“Two years ago a new family moved into my neighborhood. No moving truck or “Hi, we are new to the area. My name is blah, blah, blah.” One day I went to sleep and the next morning 22569 Warbler Street was occupied. After a couple of days I assessed that there was a married couple with a son who was about my age. They kept to themselves and other than the dad coming out to mow their lawn every couple of weeks and their ’98 black Suburban with tinted windows entering and exiting the garage, I never saw them.
“Then one day I caught a glimpse of a fourth person in their car as they were leaving. The back left window was rolled down halfway and I saw a head full of golden brown hair. Definitely female. That’s all I could see that first time. As soon I saw her, the window rolled up, as if she knew I was watching. It became my mission to find out who this girl was and why I had never seen her before.
“For the next two weeks I would be outside as soon as it was socially acceptable to be sitting on my lawn and staking out my neighbors. To not draw suspicion I told my parents that I wanted to keep myself busy. I would mow the lawn, fix my bike, or shoot hoops. I would always be on high alert, waiting for a sign of life from two doors down. Not much happened. The garage would open twice a day but I never saw the girl. When I heard a door opening I would turn around gradually to not bring attention to myself. But it was either the mom or the dad. By the end of that second week I was over it. At six o’clock I went in for dinner. As I opened the screen door to go in, I heard a scream and froze. I knew immediately that it was the girl. The second time I heard the scream it was muffled but still loud enough to be heard down the street. I let go of the door and took off towards the one story cookie cutter home that matched my own with the exception of the odd family. When I got to the edge of their well manicured lawn, the garage door opened and their car backed out like it was any other day. But this would be the one and only time that I saw her. In addition to the golden brown hair she was petite. Her chin grazed the bottom of the window. She had a spattering of freckles over porcelain skin with a perfect nose. When she turned to look at me I instantly felt fear. The girl’s eyes were the color of fresh grass. But I have never seen somebody so scared in her life. Her eyes were wide and her face was frozen, as if she was stuck in time. The moment appeared to be going in slow motion with the vehicle coasting down the driveway. I never looked away from the girl’s gaze. And then I blinked and the black tomb carrying the girl was gone down the street, never to be seen again. The empty garage stayed open, a reminder that it would not be filled again. I walked back home, feeling like I had lost something precious.
“When I went to bed that night I could hear my parents talking through the walls, trying to keep their voices down and losing the battle.
“Peter, keep your voice down! We don’t want Logan to hear us. Keeping our distance from this is the only way to protect him.”
“Lydia, he is a teenager, not an idiot. He was standing right there when they took her. We need to at least give him a reasonable explanation if he asks.” My mom stopped and I could hear her sit down on the couch.
“I know, you’re right. I just can’t keep thinking about what they are going to do to that poor girl. She can’t help the way she is.
“Lydia! I feel just as bad as you do for the girl but we can’t do anything to help her now. We have to focus on the three of us and keep our mouths shut. I think the most logical thing is to tell Logan if he asks that the girl is trouble and it is in his best interests to forget about her.”
“Peter, what do we do if it gets out that we know?”
“We have to keep our heads down and go on. Logan is our priority.” After that my parents got up and left the room and I was even more confused than I was before.
“I never asked them what happened. A week later I came home to an empty house. My mom and dad never returned from their jobs. Three weeks after that somebody told the cops that I was there alone and I was sent to a home for juveniles. I have now been living in a foster home for a year and a half because my parents are still missing. Before I was moved into my current home, I was stuck in a group home for misplaced kids. I tried to blend in and observe, trying not to draw attention to myself. I started to hear certain words over and over again in conversations: Visions, nightmares, the age 7, and testing.
“Fear was a constant presence. There wasn’t a lot of socializing going on. The adults running the home tried to encourage us to talk to each other. They would hold “gatherings” (forced therapy sessions). The kids told the same stories over and over, refusing to give more than was necessary. After 30 minutes a day the designated lackey running the meeting would give up. After a week of these meetings I was already going out of my mind. That is until a girl sat down in the chair next to me. I may have only seen her eyes and hair for a brief time but I immediately knew it was her. My palms started to sweat and I tried to think of something to say. I decided to just turn. When I looked over and grinned, she just stared ahead. Her eyes were glazed over. I thought about touching her shoulder but thought better of it. I wasn’t going to disturb her but I wasn’t going to leave her side either.
“As the 1800 seconds ticked by in that cold room with the glaring fluorescent lights, my female chair mate didn’t move. Erica, the girl overseeing the meeting, skipped over her when she was encouraging everybody to share. When the clock started to chime the end of the one o’clock hour, the other 12 teenagers shuffled out the door, eager for a break. I stayed in my blue plastic chair, rocking back and forth on the metal legs. Erica sat in the back of the room, waiting for us to clear out. After five minutes, I said screw it and touched the girl’s arm. She jumped and turned her head to the right. I whispered, “The session is over. Erica wants us to leave. Can you get up?” She nodded her head and allowed me to take her arm. I handled her like a newborn, guiding her towards the exit but trying to make it seem like she was in the lead. Once we were out of the room of not sharing I turned her to the left and hoped she would allow me to take her to a quiet room where we could talk. We walked down the hall without a word. Those around us parted for us to get through, staring as we walked by. I could hear whispers but ignored them. Nothing was more important than making sure this fragile girl didn’t disappear on me again.
“At the end of the hall I stopped and took my hand off her toothpick arm. I opened the door to
the lounge area. It had several beat down couches and an ancient television with rabbit ears. There was a handful of people in there. I sat the girl down on the closest couch and tried one more time to look her in the eye. “Are you okay if I go get us something to drink?” She nodded. “Can you tell me what your name is?”
She answered, “Lucy.”
“Lucy, I am going to get some water and I will be right back.” Nod.
“I took four long strides towards the water cooler and filled two cone shaped cups. I took my time walking back, trying to decide what to say. I didn’t want to scare this girl but I needed answers. And it didn’t help that I felt that my time and luck was running out. I found it odd that this girl appears out of nowhere, appears to be drugged, and yet nobody says or does anything when I take her out of the meeting. Either nobody cares or we were being watched. I went with the latter and decided to not let my guard down.
“When I returned with our waters, Lucy has her head down and is mumbling. I put the water under her nose and she takes it. She takes a sip with her left hand and rests her elbow on her knee once done. I tried not to notice that her arm was shaking. When she started mumbling again I leaned forward, trying to decipher if she was making sense.
“Your parents.” When I moved back, Lucy grabs my arm to stop. “I know what happened to your parents.”
“Goosebumps popped up all over my arms. I wondered if I heard Lucy right. She doesn’t say anything for the past hour and all the sudden she is claiming she knows what happened to my mom and dad? It sounded too good to be true. Deciding I had nothing to lose, I murmured, “Go on.”
Lucy strung all her words together in 10 seconds.
“Not here. The only reason they let me out of my room was because I haven’t said a word in two weeks. We will talk when we can.” Before I could respond, Lucy pushed herself off the couch. She threw the paper cone in the trash and left the room. I didn’t dare go after her, afraid that I would start yelling at her.” Logan stopped at that point, lifting his head up towards the sun. Ned could see that his cheeks were wet with tears and looked away. He sat patiently. When Logan began again, his tears were gone and his voice was strong and forceful. “I never saw her after that. I searched every square inch of that place but came up with nothing. After a few weeks I started to wonder if I had imagined her. Nobody spoke of her. But then I went back into the lounge area a month later and sat down on the couch we had shared. As soon as I relaxed into the couch, I felt something under the cushion. I stuck my hand between them and felt a round piece of metal. When I pulled it out it was a bracelet. It looked old. It was colorful with flowers that had been worn down over the years. The gold had also been tarnished. I started to shake when I recognized it as Lucy’s bracelet. I was validated. This place wasn’t making me go insane. Lucy was as real as the bracelet in my hand.”
Ned didn’t move. When Logan reached into his pocket and produced the bracelet, Ned knew there was no going back. This bracelet held significance, he knew it. And then it hit him like a mack truck. The bracelet was an exact replica of the bracelet he had seen Lotto wear the day he met her. Ned asked Logan, “Have you seen any other bracelets like this since then?”
Logan looked confused. “No, should I?”
Ned, not wanting to alarm him, replied, “Maybe. A friend of mine has one like this. It might mean nothing.”
Logan squinted at Ned, as if he didn’t believe him. “Whatever. All I know is that this is the only thing that connects me to Lucy and it has been a year and a half since I have seen her. I thought it was a lost cause until I heard you and your sister asking about your friend.” Logan started to look desperate. “Can you help me Ned? I need to find Lucy. I don’t know if she is alive, hurt, or just lost.” Ned wanted to help Logan, if only because he knew he could also help Lotto by doing so. This couldn’t just be a coincidence.
Ned treaded carefully. He began with, “Alright man, here is the deal. The girl we were asking about has the same bracelet as this one. Can you trust me with this bracelet for a few days?” When Logan hesitated, Ned decided to just push forward. “I need to look into this bracelet with my friend. I think it has the answers that we need.” Ned left it at that. He felt that this bracelet would lead Logan to Lucy and answers for Lotto. But he didn’t dare say that out loud. He didn’t want to give hope to this defeated boy. He appeared to be on the verge of madness and Ned didn’t want to be the one who pushed him off the cliff.
Logan dropped his head down and murmured, “Yes, take it.”