Jack Carter, Sheriff of Eureka, sat down on the couch with a thump. The recently opened letter hanging limply from his fingers. In that same position is where Zoe found her father four hours later when she returned from school.
“Dad?” Zoe called as she entered the smart house. “You here? Jo said she’s been trying to call and no one is answering.” She walked further into the house. “Dad?” She spotted her pale father staring, blankly, at one of the living room walls. “What’s wrong?” She moved closer. “Dad?” She dropped onto the couch beside him.
“I….” Jack licked dry lips and turned bloodshot, red rimmed, eyes to his daughter. “I think I’m gonna be sick!” He dropped the letter onto the floor and rushed to the bathroom where he proceeded to lose what little breakfast he had managed to eat before receiving the devastating letter.
Zoe eyed the piece of paper warily before bending and picking it up. It took her a few short moments to understand what had her father so upset. She looked up when she heard her father reenter the living room. “Aunt Joyce died?” She asked, quietly, as tears filled her eyes. It might have been many years since she saw her fathers oldest sibling but Joyce had always been kind to her as a child and that wasn’t something she’d ever forget. “I….I don’t understand.” She passed the letter back to her father when he sat back down beside her. “Why weren’t we informed sooner?”
Jack wrapped his arms around his daughter and held her tightly. “Apparently all records were lost when Sunnydale collapsed. It took them this long to identify….” He trailed off as an ache filled his very soul. “There is a lake where the city once stood and it took them this long to identify the remains that floated to the surface.” Unable to look at the letter anymore he tossed it onto the coffee table. “I just thought….” He had no words to express what he was feeling and thinking.
“The letter didn’t say anything about Buffy and Dawn.” Zoe said quietly from against her fathers side. “If Sunnydale is now a lake where is Buffy and Dawn?” A hint of hysterics was creeping into her voice. “Where are they dad?” She pushed away from him and moved across the room, arms wrapped around her midsection. “Why haven’t we heard from them?” Tears were running down her checks, unchecked.
“I don’t know sweetie. Last time I spoke to Joyce they had just moved to Sunnydale. I just figured Buffy and Dawn were too busy adjusting to a new city and school to call or write.” Jack fell silent his eyes once again back on the letter. “I didn’t even know she was sick….” He said more to himself than Zoe.
Zoe sniffled and used the sleeves of her sweatshirt to wipe her eyes. “Then we need to find them!” She declared as she rushed up the stairs to her room then back down carrying her laptop. Retaking her seat beside her father once again, she booted up the computer and began to plow through the internet looking for any signs of her family.
Jack leaned forward so he could see the screen as well. “Zoe you gotta be prepared that maybe they don’t want to be found by me or anyone else for that matter. That maybe they cut off contact for a reason?”
“No.” Zoe would not accept that. They might have had their problems in the past but all families had problems. And she had always been close to the two older girls. “We’re all the family they have left in this world. I can’t accept that they wouldn’t want us, US
, to find them!” She said passionately.
“Zoe….” Jack was at a loss as to what to say to make his daughter understand. There was so much that she didn’t know. So much history that was buried. “I want you to listen and don’t interrupt until I’m finished.” He took and deep breath and plunged head first into his story. “By the time Joyce and Hank decided to divorce Buffy had been acting out for months. When she burned down the gym of her high school Joyce called me to come talk to both of them. She thought maybe Buffy was acting out because….” He shook his head. How could he explain this his daughter so that she understood? “When I asked Joyce to look after them I had all intentions of going back for them once I got my head on right but I met your mother and I guess they weren’t my top priority anymore. You gotta understand, Zoe, that your mother was the first woman I had feelings for after Eliza died. I fell in love with Abby after I promised myself I’d never love again. Then when she told me that she was pregnant….I was thrilled. I was getting a second chance!” He ran a hand through his short hair. “Joyce was so disappointed in me when I told her everything that had transpired while I was away finding
myself. She yelled at me and said that I had abandoned the girls and that I didn’t deserve them. She convinced me that letting her and Hank adopt them was in their best interest. And since I was starting a new family I readily agreed. The moment I signed the papers she cut me out of their lives. Hank became daddy and I became estranged Uncle Jack that sent birthday and Christmas presents through the mail. Truth was that the first time you met them was the first time I had seen them in ten years. And I was shocked that Joyce even allowed it but apparently Hank was a total jerk when he was drunk and had let it slip once or twice that they weren’t their biological children; of course when he sobered up he‘d deny ever saying such things. It surprised me how easily they accepted you especially Buffy but that only proved Joyce right when she said they weren’t mine and never would be. So when Buffy started acting out Joyce decided that I should come talk to them, tell them about Eliza, because maybe, just maybe, Buffy still had memories of her daddy leaving and never coming back. Well I went there, told your mother I had a conference out of state, and told them all about their biological mother and the circumstances surrounding her death and them being placed into Joyce’s care, both listened, didn’t say a word until I was finished, in which time Buffy promptly kicked me and out with instructions to never return. I know they stayed in contact with you, Zo, but maybe they decided this was their chance to disappear and start over?” By the time he finished Zoe was staring at him with wide eyes. “Say something.”
Zoe had listened to her fathers story with half an ear as she searched the net for her older siblings. But by the time he finished she was focused on him, eyes wide and unbelieving at the tale she had just heard. “I can’t believe you did that!” She cried in outrage on her sisters’ behalf. “You just left them?!” She shook her head. “I’ll be mad at you later because I found them.” She spun the laptop towards him. “And they’re
looking for us