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Then came the day I never thought I’d live to see. It was Melinda’s eighteenth birthday and I’d been in the kitchen all day preparing dinner when I realized I hadn’t seen my daughter in several hours. “Where did that girl get off to now?” I muttered to myself. She was always exploring the many rooms of the manor and it’s grounds. I stood on the front porch and glanced across the street. I could see her at the beach, tanning in a lawn chair. “Melinda! It’s time to come home for cake and ice cream!” I called to her. She reluctantly heaved herself from the chair and began to cross the street when it dawned on me. She was free. “Melinda, stop!” She came to erupt halt with a confused look on her face. “I want you to listen to me closely. You run, girl. You run as fast as your legs can take you away from this place.” Her eyes grew as round as saucers. “There is a house in town…it’s yours now. The address is 463 Main Street. You will find a key under the rug near the front door. There is money in the safe in the master bedroom. It’s not a lot but any little bit will help.” Melinda looked as if she was about to cry. It broke my heart. “But Mama…” She began. I shook my head. “No buts. It’s for your own good. I promise. I love you more than anything. Now go.”

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