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Although we don't know what they said to her, she had already sensed that something was wrong. I cried all the way on the bus from Atlanta to Birmingham.CLAIRE: The news started to get to us in small, disconnected pieces. " I'm thinking, Natalee's still lying on the beach. But by the time we landed in Atlanta, my dad called me and said, "Bear"—he called me Bear—"things aren't looking good." What he meant was, Natalee wasn't just on the beach; it was more serious. MALLIE: While Claire was flying home, her dad called me to say Natalee was missing. While the students were returning to Birmingham, Beth had begun gathering information about her daughter.CLAIRE: Natalee moved to Mountain Brook in eighth grade, from tiny Clinton, Mississippi—and she kind of just fell into our group. I was Party, because for some reason I used to instant-message my friends as Party Girl600. She was obsessed with topography—she loved to study the mountain ranges on maps. She turned 16 seven months before I did, and she got a cute little white Volvo.MALLIE: I was Tucka Mota, because there was a car dealership in town with my same last name called Tucker Motors, and they had a really funny commercial. She loved that dog so much; she would color its hair with highlighters and paint its toenails. Even though I didn't have a license, I kept begging her, "Just let me drive it, please?It's so strange—Natalee's been gone for longer than I've known her.That's really hard for me—I kind of want the years to stop.She took them for outings, and she'd work alongside them, shucking corn and shelling peas together.CLAIRE: She was a kind person, but not overly sweet. MALLIE: I close my eyes and I see Natalee, shucking corn.
A tiny girl with long blond hair, Natalee was an exuberant personality but also serious and idealistic: About to enter the University of Alabama on a full scholarship, she hoped to become a doctor.
" and the police just calmly took notes on a clipboard, matter-of-factly.
We didn't know it at the time, but somebody had called Beth, and she talked to the authorities.
I hold on to these dumb little images: the blond hair on her arms. CLAIRE: I can still hear her reading out loud, with great animation, while we were sunbathing on the deck at her lake house.
MALLIE: Natalee didn't have a serious boyfriend. We weren't nerds, but we weren't girls who would experiment with makeup all day either.