~~After dinner, Elizabeth ran to her room to get the yearbook permission slip. Ivan had volunteered to do the dishes tonight, to Hailo’s relief. Her feet were sore and her back ached tremendously. She plopped herself down on the couch, staring down at the necklace she had placed on the coffee table earlier that day. Hailo leaned down and clasped the necklace in her hand tightly. She heard Elizabeth skip into the living room, and wiped the exhausted sad expression from her face. “Here you go, momma.” She held out the paper and a pen.
Hailo took the pen and paper into her hands, hiding the necklace in her palm, and signed the paper over her stomach. “There. I’ll give you the money in the morning,” she said as she handed the paper back to her daughter. “Now for your present.
Elizabeth, I know you won’t understand how valuable this is to me and to grandma. Grandma gave this to me when I was young. She and grandpa had it made for me and someone else a long time ago. I want you to take very good care of it and make sure you never lose it, okay?” Hailo explained.
Elizabeth nodded to her mother, only half understanding everything she had just said. Hailo held out her hand and showed the puzzle piece necklace to her daughter. She watched as Elizabeth’s eyes grew wide with excitement and she let out a squeal, “It is really pretty!”
“I know it is, and it is yours. Take good care of it, sweetie,” Hailo repeated once more. She fumbled with the latch on the necklace until she parted the necklace open. Hailo placed the necklace around Elizabeth’s neck and connected it. She slid her hands down and held Elizabeth’s shoulders. “Beautiful,” she commented.
“Thank you, momma. I really like it,” Elizabeth said respectfully.
The sun peeked up over the top of the New Portland, Maine and wrapped its welcoming arms around the city as it rose to start the day. Ivan had left for work before anyone was even awake, being an investment banker requires him at work during the early hours of the morning. Hailo poked her head into the door of Elizabeth’s room and gave a cheeky grin. “Time to wake up, sleepyhead,” she said. Elizabeth groaned and sat herself up on the bed; her purple comforter fell from her small frame as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “Okay, momma,” she mumbled with a dry mouth.
Hailo shut the door and walked to the kitchen to pour Elizabeth’s cereal as she did every morning. She hummed a cheerful tune as she did so, and then placed the bowl on the table. “Elizabeth, your cereal is ready,” she informed her daughter and marched to her room to dress. Due to her bulging stomach, Hailo and her mother had bought maternity clothes when she discovered she was pregnant, though Hailo dreaded having to wear the preposterous clothing that ‘only made her stomach more noticeable’ as she put it. She slipped a loose blouse over her head and pulled it down. Hailo threw on a pair of form-fitting maternity pants and tied her hair back out of her face. Elizabeth plodded into the kitchen, followed behind by her mother, and sat down at the table. “Sweetheart, please hurry. We’re running a bit late as it is. Tell Mrs. Whiting that I am sorry for you being at school late,” Hailo said as she threw a coat over her shoulders.
“Okay,” Elizabeth answered, drowsiness weighing her down.
Hailo walked back to her daughter’s room and retrieved Elizabeth’s pink backpack, checking inside of it to see if the yearbook permission slip was inside. She saw the familiar looking piece of paper with her signature written across the bottom and then zipped the bag closed. “Come on,” Hailo said as she held out the bag to Elizabeth, who took them and walked for the door. Hailo fetched the car keys to her silver Toyota Auris 2007. Elizabeth was already sitting in the back seat when Hailo slipped into the driver’s seat, the seat already adjusted to fit her large stomach. She buckled herself and looked back at Elizabeth to check to see if she was buckled.
The school was a small elementary school. The school system separated the grades into different schools: elementary, junior high, and high school. Elizabeth hopped out of the car door and ran to the driver’s side. “Momma, I need the money for the yearbook,” she asked politely. Hailo jolted at the reminder and pulled a ten dollar bill and two 5 dollar bills from her coat pocket, the only money she had on her besides a few coins. “There,” she said, “Have a good day, Eli.”
“You too, mamma!” Elizabeth giggled. She ran towards the school and pushed passed the doors. Hailo shifted the gear into drive and pulled the car from the school parking-lot and back onto the road. She watched the roads with a careful eye, making sure she was not doing anything wrong whilst on the road. The last thing she needed was to get pulled over or get into a crash. Hailo drove to her mother’s, Clara, house. She pulled herself out of the driver’s seat and walked up to the door. Before Hailo could knock, Clara opened the door. “I saw you drive up,” she said, stepping aside to let her in.
Hailo stepped inside the house and had a look around. The house was a rather small one, not the same Hailo had grown up in. After her father, Arthur, died, Clara sold their old house and moved into a much smaller one. It was cozy with little space to add much more furniture, which the bulky furniture took up enough space as it was. Family photos hung in frames on the wall while newspaper articles, lost person flyers, and police reports covered various spots on the wall as well. Photos of Hailo’s older sister before she was kidnapped lay around everywhere to most likely serve as a reminder to Clara. The air smelled of smoke, which Hailo’s mother had a bad habit of smoking, and a few ash trays were stridden about. “Mom, I gave the necklace to Elizabeth last night,” Hailo announced to her mother.
“Oh?” Clara said, “And how did she like it?”
“She loved it,” she smiled.
“You know, I really do think I found Cypher. The picture looked so simil-,” Hailo cut her mother off from finishing what she was about to say.
“Enough, mom. This search is never going to end. Cypher is not coming back. I know you miss her…I know how much you want to find her, but enough is enough. I’ve watched you throw away thirty years of your life to this, and you haven’t found anything. I want you to be happy more than anything. But you need to stop and enjoy life before…,” Hailo trailed off from her lecture and lowered her head.
Clara’s face had fallen into an astonished sad expression, as if she was on the brink of tears. She sat down on her couch, letting her head hang down. Hailo felt a sudden wave of guilt wash over her as a result of what she had said. She opened her mouth to speak; however, no words could form. She had nothing to say, yet she knew what she was just about to say before she stopped herself.
“You will probably never know the pain of losing a child, Hailo. What is even worse…is that I do not know if she is alive or dead, sick or healthy, or being held captive,” Clara began, “I hope you never feel that dying pain. That is how you describe this. I cannot fully enjoy what’s left of my life if I don’t know where my little girl is. It has been thirty years…can you believe it? Thirty years…and she still isn’t home…”
Hailo lifted her gaze to her mother just enough to see the tears streaming down her cheeks. On instinct, she took a seat next to Clara and hugged her as an attempt to comfort her. Tears brimmed Hailo’s eyes as well with the words her mother just said echoing in her mind, she fought back tears and the urge to cry. “I’m sorry, mom,” Hailo choked out.
“It’s alright. I know you do not understand, sweetie,” Clara murmured and turned to face Hailo, wrapping her arms around her grown daughter and hugging her.
It was always this way when Hailo visited her mother. Cypher was always a topic they discussed and argued about. Elizabeth hardly had the chance to see her ‘Nana’ due to the fact of Clara’s endless search. Hailo and Ivan didn’t want Elizabeth stirred up in the arguments about Hailo’s older sister who may or may not even be alive. She understood why her mother kept it up, hoping that a miracle would happen and Cypher would come home. Though Hailo had never met her older sister, she always liked to believe they’d be best friends if she was with them.
Hours flew by in the blink of an eye for Clara and Hailo whilst they discussed various things over tea. That was something Clara was excellent at doing, making hot tea. It seemed to be her God-given talent, yet she rarely made tea anymore.