Part 11

There was a soft knock and the door to the Oval Office opened. "Excuse me, Mr. President."

At the sound of the familiar voice, Zoey looked up and screamed, "CHARLIE!" She flew out of her dad’s embrace and tackled Charlie full force. She wrapped her arms around his neck and began kissing him passionately.

Charlie, slim but solid, staggered under Zoey’s full weight. He regained his balance and, mindful of where he was, tried to fend off his girlfriend’s kisses. "Zoey," he gasped, "babe, you’re choking me."

She didn’t care. "Oh God, oh God, thank you! Thank you!" She finally pulled away and looked at him, his face in her hands. "I can’t believe it! You’re alive! You’re alive!"

For their part, Jed and Abby stood in awe. They were both too stunned to speak. Their delight at Charlie’s return and seeing Zoey’s joy was mirrored by their confusion at the young man’s sudden reappearance. Finally, Jed managed to choke out, "Charlie? Where the hell have you been?!"

A few seconds later Leo bounded through the side door from his office. "I heard Zoey scream…" He stopped mid-sentence, taking in the scene unfolding before him. In an almost freakishly eerie parroting of his friend’s sentiments, Leo exploded. "Charlie? Where the hell have you been?!"

Zoey grinned. "It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that he’s alive," she said happily.

"Like hell!" Jed blurted out. He advanced toward the couple. "Young man, do you have any idea what you’ve put us through? We’ve been out of our minds with worry!"

"Not to mention having nearly every law enforcement official across the country searching for you," Leo chimed in indignantly.

Charlie managed to extricate himself from Zoey’s grasp long enough to register the level of concern and alarm on the faces of everyone in the room. Confusion and dismay clearly showed on his face. "I’m sorry. I don’t understand." He looked from Jed to Leo for clarification of the situation.

Abby saw all this and stepped in. "All right everyone. Let’s all take a deep breath and calm down." She gestured for everyone to take a seat. Zoey and Charlie sat on one couch, Leo and Abby on the other. Jed refused, still to angry to sit still. Abby ignored him and focused on Charlie. In a deliberately calm voice, she began speaking. "Charlie. You’ve been missing for three days. No one knew where you were. Deena and your grandparents have also turned up missing. The FBI and various state and local law enforcement agencies are all out looking for you."

Charlie turned to Zoey. "Didn’t you get my message?"

Zoey nodded. "Yeah, but it sounded like you had been kidnapped."



"You mean…" He stopped and looked at the faces of everyone in the room. He closed his eyes and leaned back against the couch. "Oh no…"



If Anything Ever Happened To You - 12




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