “I know it’s tough on you now, Molly, but this is a good change. You’ll see.”
“How can you say that!” Molly leaped to her feet. “This is awful, and I hate you both for doing this to me.”
Molly ran to her room, curled up with one of her cartoon character plushies, and tugged the covers over her head. Her world had just fallen apart. As she cried into the plushy, Molly wondered if anything in her life would ever be good again.
“He’s a lazy good-for-nothing, and we’re better off without him,” Mom said as she drove Molly to school a few days later.
Molly sat in the backseat hugging her knees. “But I love Dad.”
Mom groaned. “Just because you love someone doesn’t mean you should be blind to their flaws, Molly. The fact is that I protected you from many of the difficulties that your father caused, but now we’ll be free to live our best lives.”
Molly glimpsed the corner of Mom’s smile as she checked for traffic at a stop. She couldn’t honestly think the dark gloom Molly felt in her heart was her ‘best life.’ It was hell.
“Will Dad pick me up from school like he did last Friday?” Molly asked.
“No.” Mom parked outside the school and turned to look at Molly. “We decided that’s a bad idea.”
“The decision’s made, Molly. Now, off you go. Have a great day at school!”
“Please, Mom, I want to see him!” Molly wailed as she followed her mother into the sitting room. Weeks had passed since she last saw or spoke to Dad. She couldn’t stop worrying about him.
“Remember when you were little, and I told you it’s best to rip the bandaid off quickly? This is sort of the same thing, honey.”
“Dad is not a bandaid!”
Mom looked sadly at Molly. “I’m sorry, honey, but your father can’t see you right now. From what I understand, he’s practically a hobo. You wouldn’t be able to—”
Had Molly become a troubled kid? Might she be out there somewhere drinking alcohol or God knows what else?
“How could you do this!” Molly wanted to hurt Mom, to make her feel the same pain Molly did. “This is all your fault! You ruined my life and Dad’s. I hate you!”
Molly turned to run, but then she saw the perfect way to get back at Mom. She grabbed the heirloom rose bowl on the table and hurled it to the floor.
“What have you done?” Mom shrieked as she rushed to the shattered pieces of glass. “That’s the only precious thing my family brought over on the boat.” Mom glared at Molly. “You’re grounded!”
For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels
Molly went to her room. She put on a song she knew Mom hated and turned the volume up high. Emotions crawled beneath her skin like bugs under a log, ugly things that didn’t belong in the light. She wanted to cry, but she was too angry. She wanted to break more things, but all the things in here were hers.
Molly threw herself onto her bed and buried her face in her pillow. Her life was a disaster, and she felt like she was going mad.
Mom gave Molly the silent treatment at breakfast the next morning, but that was fine with Molly. At least she wouldn’t have to listen to her roasting Dad anymore.
At school, Molly got into trouble for not doing her homework. A year ago, she might’ve cried about it, but now, she shrugged it off. Her Social Sciences teacher made her stay after class to ask if Molly was okay, and Molly told her to stop being so nosy.
When the mean kids tried to pick on her at lunch, she pushed one of them to the floor, and their food spilled all over their clothes. Molly laughed at him. One of her friends asked why she was acting so strangely, and Molly told him to get lost.
That day, Molly got more detentions than ever before, but she didn’t care. In fact, it seemed to Molly like the rest of the world was finally starting to match the turbulence she felt inside. Then, a girl she knew approached Molly and told her something that changed everything.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Samantha set her hands on her hips and glared at Molly, who she’d just caught leaving the house.
“I’m going to look for bugs in the woods unless you want me to get a D for this assignment?” Molly waved one of her school books at her.
Samantha bit her lip. She was getting really tired of her daughter’s bad attitude. “Fine, but I want you back by five, any later and—”
“Molly, are you okay? Has this man harmed you? I saw the tears in your dress outside.”
“What, you’ll ground me again?” Molly left, slamming the door behind her.
“Oh, good riddance, you grouchy little…” Samantha growled in frustration. She’d known the divorce would be rough on Molly, but she hadn’t expected her sweet little girl to turn into a rebellious monster. It didn’t make sense to Samantha at all.
Samantha continued her afternoon chores. For the first time in forever, she felt peace. Josh wasn’t lazing about blaming the economy for his inability to keep a job, and moody Molly wasn’t blasting that terrible music in her room. But all her serenity evaporated a few hours later when Molly didn’t come home.
For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels
“Yes, she was wearing a blue sundress with a pattern of purple splashes and tan sandals,” Samantha told the police officer. “She said she was going to the woods for a school assignment, and was supposed to be home by five.”
“Okay, now I need to ask you if your daughter’s been acting differently lately.” The police officer glanced at Samantha.
“Kids this age get into all sorts of trouble these days.”
“She has been acting out a lot…you don’t think she gotten involved with something illegal, do you?” She leaned on the counter and stared at the cop across from her. “My daughter wouldn’t do anything like that.”
“That’s what they all say, ma’am. We’ll check the usual places the troubled kids hang out just in case.”
Troubled kids? As Samantha exited the station house, that label circled her thoughts. Had Molly become a troubled kid? Might she be out there somewhere drinking alcohol or God knows what else?
Samantha climbed into her car and stared at the photo of Molly she’d forwarded to the police officer. It was taken shortly before the divorce. Molly smiled at the camera with a joy Samantha hadn’t seen lately. It was like looking at a totally different child.
“Please be okay.” Samantha wiped the tears from her cheeks. “I’ll find a way to make you smile again, no matter what, just come back to me.”
Meanwhile, Officer Lopez was also studying Molly’s photo. His heart was heavy as he knew exactly how dangerous the world could be for a young girl who appeared to be sweet and kind.
“God willing, I’ll get you back home in one piece,” he said.
Officer Lopez went out to the woods first. He searched the usual haunts and found nothing. Next, he visited the derelict house by the river where the problem kids liked to gather, but Molly wasn’t there either. He was en route to his next location when he got news over the radio.
Officer Lopez rushed back to the station house. There, he spoke immediately to the forester who’d reported the find.
“You say you found a sign of the missing girl, and she might be in danger?” Officer Lopez asked.
“Yes, I saw her dress at the sawmill!” The man nodded. “It’s kinda torn up, like it was dragged through the brush. I thought it seemed suspicious, so I came to report it.”
“You did the right thing. Come with me to the sawmill, please, so you can show me exactly where it is.”
For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels
A torn piece of blue and purple fabric flapped in the breeze. Officer Lopez couldn’t take his eyes off it. He’d desperately hoped he’d be able to return Molly to her mother safe and sound, but now his hopes were dying. He put his hand over his gun holster and headed toward the nearest building.
Lopez braced himself for a horrific scene. He burst into the building and instead found Molly alive and apparently unharmed. She was wearing an ill-fitting T-shirt and shorts and smiling at the man seated opposite her.
“Identify yourself.” Lopez drew his firearm. “What are you doing here with this girl?”
“I’m her father.” The man raised his hands. “I work here, and this is my daughter. She came to visit me.”
“This girl was reported missing by her mother.” Lopez glanced at the girl. “Molly, are you okay? Has this man harmed you? I saw the tears in your dress outside.”
“God, no!” Molly sprang to her feet.
“I tore my dress while hiking through the woods to get here. My dad would never hurt me, but my mom is psycho. Please, don’t make me go back to her!”
Lopez frowned. This case just got a whole lot stranger. “Both of you need to come back to the station with me so we can sort this out.”
“You could face kidnapping charges.” Lopez stared at Molly’s father across the table in the interview room.
“No! He didn’t do anything wrong. My friend told me he was working there, and I knew Mom would never let me see him, so I lied about where I was going.” Molly hung her head. “I lied to Dad too. I told him Mom knew I was there. Phone reception is terrible in the woods, so I knew he wouldn’t be able to check with her.”
The door opened then, and Samantha stormed in. “Arrest that man!” She pointed at Molly’s father. “He kidnapped my daughter.”
“No. Your daughter went to visit him of her own accord.” Officer Lopez stood and pointed his finger at both parents. “Whatever you two are going through, you need to sort it out. Your daughter doesn’t deserve to be caught in the middle of your bickering.”
Samantha and Josh stared at each other. Molly rolled her eyes.
“Thanks for trying, officer,” Molly said, “but my mom is toxic, and she wouldn’t survive five seconds if she had to get over herself and stop being such a—”
“Don’t talk about your mother like that,” Josh said.
Samantha stared at Josh in shock. He’d stood up for her! She remembered all the bad things she’d said about him, and a sick sense of guilt coiled in her belly. She realized now that the reason Molly wasn’t handling the divorce well was because she wasn’t dealing with it in a healthy way.
“Thanks, Josh, but Molly has a point.” Samantha looked at her daughter.
“I’ve exposed you to all my anger and been unfair about letting you see your father.”
“Yeah, you have.” Molly crossed her arms and watched her mother warily.
“But I’m going to put a stop to that now. I think we could benefit from family counseling. What do you think, Josh?”
Josh smiled. “I’ll do whatever it takes, Sam.”
The next day, Samantha booked a session with a therapist. Over the following months, she and Josh learned how to be effective co-parents even though they were divorced. It took a little longer for Molly to overcome the pain she’d carried since the divorce, but soon she returned to the bright, joyful person she’d always been.
What can we learn from this story?
- Never place your children in the middle of your relationship problems. Divorce is traumatic enough for most children without having one or both parents use them as bargaining chips or emotional punching bags.
- Just one bad experience can set a child down a dangerous path. Samantha’s bad attitude toward Josh had a negative influence on Molly. Since she could not cope healthily with her emotions, she acted out instead.
This piece is inspired by stories from the everyday lives of our readers and written by a professional writer. Any resemblance to actual names or locations is purely coincidental. All images are for illustration purposes only.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.