The school week passed quickly. I still hadn't met many people aside from the girl and her friends. It was Saturday morning now, and Mom wanted me to come with her to the store. "Mom, please let me stay home!" I cried. "Nova, you know how your mother feels about you staying alone, especially because we just moved here," Dad said. "You guys already made me leave my friends and my life, what do I have to lose?" I asked. They sighed and looked surprised. "Fine, but don't open any doors, ignore the door if it rings, don't answer the phone, look out the window," Mom started lecturing. After finally convincing them I'd sit on the couch and not move at all, they finally left. As soon as the car pulled out of the driveway, I ran to Mom's room. I grabbed a kitchen chair and drug it to the closet. On my tiptoes, I peeked around the shelf. All I could see was darkness, and all I could smell was dust. I went through everything, but I couldn't find what I wanted. I wanted that white and pink flowered jewelry box, but I couldn't find it. A good ten minutes had passed, but I was still searching. I found it at the way back of the closet and cheered for myself. Just as I was putting it on the floor, the chair slipped. I felt myself loosing my balance and tried to grab anything to steady myself. The box fell out of my hand and I slipped of the chair. My head crashed into the wall and my feet were tangled underneath me. I was groaning and yelling at the stupid chair when I heard the front door open. Dad ran in the room asking, " What happened?" I couldn't even begin to explain, I knew I was in trouble. Mom ran in behind Dad. "What were you doing in my closet?" She yelled. Then, her eyes caught sight of the white and pink box. "Were you going through this?" Mom asked. I didn't know what to say. I hadn't had time to open the box, but I planned on it. They came home so early I didn't get to even see it! "Nova, did you open that box?" Dad yelled. I was surprised how mad he was and I replied, "No, the chair slipped, I was..." I couldn't think of a lie. Mom was sobbing now as she took the box and left the room. She did this all quietly, but not before I saw her grab the key from out of a picture frame. "Why is she so upset?" I asked Dad. "We told you to leave the box alone, it's her business," Dad grumbled and left the room. I was still laying on the chair, with my feet tangled and my head hurting. Mom and Dad apparently cared for the jewelry box more than me. I'd never be alone to stay home alone again, but now I needed to. Now, I knew where Mom kept the key.
Monday came too fast. I already managed to have a school project for World History class. "Mom, I have a project after school," I called through the house. "What's the project?" Mom asked. "It's for history," I replied, "We have to write about a country and learn more about it." "Oh, are you doing Portugal?" She asked. I was afraid she'd ask that, I didn't want to break it to her. "No, I didn't want to, I chose France," I smiled. Mom's face fell, and turned. "Why France?" She asked. "I love France, we should travel there one day," I laughed, expecting her to say, "Maybe one day." She didn't smile, she said, "You should have done Portugal, it's your real home." She left the room and I shrugged my shoulders. I researched France for my project. As I searched "night life", pictures of streets and houses came up. I clicked on the small house pictures. In my head, I heard "Bonne nuit." "I must still be thinking of my French class, it means good night," I thought to myself. The houses looked so comfortable, so inviting. I imagined a pink snow coat hanging in a small girl's room, her smiling parents watching her button the jacket. Suddenly, the phone rang. "Nova, your father's car broke down, I have to pick him up from work, let's go," Mom said. "Mom, I have work to do," I protested, "Let me stay here please!" "Remember what happened last time?" Mom asked. "Mom, please!" I cried. "I don't have time for this Nova," Mom argued. "You treat me like a baby!" I protested more. "Whatever," Mom sighed and slammed the front door. As soon as her car pulled out of the driveway, I ran to her room. I found the key in the picture frame and searched for the box. I knew I had time now, Dad's work was 20 minutes up and 20 minutes back. Within 10 minutes I found the box. It took me forever to get the box opened. I half expected an evil spirit to come possess me if I opened it, but I did it anyways. It just looked like there were papers, crinkled and rippled, some turned yellow with age. I dug through the papers, finding nothing. I was a bit disappointed, and wondered what significance these papers had to Mom. I came across a picture of a little girl, probably two or three years old at first glance. This little girl was wearing a pink snow jacket and tight fitting matching earmuffs. The picture was taken at night, and the bright Eiffel Tower was lit up behind her. I gasped as the picture matched my mind. The picture I had had in my head for years, the pink snow jacket, the tight ear muffs. The winter air, the lit up tower. I felt myself being transported to her location, felt the winter air. The headline clippings were not in a language I could read, and I became frustrated. I only could read simple French words, such as "the" and "girl." I looked at the picture again, although I didn't want to. I had to know, I had to see if I had missed those few important details. I looked back and knew what I would see. Yes, the girl had blonde hair peeking out underneath the jacket's hood. Yes, the blue eyes and freckles on the nose. I couldn't be sure, but I wondered, "Was that me in the picture?" I had memories of France, but I didn't know why I couldn't imagine going with Mom and Dad. I wanted to get my phone to translate the paper, but I heard the door. I told myself I'd come back next time and read more. I shoved all of the papers back in their spot and hid the key. I ran and fixed everything just before they caught me. Apparently, I wasn't caught, they didn't know. I waited until a few days later to ask Mom the nagging question. "Mom, did we go to France when I was a baby?" Mom looked at Dad. "Why do you ask?" Dad asked in a voice I had never heard him use. I didn't want them to know I saw the picture, so I said, "I was just wondering, for my school project. I was wondering if maybe we went when I was little and I didn't remember." "Do you have memories?" Mom asked. The pink jacket and small girl flashed in my mind. I did, but I kept quiet. "I mean, I like the country, but no," I lied. Mom sighed and replied, "Just work on your project, maybe someday we'll travel." I noticed lately my parents had been doing that - giving subtle answers without actually answering my question. Again, the box sparked my curiosity. I had to find a way to get Mom and Dad out of the house for a long time so I could explore it. Then, I had an idea. Something I never did, or considered doing. I would lie to them, fake being sick and make it seem very serious. Mom would do what she always did, go to the store to buy medicine. The store that was new to us, the one she claimed took an hour in line. I knew Dad would follow along to drive her, I'd be alone "sick" in bed. I smiled to myself as I put my plan in action. I'd be too noticeable if I did it right away, I'd have to wait a few days.
"Good afternoon students," My teacher, Mrs. Janet, greeted in French. I had managed to switch out of the Spanish class to a French class. This French class was easier than I expected, I was already caught up to these kids and I had only been here two weeks. "Today, we're going to be taking a general knowledge quiz online, to see where we can place everyone for next year," She explained. I looked at Nicole across the room. She sat, bored, playing with a pencil. I wanted to get to know her better but I felt that she and her friends were on a status that I wasn't - again I was the awkward, misplaced girl. As we logged onto the computer and started the test, I was surprised. The whole test was in French, but it was easy. It asked questions like, "Choose the best noun to fit this sentence," and "Which sentence is correct?" It also made you translate basic paragraphs and verbs. I looked up as I hit the submit button. There were 30 questions on the quiz. A boy's monitor next to me read, "15 out of 30," Another's read, "20 out of 30." I wondered how I finished the test so early, within a few minutes Mrs. Janet came to me. "Can we talk outside?" She asked. I felt my stomach crumple. Did she think I was cheating? What did I do wrong, I wondered. As I was guided into the hallway, Mrs. Janet said, "Your test results is what I want to talk about." I doubted myself thinking, "I thought I did good." "Nova, you got a perfect score, I can guarantee you did better than everyone in this class, and you're four months behind them," Her sentence surprised me. She went on to ask, "Did you ever take French lessons before?" I shook my head no. I didn't feel like mentioning the French class in Lisbon. I only was there a few days before we moved anyways. She replied, "Would you be interested in switching to French year 3?" I was again taken back by her question. She was moving me up? I eagerly agreed, but was curious too. I had truly never had a French lesson aside from the very basics, so why could I already read French? When I went home, my parents had to sign the letter explaining how I was being moved up. Dad and Mom whispered and signed the paper slowly. I expected them to smile, or congratulate me. They didn't say a word. Tonight my plan went into action. I would start being sick tonight so I could stay home in a few days. Then, I'd finally be able to see the box. "Mom," I called from my room. When Mom came I said, "I don't feel good." "Let me take your temperature," Mom said after I said my made-up symptoms. I was prepared for this, I had been drinking hot coffee so my temperature would rise. "Nova, it says 101!" Mom cried. I expected it to be a little lower than that, and I wondered if she'd take me to the doctor. "I'm going to get your medicine, stay here," She replied, leaving the room. I couldn't help but smile, she was stepping right into my trap. I heard Dad say, "Let me come with you," I smiled, yes Dad, fall into my trap too. "We're going to get medicine, stay in bed and rest," Dad said as few moments later. I quietly replied, "Okay," as I hid my smile. As soon as the front door shut, I bolted to get the key and box. I was fast today, opening it as soon as they left. I rustled through the papers again, this time, I was ready. I found a new newspaper heading, again in French. I could read this one, but I wish I couldn't. I gasped as I read the headline, "Three year old girl still missing," There was no picture, but I knew. I grabbed the original heading, the one I had first seen. I picked up my phone and translated the article. "Three year old Iris Martin was reported missing on the night of November 15, 2002," 2002, when I would have been three years old. I read on as the article continued, "Iris' parents reported the girl missing after she was gone during their visit to the Eiffel Tower. The young girl was with her mother. When her mother turned to pick up a dropped bag, her three year old daughter was gone. The family says the last known picture of their daughter is this picture," The picture shown was the one with the pink jacket behind the Eiffel Tower. I still wasn't sure, but the paper under that sent chills down my back. A piece of paper, clearly printed, looked like a birth certificate. I had never actually seen an actual birth certificate, but I imagined it to look this way. On the certificate was my name and measurements. There was nothing strange about that, because it was my name. I went online to my phone and typed in, "Iris Martin." Entire news casts were on this girl. The famous pink picture kept flashing in my mind. A picture I hadn't seen came up, it was a picture of the girl with her parents, seemingly the same day. I recognized the people, the woman with blonde hair and freckles. The man with brown hair and brown eyes. Suddenly, a white flash of light. Then, my senses came back. I had the memory of being tucked into bed by this woman, her telling me goodnight. I remembered this man, I called him Daddy. Now I was remembering. One day, I had asked a question, "Why doesn't Mommy call Daddy, Daddy?" The woman had replied, "Daddy is your Daddy, but his name everyone else calls him is Charles." I had remembered a warped memory of asking that question, but for some reason I didn't remember the woman until now. Yes, Charles. I knew before I read the article. He was Charles, she was Mary. They were my parents, I knew it. I felt wrapped up in my thoughts. How did I know for sure? If they were my real parents, where were they? Who were these people? I felt my sanity slowly leaving my body. My "parents" came home, and I barely finished putting the papers away. I was starting to actually feel sick now, and I couldn't get the pale cheeks to go away. Mom and Dad were speaking, but I couldn't connect to the words. I had to know more, now.