A woman last saw her son two years ago and has since been stuck in the nightmare of not being able to find him. But everything changes one day when her phone pings with a message from a private number claiming to know where her son is.
Those two years of Nora’s life were nothing but devastating and heartbreaking. Before Howard went missing, there were no signs that he was in trouble or that he might just stop calling her one day and never return home.
Nora had blamed herself enough in those two years. Sometimes, she considered herself responsible for her son’s disappearance. She had been an overprotective mother, watching her son’s every step and constantly worrying about his whereabouts.
But Nora wasn’t entirely to blame. She was a single mother and had raised her boy alone after her husband’s death. She was so afraid, so scared of losing her precious boy, that she had to be there for him, watching over him and ensuring he didn’t do anything wrong.
But she knew Howard didn’t appreciate it when he grew older. “Stop it, Mum! I’m not a little boy anymore!” he would often snap at her.
Nora never took those words of his seriously. She remained Howard’s overprotective mother, controlling everything from what he wore to who he spent time with. When he turned 18 and became an adult, nothing changed.
Howard believed that if he stopped telling his mother about his friends, where they went after school, and whether he was going to stay over at a friend’s house, she would stop bothering him as often and give him the space he deserved.
“Time heals things that don’t heal themselves on their own.”
Unfortunately, that didn’t go down well with Nora, and she made a great fuss when Howard stayed at a friend’s house for two weeks without notifying her. She assumed it was the same thing when he went missing, which she never suspected when her phone call went unanswered the first time.
Nora assumed her son was up to something stupid without informing her and that he would undoubtedly tell her later. But this time, he didn’t. There were no calls or messages from him, and Nora had started getting worried.
Howard was in college in another city at the time. After their big fight over the two-week stay-over at a friend’s house, Nora made it mandatory for him to phone her every day, and even though Howard despised his Mum’s new rule, he followed it.
He called her first thing after breakfast, right before leaving for college. And after Howard finished classes, he had to inform her of where he was, who he was with, and when he would return to the college dorm.
One morning, Nora didn’t get Howard’s call. She expected him to call her later that day, but that did not happen either. Nora had not panicked at first. She was instead looking for the diary in which she had written down Howard’s friends’ names and contact numbers.
She contacted them one by one once she found the diary, but no one knew where Howard was. That’s when Nora realized something was terribly wrong. She dialed Howard’s number again and again and again. There were no replies. Then his phone was unreachable and later switched off.
Nora couldn’t report her son missing because he’d not responded to her messages and calls for only one day. She decided to check on him on her own, so she flew to the city where Howard was studying the next day.
When Nora arrived at his dorm and checked his room, she couldn’t hold back her tears. Howard was gone, and so were his belongings. She checked the college’s security cameras, and the last time he was seen was around seven o’clock in the evening two days ago, leaving the campus with a suitcase.
Nora was devastated. She asked his friends again if they knew anything about Howard — if he had any problems, where he could’ve gone, anything else, but it was all for naught.
When there was no sign of Howard for 48 hours, Nora filed a missing complaint. The police tried to locate his phone and eventually discovered it in a trash can beside a local coffee shop near his college.
The search lasted months, but there was no sign of Howard, so the case was eventually declared cold. The case’s lead detective was disappointed that they’d not been successful in tracking down the young boy and sympathized with Nora, considering her a distraught mother who was still determined to find her son.
“Mrs. Kinney, we’ve had no leads in months, and we now believe it’s more of a premeditated disappearance. The phone found in a trash can, your son departing with luggage… all indicate a planned escape… Something he’d been planning for a while, maybe. And unfortunately, nobody could guess it. Not even you!”
“You’re all incompetent!” Nora yelled, refusing to believe the detective. “It’s OK if the cops can’t help me. I’m going to find my son and bring him back!”
“Mrs. Kinney, we can’t investigate the case officially any longer, but please let me know if you come across anything. And yeah, please take care. Time heals things.”
“Oh, I don’t need your concern,” she had snapped. “Wait until the day I bring my son back and expose the incompetence of this country’s police force!”
But two years passed, and Nora couldn’t keep her promise. She even hired a private investigator to track Howard’s whereabouts, but it was all in vain.
As a mother, Nora couldn’t stop blaming herself. She’d failed to protect her son. If only she’d been there with him, as she’d always done since he was a child, she could’ve saved him, kept him home, safe and… alive.
Since Howard’s disappearance, Nora hadn’t gone a single day without thinking about and praying for his return. She had started frequenting his college and favorite places, hoping that one day her son would just appear and say, “Sorry for bothering you, Mum. I’m not going to do that again! I swear!”
And then she’d just hold him and tell him everything was OK, that all she wanted was for him to be with her and never leave her again. But with time, Nora had lost hope she would ever find Howard until, one day, her phone pinged with a message.
Nora’s heart would race with each notification on her phone. What if it was a lead, an indication that her kid had been found? What if the detective told her the case had been reopened because they hadn’t properly investigated it, and her son had been in their city the entire time?
Nora quickly clicked on the notification. It was a message from a private number, and as she read the text, her heart began to race, and her palms began to sweat.
“I know where your son is,” the message began.
There was an address at the bottom of the message, too. Nora couldn’t believe it. After two years with no leads, signs, or results, someone, most likely the owner of a private number, knew where Howard was!
But Nora was worried it could be a trap, a scam. The number had immediately blocked her once they sent the message, making it impossible for her to get in touch with them. So she called the detective in charge of Howard’s case two years ago, and they decided to visit the address listed in the message together.
Surprisingly, the address was a modest house in their town with a clean yard and freshly painted picket fences. It looked like a place where a family lived, not a place where a missing boy might be discovered.
“Are you sure the address is correct, detective?” Nora asked the officer, wondering if they were at the right place.
“It’s all over now…”
“Well, I don’t trust myself, but I trust the GPS,” the detective said, pressing the doorbell.
Seconds later, a young girl about Howard’s age opened the door. She looked at Nora nervously and then at the detective. “Are you Nora? Howard’s mother?” she asked Nora.
“Yes, yes, I am,” Nora said hastily. “Is he here? Is Howard here?”
“Shh… please don’t be so loud,” she said. “And who is he?” she asked, looking at the detective.
“He’s…” Nora looked at the detective and then at the girl. “A friend,” she said. “Just a friend of mine who was worried about me and wanted to come along.”
“OK,” the girl said. “Please, just be quiet. Follow me.”
The girl, Stella, led Nora and the detective to a cozy living room, where Nora was surprised to notice a wall covered with the girl and Howard’s pictures.
“My son… you know him! How do you know him?” Nora asked, her eyes fixed on the photos.
“HOW DO YOU KNOW HIM?” Nora repeated herself.
Before Stella would say anything, the front door burst open. Nora had to lean against the living room wall to avoid collapsing as Howard walked in.
“Mum?” he gasped. “What—How are you here? What’s going on?”
“Oh, Howard!” she cried as she dashed to her son and embraced him after a wait of two long years. “I can’t believe this! I found you! Oh, how I missed you, my boy! I swear I’ll never bother you or make you do anything you don’t want to do. I’ll be the best, best Mum!”
Howard pulled himself away. “Stop it, Mum!” he cried. “I didn’t want you to come here! How did you even find me?”
“I called her here,” Stella said. “She’s come to pick you up. It’s all over now, Howard. I’m done with you!”
“Babe, what do you mean?” Howard asked, confused. “Why would you do that?”
“I can’t live with you anymore. You’ve inherited the worst from your mother, Howard!” she confessed. “That overprotectiveness, the constant phone calls and texts asking me where I am, what I’m doing, or if I’m with my girlfriends! I’m sick and tired of it all!”
“What are you even saying, Stella? Look, let’s calm down and talk, OK?” he said, stepping closer to her. “We can talk it out.”
“No, Howard…” she whispered as she stepped back. “No. I can’t take it anymore. Just leave me alone. Remember how you came to me because you were tired of your mother bugging you all the time? And what did you do? You did exactly what she did! Howard, I gave you shelter when you didn’t want to live with your mother, and now you think you own me!”
“That’s not how life works. I knew if I just left you or told you to leave, you’d find me and pester me until we got back together. So I had no choice but to do this. It’s in everyone’s best interests. I don’t want you to be glued to me all the time! I don’t even love you anymore…”
“You should have told me about it, babe. We could’ve discussed it,” Howard said, disappointed. “We could’ve talked things out. Why are you humiliating me in front of everyone? You know what? Mum is to blame for everything! Not me! And I—”
“Enough!” Nora yelled before Howard could finish, admitting it was all her fault. “And I’m going to fix it all. And that starts with you coming home, Howard. Stella is not your property! You don’t own her! She’s right! And don’t forget we have an officer with us here,” she said, pointing to the detective in civilian clothes.
“Two years ago, he was in charge of your missing case! I wish I’d believed him when he said you plotted your own disappearance!”
“You—You reported me missing?” Howard asked.
“Oh, wow!” Nora sighed. “What else was I supposed to do, son? Pray for a miracle that you’d appear out of nowhere?”
Howard was embarrassed. He realized he had harmed far too many people in order to prevent the minor inconvenience of his mother’s phone calls and nagging. He needed to make amends for what he’d done, but he wasn’t the only one who needed to fix things.
Nora, too, needed to give Howard the space he deserved.
One month later…
One day, Howard called Nora and asked why she hadn’t called him for days. “I know you’re an adult and can look after yourself, honey,” she said. “I don’t want to be the obnoxious mother again!”
Howard chuckled. “I love you, Mum,” he told her. “I’m also sorry for what I did. I really shouldn’t have.”
“It’s all right,” she said. “It’s perfectly alright. All that matters now is that you’re safe and back to college and focused on building your life again. By the way, you owe Stella an apology as well.”
“Yeah, Mum. I’m going to visit her soon and apologize to her…” he said.
Days later, Howard paid Stella a visit and told her he had arranged for her to meet her friends at a nightclub. Stella was thrilled and hoped Howard wouldn’t insist on accompanying her as he did in the past.
When she stepped out of her room dressed for the party, she realized Howard was still in his jumper and boxers.
“What’s the matter? Are you sure you’re not coming?” she asked him.
Howard smiled. “Well, I had promised I’d change,” he said, kissing her forehead. “Have a good time, babe. A great evening with your friends. I don’t want to be stuck to you like glue!’”
“Oh, Howard! You mean it?”
“I do!” he smiled. “See you soon, babe! Love you!”
What can we learn from this story?
Overprotectiveness destroys relationships and can never be justified. Howard was so tired of Nora that he just vanished one day. And when Stella faced the same with Howard, she had to find ways to get rid of him.
Your children have the right to make their own decision, and you should respect that. Nora realized her parenting was making Howard feel suffocated, and it had strained their relationship to the extent that Nora lost touch with her son for two whole years.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.