Lost and Found II by DavidCraigEllis
Annie knotted her hands together in worry, taking swift steps in the direction of the school office. How could she have been so stupid–the one day she decided to take it off…
“Um, hello,” she said quietly, knocking on the open office door to announce her presence.
Miss Devon, the secretary, glanced up from her computer and smiled. “Hi there, what can I do for you?”
“I was wondering if you could tell me where the lost and found is? I lost something this morning and I’m hoping it’ll be there.”
“Sure thing. It’s actually down the hall to the right,” Miss Devon pointed to show the way, “first door on the right, next to the counselors’ offices.”
“Thanks so much.”
As she made her way into the room, Annie wrinkled her nose. It smelled old and musty–obviously if people lost things they didn’t seem too concerned with finding them again. Mostly clothes, it looked like.
The lost and found was basically a miniature locker room with a giant bin in the middle, surrounded by two benches and lockers on the walls with no locks. The bin was overflowing with varying degrees of clean and not-at-all-clean clothes. The majority seemed to be sweaters and sweatpants.
Annie groaned. Even if it was in that bin, it would either be right on top or have slid to the bottom. This search could take forever. She glanced at the top and saw no tell-tale sparkle, and assumed it had fallen in.
Sighing, the tone of the lunch bell suddenly echoed in the room–so much for a lunch break today.
Annie rolled up her sleeves and started pulling out musty clothes and shaking them one by one. She couldn’t believe some of the nice (and also not-so-nice) things she was finding in here. There was even a handbag that looked like it was a designer brand–wouldn’t people want any of this back?
Figuring she could just pile everything back in the bin once she was done, Annie tossed articles of clothing, book-bags, textbooks, and goodness knows what else around the room willy-nilly, nearly frantic in her search. Had no one brought it to the lost and found, maybe? Was it just lost? Stolen?
Annie was almost at the bottom of the bin when a voice called to her. “What’re you doin’?”
She jumped back from the bin, a quiet but obvious squeak escaping her. On the opposite end of the bin was one of her classmates kneeling on the floor, pulling a haphazardly tossed shirt off of his head.
“Y’mind not makin’ such a mess? Least of all throwin’ things at people.”
“I didn’t even know you were here,” she stuttered, offering an apology as she stepped back up to the bin. “What are you doing back there?”
“It’s quiet in here,” he said, shrugging. “Library’s way too loud to do homework in, ironically.”
Annie gingerly started pulling clothes out again and kept looking, but continued to watch the young man closely. She was still on edge from being surprised. “The smell doesn’t bother you?”
“I work at the dump,” he laughed, stepping around the bin and starting to grab up the clothes Annie had thrown into piles, making it easier to put them back later. “This stink is nothin’ compared to that.”
It was a few moments before either of them said anything again. Annie made sure to toss things into the respective piles that her classmate was making, and he seemed content to organize as she did so.
Once he was finished however, he cleared his throat. “You’re almost at the end there. What’re you lookin’ for? Maybe I can help?”
“Oh. Um, a bracelet. It’s very thin and small, with a charm that has an ‘A’ on it, and another one that’s a…” she paused, not sure if she felt like sharing this bit of information with someone she didn’t really know.
“It’s not a dildo, is it?”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, silver bracelet with two charms dangling from it. “Little stuff and jewelry’s usually taken to the office, but while I was sittin’ here suddenly this landed on my head. Someone must’ve tossed it in here. I was gonna take it to the office once I left. It’s got the ‘A’ charm you were talkin’ about, but this other thing looks like a–”
“It’s an épée,” she mumbled, blushing as she held her hand out. He lightly tossed it to her.
“It’s a fencing blade. Sadly when charms are that small they couldn’t make it pointed or anything, so it’s kinda rounded out and, well…”
“Ohh,” he laughed, shrugging. “Never woulda guessed. Wouldn’ta guessed you were into fencing, either.”
“It’s not a well-known fact. I kind of want to keep it that way,” Annie replied, a silent plea for his silence in the statement. Her reputation at the school was a modest one, and she was seen as a kind but quiet girl without an ounce of violence to her. But fencing was her thing–it helped her unwind and keep herself energized and fit. Especially at times like this. “It’s my safety net when I stress and stuff.”
“Ah.” The young man nodded, then glanced around and started to grab his piles and toss them back into the bin. Annie did the same. “Guessin’ it was a gift since you were lookin’ so hard for it, huh.” It wasn’t really said with the tone of a question.
Annie glanced at him before deciding she could tell–he already knew about the fencing. This next part wasn’t exactly a secret or anything. “My brother gave it to me, right before he left.”
“He’s a soldier,” she said, unloading an armful of ugly sweaters. It looked like Christmas had vomited in here.
“Ah,” he said again, dumping in his own pile of schoolbags. “Good on ‘im. Must be proud.”
“I’d be more proud if I’d heard from him recently,” she muttered.
The last of the lost items had been returned to the bin, and they both stood awkwardly, unsure what to do at this point. Annie fiddled with her recovered bracelet around her wrist, paranoid now that she’d lose it again, while the young man bent over and slung his backpack over one shoulder and scuffed his sneaker.
“Thank you,” she said, and the heartfelt tone reached her classmate and he smiled genuinely at her.
“No sweat. Glad ya got it back.” With that he started for the door, and with his hand on the knob he turned and said, “Chin up, Annie. I’m sure your bro is fine and will reach out in no time.”
They waved and parted, the young man letting the lost and found door shut behind him. Annie looked down at her bracelet once more, smiling fondly. She truly missed her brother and hoped he was well, but the encouragement from–
“Oh,” she uttered, hurrying to the door and out into the hall, glancing around for the young man. She’d thanked him, sure, but she didn’t even know what his name was–and he somehow knew hers. She felt awful for not asking, or knowing for that matter. He looked familiar…
The hall was empty, but the sound of the after-lunch warning bell chimed loudly down the hallway.
The day drug on, and Annie’s eyes scarcely left the bracelet. She was so thankful it had been that easy to find, but still worried she’d lose it again. Stupid early morning gym class.
Annie also worried she might not see the young man that had helped her. She was hoping she’d spy him in the hall in passing, but so far no luck in the last two classes of the day. She stopped by the lost and found again once the final bell rang, but it was empty–she even checked behind the bin to be sure.
Resigned, she went home, vowing to herself to keep looking for him and buy him lunch in thanks–or just something to show her appreciation. Not only for helping her find the bracelet, but also his brief words.
“Annie!” her mother beamed at her, sitting at the kitchen table with the mail. “How was your day?” Annie was glad she seemed to be in good spirits–much like her daughter, she was suffering from the silence from her son.
“Not bad, actually. Yours?” she asked, setting her book-bag down next to the table and taking a seat.
“Wonderful, because we got this,” she said, so happy it was practically oozing out of her. Annie quirked a brown until her mother held out a letter to her. It had already been opened–obviously her mother’s doing–but even without reading it she could guess who it was from.
“Sean wrote us?” Annie said excitedly, eagerly taking the letter and opening it herself.
“Yes! He’s okay, he says, was just unable to write for a while. Dangerous patch, but they got through it.”
Annie sagged in her seat with relief, reading the letter slowly and just soaking in the dry wit of her brother’s writing. How she’d missed his words. Thank goodness he was okay, and still seemed to have his sense of humor. Happy tears pricked her eyes just at the knowledge.
Now more than even she wanted to find her classmate again and thank him–as far as she was concerned, his words seemed like a profitable-jinx in their family’s favor. She knew it was probably a coincidence, but her joy and gratefulness was too much to be contained.