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Found Day

Jennifer Campbell-Hicks is a writer, journalist, wire, mother, and lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy. Her fiction has most recently appeared in Galaxy's Edge, Flash Fiction Online and Nature Magazine. She blogs at jennifercampbellhicks.blogspot.com.

On Found Day, Elaine began her search at sunrise. She started with her apartment because lost things turned up most often at home on Found Day. National surveys each year proved that. She poked under her bed and in the closets, under couch cushions and inside cabinets and drawers.
By the time the sun rose above the winter-bare trees, she had been over the entire apartment twice. No luck.
That was all right. Found Day was a holiday. She didn't have to go to work, and it was hours and hours until the magic ended at sunset. She had plenty of time.
She put on her parka, knit hat, and snow boots and went outside. Her neighbors rooted through their cars in the parking lot or dug with shovels or gloved hands in the snow that had fallen overnight. A preteen boy whooped as he emerged from a minivan with a hand-held videogame device.
Vehicles were good places to find lost things, too. Elaine had never owned a car. Instead, she relied on the city bus system and her feet. So she peered behind the bushes around her building, her breath puffing in the frigid air. Behind her came the crunch of boots on snow.
"Happy Found Day."
Heidi wore a pink parka and matching knit hat, two bright spots of spring-like color amid the winter gloom. She clutched a mug of steaming coffee. Elaine smiled at her old friend.
"Happy Found Day. I haven't seen you in--" She paused to think. "It's been awhile."
"We've both been busy. It happens," Heidi said. "What are you looking for?"
"Your stuffed rabbit? You lost him?"
"A few months ago. I know he's what I'll find. He's the thing I've lost in the past year that I miss the most. The last gift Mom gave me before, well, you know." She thought with longing about the little brown toy with the floppy ears and beanbag stuffing, and the woman who gave it to her. She waved at the bushes. "But Flopsy's not here. What are you looking for?"
Heidi sipped her coffee. "Already found it. A house key. It was in the sugar bowl."
"The thing you missed the most was a key?" Elaine asked. She had a hard time believing that.
"Someone could have found it and broken into my place."
"Change the locks."
"I can't afford to," Heidi said. "It might be worth it, though, if the locksmith were hot."
The sound of cheering drew their attention to a second-story apartment window, where an old woman with white hair clutched what looked like a photo album to her chest.
"Good for her," Elaine murmured.
"Yeah. I love Found Day," Heidi said. "Do you need help looking for your stuffed rabbit?"
"Sure. I'd like that."
They searched for an hour around the apartment building, up trees, and under cars, until both their stomachs growled.
"Sometimes Found Day stuff turns up in weird places," Elaine said. "Like restaurants. Flopsy might be waiting in the corner booth at Mike's Cafe."
Flopsy wasn't there, but a woman at the next table over gave a triumphant hoot when she plucked a diamond earring from her soda glass.
Elaine and Heidi had a long lunch of soup and salad, and reminisced about their college days. Elaine couldn't remember when they had last spent time together, which was ridiculous, really. They lived so close to each other. Heidi had left phone messages. Elaine had intended to call, but time had gotten away from her.
After lunch, they tried Elaine's favorite places: the corner coffee shop, the park with the benches in the shade, the used bookstore. No stuffed rabbit. Out of ideas, they returned to Elaine's apartment. At 5:11, the sun set, and the magic ended. They both collapsed onto Elaine's old brown couch. Elaine hugged a pillow to her chest.
"I don't understand. I didn't find anything. That's never happened before." She hid her disappointment behind a smile for Heidi's benefit. "At least you found your key."
Heidi made a face. "Actually, I didn't."
"I made that up. What I found was much better." Her cheeks flushed. "I found you. It's been so long."
"Oh," Elaine said. "Why did you lie?"
"I wasn't sure how you felt."
Ashamed, Elaine looked away. She hated that she had caused uncertainty about their friendship. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize until today how much I missed you, too. I should have called."
"It's all right."
"You forgive me?"
"That's what friends do. But what about Flopsy?"
Elaine thought about the stuffed rabbit with the same longing as always, but now also with hope. She didn't need Found Day for this.
"He'll turn up," she said. "We can look for him tomorrow."
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, September 10th, 2015

Author Comments

I wrote this story on the day my family's dog died, and I ended up surprised by the piece's sweetness and hope. Maybe a small part of me wanted to find again the friend I had just lost.

- Jennifer Campbell-Hicks
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