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Yet To Be Found
Gwen inspected her recently pedicured feet. Was that a chip in the sparkly hot-pink nail polish she saw? Shoot! She though angrily. I guess I’ll just have to wear my cream-colored ballet flats instead of my silver sandals.
It was the first Monday in August, and Gwen’s best friend Jovi was coming to visit her for a month. Gwen and Jovi had been both neighbors and best friend since pre-school, so when Jovi was forced to move to England with her parents in the middle of eighth grade, they were both heartbroken. Sure, they could email and call each other as much as they liked (which they often did), but it just wasn’t the same as being there with each other, face to face. Now, both girls had just graduated from high school, and they were going to see each other for the first time in more than four years.
Gwen was bursting with excitement as she opened the door of her brand-spanking-new cherry-red convertible, a graduation present from her parents. She threw her chocolate brown Coach bag onto the passenger seat, adjusted her short pink dress, glanced more than once at her reflection in the rearview mirror, and began driving the fairly long drive to the airport. It was an absolutely gorgeous sunny day, and she wasted no time putting on her huge, glamorous black sunglasses. She pitied the people who had the misfortune of not being able to drive around in a convertible on such a perfect day.
Being able to see Jovi again was a dream come true for Gwen. Sure, she had made plenty of friends since Jovi had moved away, but they weren’t exactly what she would call loyal. Gwen had changed a lot since eighth grade. After Jovi headed off for her new life in England, Gwen had reinvented herself- she purchased a whole new wardrobe, died her dull brown hair an excitingly bright shade of blonde, and replaced her old, chunky red glasses with contacts. She was no longer Gwennie, the uncool nerd left behind by her best friend. Now she was ultra-cool Gwen, who worked her way step by step up the popularity ladder and earned a spot amongst the prettiest, most popular girls in her high school.
She wondered how Jovi had changed, for there was no doubt in her mind that her best friend had changed. Who wouldn’t take moving to a new country as an opportunity to transform yourself into something new, fresh, different? Besides, Gwen had never thought that the artsy, creative, and utterly unique Jovi would ever last very long in the real world. In Gwen’s opinion, being yourself only worked out if you were born astoundingly gorgeous, which, she thought somewhat guiltily, Jovi wasn’t.
Finally, after nearly an hour, Gwen arrived at the airport. She followed that signs to the gate where Jovi’s plane would be landing, sat down in one of the many ugly, uncomfortable chairs there, and pulled her latest copy of Seventeen magazine. Now all that was left to do was wait.
Twelve minutes later, Jovi’s plane finally arrived. Gwen was trembling with nervousness and excitement. She couldn’t wait to see the look on Jovi’s face when she saw the new Gwen. She couldn’t wait to feel like all of her hard work had finally paid off.
Just as Gwen stood up to look for her friend in the crowd, she heard a familiar voice close behind her exclaim, “Gwennie!” Gwen gasped as she turned around; there, standing before her, was Jovi. And much to Gwen’s surprise, Jovi hadn’t changed one bit. Her wispy, white-blonde hair was still just a little messy, her clothes were still artsy and vintage, and she still wore Converse on her feet, only this pair was mustard yellow with brown laces. Gwen couldn’t believe it- how could she have stayed the same Jovi all these years?
The two friends embraced in a big bear-hug.
“Oh, Gwennie, I’ve missed you so much!” Jovi said as they eventually pulled apart.
“I’ve missed you, too!” Gwen replied, cringing inside at the mention of her old nickname. She didn’t have the heart to correct her. “Welcome back to America! Come on; let’s go get your other bags.”
After collecting Jovi’s luggage at Baggage Claim, they headed over to Gwen’s convertible.
“Whoa!” Jovi exclaimed when she saw the vehicle, her brown eyes wide. “Is this seriously your car?”
“Yup,” Gwen said, popping open the trunk so Jovi could put her bags inside. “My mom and dad got it for me as a graduation present.”
“But you used to say that convertibles were for snobs who just wanted to show off,” Jovi reminded her as they got into the car and began to drive away from the airport.
“Yeah… well… things change, I guess,” Gwen replied, feeling a little uncomfortable. She glanced over at Jovi. “Well, except for you. You haven’t changed one bit!”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Jovi said with a little nervous chuckle. Gwen couldn’t tell if she was joking or serious. “You look totally different now. Like a new person! No brown hair, no glasses… and you’re actually wearing make-up! I wouldn’t have recognized you without…”
“Without what?” Gwen asked.
Jovi looked at her feet, embarrassed. She took her cell phone from her pocket. “Your mom sent me a photo of you,” Jovi explained, showing Gwen the picture on her phone. “She told me that you’ve changed a lot since I left for England. She told me that you always carry around that brown bag of yours… some designer brand…”
“Coach,” Gwen said softly. “My Coach bag.”
“Yes! That’s it. If she hadn’t told me that, I probably wouldn’t have ever recognized you in that crowd of people.”
Her best friend was identifying her by a bag? Gwen didn’t know how to respond to that. Lucky for her, she didn’t have to, because suddenly Jovi exclaimed, “What happened to your bracelet?”
“What bracelet?” Gwen was confused. The only bracelet she was wearing at the moment was her Pandora one, which seemed fine.
“Remember our friendship bracelets? The ones we weaved out of that yarn your mother had?”
“Oh, that one,” Gwen replied. “It’s probably in my sock drawer somewhere. I haven’t seen that thing in ages.”
“But we promised we would wear them until we saw each other again!” Jovi said, her voice cracking.
“Oh, come on, Jovi, we were in eighth grade! That was four years ago! You can’t honestly think that we would still be wearing them-
Then Jovi did something that made Gwen speechless. She stuck out her arm and there, upon her skinny wrist, was the friendship bracelet from eighth grade.
“I’ve been wearing it since we first made them,” Jovi said simply. Gwen just nodded. They rode the rest of the way home in silence.
Finally, Gwen pulled into her driveway. She parked the car and they just sat there until Jovi broke the silence.
“What happened, Gwen?” Jovi asked, tears appearing in her eyes. “What happened to Gwennie, fun and creative Gwennie, who never cared about what other people thought of her? What happened to the girl who never paid attention to trends or fashion? Who never wore pounds of make-up, who vowed never to die her hair, who was an individual?” Jovi paused for a moment, shaking her head slowly. A tear slid down her cheek. “You aren’t the same girl I was forced to leave behind. What happened to her, Gwen? Where did she go?”
Gwen was quiet for a moment. Now she was crying, too.
“She got lost,” Gwen said eventually in a voice that was almost a whisper.
“Just because something is lost doesn’t mean it can’t be found again,” Jovi stated.
“Will you help me? Please?”
They hugged once more, and then they both got out of the car.
“Come on,” Jovi said, grabbing her bags from the trunk. “We’ve got a lost girl to find.”