Excerpt: 'Come Back: A Mother and Daughter's Journey Through Hell and Back'

out or worry. I need to experience real life...People out there are more real, they'll take care of me. I'll be okay, I have a Swiss army knife and mace ... Please don't feel guilty, I couldn't have asked for better parents ..."

I'm not freaking out, I'm wild. I am dancing with shock, I'm terrified. What people, what life, out where?! This is madness, delusion, it's the fever, she's lost her mind! My precious child is alone on the streets with a Swiss Army knife and no mind. Back off rapist with HIV, go away drifter with a blunt object, I have a retractable corkscrew and nail file!

I want to holler, pound, smash. I have sprung back to life, my synapses are on fire, my legs feel bionic, my lungs could amplify her name across Los Angeles. I want to fly over the city with infrared Mia-seeking vision.

The police officer in my kitchen stares at the letter, saying, "She doesn't seem angry, she seems to love you very much."

Of course she loves us, we're great parents, she's a great kid, why do you think we're in such shock! I want to grab him and shake him, I'm already doing the math: Time = Distance! Every minute we stand here, she gets farther away!

He looks at her photo and we know what he's thinking. Girl like that on the street. She is striking, exotic. She's a target is what she is.

"...I'm sick of life, everything seems so pointless...I've

been pretty screwed up for a while, this will solve stuff.

"Solve what?" the officer asks.

We don't know! She saw a therapist last year, struggled through some issues, but nothing that would even hint at anything like this, nothing. She doesn't do drugs, she doesn't disobey us, she's a good kid, a great student.

"Can you get some officers to help you look for her?" Paul asks softly.

Can you be less polite right now, Paul?

"Oh, she's long out of Beverly Hills," the officer says matter-of-factly.

I want to vomit.

He asks about her friends. They're great kids, too, no drugs, good families. Wait. There's one. Someone new.

Paul grabs the phone first. Then hands it to me, he can't bear to ask the father who answers. I can. I'd said all along. Go check your daughter's bed, I tell him. Check for your weirdo witch girl. It's wicca, mom, Mia said. She found Talia unique, she felt badly for her because she had few friends at school.

When he returns his voice has shrunk. I can hear his wife crying.

By sunrise our friends start arriving. Favors are called in, a DA says use his name or the police won't do anything, they don't looks for runaways, LA's crawling with them. Paul throws together full-color missing posters. We argue about putting REWARD on them. Will it make people more alert, make someone call us? What if it gives someone the idea to kidnap her for the reward? The police won't touch the question.

All the while, "This can't be happening, this can't be happening" is hammering inside my skull. I start calling every kid she knows, every parent.

Mia told her best friend Hilary and swore her to secrecy. But, she didn't tell her where she was going. Hilary's a mess, inconsolable, she never thought Mia would actually do it. She's furious at Talia. All her friends are. She never fit in, with her, like, valley-speak and wicca crap, she corrupted Mia.

One of Mia's classmates is lying, I can tell. I demand to speak to her mother. She calls back in five minutes with the first information I get, a name, some suggestions. I am so grateful. But, I hope she beat it out of her.

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