“Somebody said you’re the girl who finds things. Are you?”
Sam turned to look at the younger girl, a good foot shorter than herself. She was starting to see a pattern in the faces of the children who came to her. Their eyes wet as they had just been crying. Eyes anxious and pleading. Some tied their hands in knots as they anxiously made their request.
“I’m the finder” Sam replied. “What have you lost?”
The face relaxed before her. “It’s my favourite teddy. A tiny one. Mum told me not to take it to school, but I love him and I take him everywhere. I must have pulled him out of my pocket when I took my hanky out”.
The girl reached into her pocket, retrieved her hanky and wiped her nose.
Sam thought. A pretty toy. If it fell anywhere in the playground another kid would have picked it up and kept it. Not good. But, there was still a chance.
She took the younger girls arm.
“Let’s walk and you tell me everywhere you’ve been since you last saw your teddy”.
Arm in arm the girls strolled round the playground while the boys weaved around them in their boisterous games, and cliques of girls looked the other way, only some looking curiously at Sam, the finder. They had heard stories about her. She was the one you went to if you lost something. Nine times out of ten you got it back.
They strolled around the open playground while Sam let her senses take in the girl’s atmosphere. She thought of it as frequency, as her Dad was an electrician and had explained to her about frequencies, and wave lengths, and how you tuned a radio. It was like tuning into a radio. You read the girls frequency, then kept your antenna alert for when you felt the signal of the same frequency. The possession and the owner sent out the same signal.
The playground was clear and Sam knew there was little chance of finding the teddy if it had been lost here.
“Did you go anywhere else?”
The girl’s face had taken on a forlorn cast as she was coming to the conclusion that her teddy was lost for good.
“I went to the loo first thing after class, as I always do”.
The girls headed to the girls lavatory. With a rush of relief Sam felt the signal as soon as they entered the door. Faint but definite. The girl ran to her cubicle then rushed out with a whoop of joy, a tiny, pretty teddy with a red bow waved in her hand.
“I must have dropped it when I went to the loo”.
Sam smiled. Face all in smiles, the girl stuffed teddy deep into her pocket.
“Thank you, thank you” she said, and she rushed back into the playground to join her friends, Sam forgotten.
How many was that? Sam wondered. It had started by chance at the start of term. A friend had lost her scarf. Sam had helped her find it, and then realised she had a sense for missing objects. It was a feeling that matched the object with the owner, like a magnetic attraction. You just brought the two together. People who knew her came to her when they lost things, and most times she found them. Then children she didn’t know started to come to her. First older children, then younger. Sam didn’t mind. It gave her something to do to pass the boring lunch hour when she would have much rather been home reading a book.
For her seventh birthday her aunt gave her a butterfly broach. It was the most beautiful thing Sam had ever seen, and she was not much interested in jewellery. It was a golden metal, enamelled with bright cheerful yellow, and deep blue rings for eyes. It had a safety clasp so it could not be lost.
One day she wore the broach to school, and somehow the safety clasp didn’t work and the broach fell off. Search as she might she could not find it. She felt as if a part of her heart had been taken away. Then several days later a girl from a younger year stopped her in the playground. The girls face was serious and worried.
“I heard you lost a broach” the strange girl said.
“I think I found it”. But the girl still looked worried “Are you sure you want it back?”
“Yes” said Sam.
Without a word the girl handed over Sam’s broach and walked away. Sam looked at the broach in her hand. Definitely it was her broach, but now it was broken. The wings had become flattened, and the coloured paint had been stripped off. It was no longer the tiny gem of beauty it had been.
As Sam looked at the broach she heard a man’s voice in her head. Mature, authoritative. He was referring to her finder ability.
“If you continue what you are doing one day you will find something that would be better left unfound”
Sam obeyed. She obeyed automatically. In her experience adults were more often right than children. They were right nine times out of ten, where children were wrong nine times out of ten. From that day on she never found for anyone again.
And many years later. Many, many years later, when her finder ability would have saved many lives, she was blind. Thousands died because she could not find them.