Lost and Found (the sequel to "Chocolate and Vanilla")

Submitted into Contest #95 in response to: Start your story with someone being presented with a dilemma.... view prompt


Contemporary Fiction Romance

GRACE: Bonnie just stared at me.

Maybe it would've been better if I'd said I was Shakespeare in disguise, or a witch, or an alien from another world instead. But I'd gotten grounded enough times for lying back when I was still Sean. Once I became Grace, I was determined to put the lying behind me. Most of the time, I succeeded. The few lapses weren't worth mentioning here.

“Oh … my … God,” she said softly. “Grace, I –”

I sighed. “I guess you thought it was great that we got along so well. Never thinking that there might be some reason why.”

Bonnie nodded.

“All that time at the library,” I went on. “Our discussion about possible lesbians in Shakespeare's plays. Nothing rang a bell? Nothing at all?”

She shook her head. “I guess I should've paid better attention. I wasn't thinking about how it might apply to someone in the real world.”

“Like us, you mean,” I said and started feeling the tears in my eyes. I tried to wipe them away but they were replaced by more tears. I wasn't sure if I was unhappy or if I was angry or maybe both.

Bonnie nodded. “Grace – I do like you –”

“But 'like' isn't 'love',” I said.

This time she said nothing.

“Maybe I should've just kept my mouth shut,” I went on. “Then I could've gone on pretending to be just your friend. But I'm no actor. I can't pretend what I don't actually think and feel. At some point, it would've become obvious to you without my having to say anything. The facade would've fallen apart and you would've seen the real me.”

Now it was Bonnie's turn to look like she was crying.

I handed what was left of my cup of chocolate ice cream to her. “At least it didn't end with lies or a huge argument. But end it has. I have to go home, Bonnie. I have that essay to write for English class. Thank you for helping me with it.”

I picked up my backpack and left her standing there.


BONNIE: What was I supposed to do? What was I supposed to say? My best friend in the whole world … had gone and fallen in love with me.

Would it have been any different had she still been Sean? I don't know. Maybe, maybe not.

But she was Grace. And, like when she was Sean, she wasn't one to back away from the edge. If something required her to go over that edge, she would go over it and probably without looking back.

I sighed heavily and looked down at the two cups of ice cream. They hadn't completely melted yet. I dumped the chocolate on top of the vanilla and tossed the latter's empty cup into a nearby recycling bin. Maybe the blended ice cream wouldn't completely melt before I got home and I could put it in the freezer to make it solid again.

At home, everything seemed as normal as ever. As if nothing had changed between this morning and now. If only that had been true.

As I was putting the cup of mixed ice cream in the freezer, my mother called from the living room:

“Bonnie? Is that you?”

“Yes, Mom!” I called back. When I joined here in the living room, I went on. “I went to the town library after school. A classmate asked me if I could help her with her essay.” Not a complete lie, but more dishonest than I was comfortable with.

She was sitting on the living room couch. She put aside the crossword puzzle she was working on and asked, “Would that classmate happen to be Grace Nichols?”

I nodded. “If you need to speak with her, she should be home by now.”

“She isn't,” Mom said. “That's the problem. Her stepmother called here a few minutes before you got home, asking if any of us had seen Grace. I said I hadn't but my daughter probably had. After we hung up, I called your cell phone but you didn't answer.”

“Oh,” I said, remembering now. “I had to turn it off at the library. I forgot to turn it back on. Sorry about that.” Which was entirely true.

“I guess that's water under the bridge,” she said. “Grace's parents are worried about her. This isn't normal behavior for her. Not even remotely.”

“You think she ran away?” I asked.

“That's one possibility,” Mom replied. “Grace hasn't always gotten along with her stepmother –”

“No kidding,” I interjected.

“– but it's never come to something like this before,” she went on as if I hadn't said anything. “Be straight with me, Bonnie: What happened today that made Grace do what she did? I don't care if it's private. This isn't about you. This is about her.”

“Actually,” I said, “it's about both of us.”

Mom's eyebrows briefly rose. “Oh? How so?”

I sighed and sat down next to her. “We almost got soaked in that rainstorm after school. We managed to get inside the library in time. Which was when Grace admitted that she hadn't started her English essay yet. I offered to help her with it. She chose to write about possible lesbians in Shakespeare's plays.”

She looked thoughtful. “Interesting choice of topic. Go on.”

“Once we finished discussing it and she felt she had enough material for her essay, we decided to celebrate by going to Ben & Jerry's,” I said. “Don't worry. It didn't cost me anything. She treated me. While we were waiting in line, we started discussing dating and if there was anyone we would want to date. After she paid, we noticed that there weren't any empty seats inside. Since it wasn't raining outside, we went out there and ate our ice cream.” I hesitated.

“Did the discussion about dating continue?” Mom asked.

I nodded. “I wondered if there was anyone she'd want to date. She said yes, but that the feeling might not be mutual. I honestly thought it was one of the boys at school. I didn't think it could be anyone else. Certainly not me.”

“Why not you?” Mom asked angrily. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. Okay, some parts of you are better than others, but that's nothing new. You're only human, after all.” She calmed down when she saw the look on my face. “Sorry. It's just that I get really defensive about my tall, beautiful, and smart daughter. I don't like anyone badmouthing her. Especially when the person doing it is herself.”

I took a deep breath, let it out. “So I suggested that maybe she should ask the person and see what they said. She turned to me and asked me if I'd be her girlfriend. I said that I already was. Then I asked if she meant in a romantic way. She nodded. I asked why she wanted to know.”

“What did she say?” Mom asked.

“Because she loved me,” I replied and started crying.

Mom put her arms around me. She let me lay my left cheek against her chest and put my arms around her.

“Hormones are such a pain to deal with,” she said softly. “They affect so many things inside of us. Including our emotions.” She should know. After all, she'd double-majored in Biology and Chemistry in college. To help me to relax, she hummed a little melody that she used to hum to me when I used to have nightmares when I was a little girl. It had helped back then and it still helped today.

“You think I should try talking with Grace again,” I said.

She nodded. “But first someone has to find her. You wouldn't happen to know anywhere she might to try to hide? Even from her parents?”

All those days in elementary school when Sean and I would play hide-and-go-seek. I never thought that they'd be so useful as memories now that I was a teenager.

“I'll make you a deal, Bonnie,” Mom said. “You find Grace and I'll keep her parents from going to the police and accusing you of kidnapping her or any number of other possible (and even more unpleasant) actions. Deal?”

I nodded. “Deal. Can I start now?”

She looked across at the fireplace and the clock above and to the right of it. “I could delay starting dinner until after 7 pm. That gives you about three hours. Think that might be enough time, or do you need more?”

“That should be enough,” I said. “Assuming, of course, that she's willing to listen to me.”

“If she really loves you, I think she'll listen to you,” Mom said. “If we let it, love is powerful enough to accept and forgive.”

I hugged her. “I'll do my best.”

“And I'll let your father know so that he doesn't think that two girls have run away, instead of just the one,” she said.

“Thanks,” I said. “I love you, Mom.”

“And I love you, Bonnie,” she said. “Be careful. Oh, and take an umbrella. I think it's supposed to rain soon.”


GRACE: It wasn't the most comfortable place to hide in. Especially since I was lying on my stomach. Trickling down the center of the bottom of the pipe was a small stream of water. Cold water that made me shiver.

Mom and Dad aren't going to be happy when you don't return home, I told myself. They might even go to the police for help. And someone was bound to ask why I was going to all this trouble to hide myself. After all, in most people's eyes, Bonnie and I are just really good friends. They would want to know what had changed, making things so different and more complicated than they'd been before.

Would I be willing to stick my neck that far out? Take such a big risk? After all, I'd taken a big risk when I told Bonnie that I loved her. But that was just between us. Just like the fact that at least one of us was a lesbian.

But you can't force someone to do something that they don't want to do. The more you clutch onto them, the more unhappy they get. You have to release them. That way, if they do return, then you know they wanted to be with you. But if they don't return … that was the possibility I didn't want to think about.

I decided to try to remember the first time I'd met Bonnie. Back when I was still Sean. That was easier than dealing with the here-and-now problem.

We were in Third Grade. Miss Harrington's class. She was really pretty and seemed so tall. She had long strawberry blond hair down to her waist, wireframe glasses, green eyes, and freckles on her cheeks. I probably had a crush on her from the first day of that school year. Which crush was probably pretty obvious to everyone else in that classroom, including to Miss Harrington herself.

Bonnie was this really pretty black girl sitting in the desk in front of mine. A transfer student from another school in another state (I'd heard that her parents were military and had to move every two to three years; sometimes from state to state, sometimes from country to country). She had a basketball-sized afro. It looked really good on her. I wished that I were sitting in a row next to hers, rather than behind her. That way I could see her face. Because she seemed to light up every time Miss Harrington called on her for an answer.

Later that day, during recess, I remember climbing on the jungle gym. Rather than hang out with the other girls, she decided to join me on the jungle gym. We sat on the little platform at its top.

“Hi, I'm Bonnie,” she said.

“I'm – I'm Sean,” I said, almost sounding like I was stuttering.

I wasn't used to girls actually wanting to talk with me. Usually, they preferred to make fun of me. Not in the classroom where the teacher could see and hear them, but out here, where it was harder to see and hear them.

“I'm new to Dandridge,” she said. “Is it nice here?”

“Sometimes,” I said. “Was it nice where you came from?”

“That depends,” Bonnie said, looking amused. “Which place? I've lived in several here in America, a few in Europe, and one in Asia.”

I tried not to stare. “You've lived in Asia?”

She nodded. “We were stationed in Japan. Near Tokyo. Have you ever been to Asia?”

I shook my head. “I've never been outside of America.”

Bonnie smiled. “What deprivation. I'll have to tell you sometime what it was like living in other countries. You sound like you'd be more interested than the other kids at this school.”

“I'm the curious type, I guess,” I said.

She looked at me. “And you don't mind?”

I wasn't quite sure what she was referring to. “Mind what?”

Bonnie touched her skin. “This.”

“It's a really pretty shade of brown,” I said. “Better looking than my pale skin is.”

“When I was at one school, the bullies were especially mean,” Bonnie said. “They picked on me every single day. I tried complaining at the school office.” She rolled her eyes. “That didn't do any good. Eventually, my parents said that we had to move again, this time to another country entirely. I was overjoyed. I wonder if they ever knew why.”

“Didn't they ask how you felt?” I asked. “What your day at school was like? My parents do.”

She shrugged. “Maybe they were just too busy. I saw more of the babysitter than I saw of them.”

“I'm sorry,” I said. “That you had to go through all that, I mean. Didn't you have any friends there?”

Bonnie shook her head. “Not anyone like you.”

“Tell you what,” I said, feeling braver than usual. “Let's be friends, okay? No one needs to know except us. It'll be our little secret.”

She smiled. “I'd like that, Sean. I'd like that a lot.”

The bells near the school's doors started ringing, reminding us that it was time to go back to our classroom.

Bonnie and I scrambled down from the jungle gym.

Before we went back inside, I asked, "Would it be okay if we met after school?"

Bonnie nodded and smiled. "Definitely. I'm glad we're friends, Sean."

“So I am, Bonnie,” I said. “So am I.”


BONNIE: There weren't too many places that were still around since the days when we were little girls and played Hide-and-Go-Seek. The playground where we'd met during Third Grade had been replaced by a baseball field. There was the newer wooden playground over at the park not far from the school. There was also the graveyard across the street from the school. No sign of Grace at any of them.

Grace – where in the world are you? Please don't tell me you've gotten yourself hurt or, worse, killed. I couldn't bear it if you weren't alive anymore. Life without my best friend in it wouldn't be much of a life anymore.

Then I remembered the new construction site on the other side of the graveyard. It had been a disused field for a long time. But now they were putting in a sewer system and on top of that the first real office building in all of Dandridge. Hopefully, not an ugly one. The building, I mean. After all, there isn't much you can do to prettify a sewer system. Paint it in bright colors and add a flower garden? I don't think so.

On the opposite side of the graveyard from the school, I could see the construction site. It seemed absurdly close to the graveyard. Life and death side by side. The sewer system wasn't completely built yet. There were two concrete pipe openings that hadn't been connected to each other yet. They were a bit on the small side, but Grace wasn't tall like me. She could squeeze into one of those without too much trouble.

I scrambled down to the two concrete pipe openings and looked inside one of them.

“Grace?” I yelled into it. “You in there?”

No answer.

I went over to the other one.

“Grace?” I yelled into it. “You in this one?”

“Go away,” a voice muttered. Grace's voice.

I crouched down in front of it. “It can't be that comfortable in there.”

“It isn't,” her voice said. “But it's better than being rejected by you.”

“I didn't reject you,” I said. “I just never thought that my best friend would fall in love with me.”

“What else was I supposed to do?” Grace's voice asked. “Lie to you?” I heard her crying. “Just go away and leave me to suffer here alone.”

“I can't do that,” I said.

“Yes, you can,” she said. “Just turn around and go back. Tell them that you never found me. Tell them you have no idea where I am.”

“I can't do that, either,” I said.

“Why not?” Grace's voice demanded.

I took a deep breath. I could feel wetness on my cheeks. Some of it was from tears, some of it was from the rain that was gently falling.

“Because I'm in love with you,” I said.

I heard the sounds of Grace trying to wriggle her way out of the concrete pipe.

When her face finally appeared, she asked, “Do you mean it?”

I nodded. “Always and forever.”

May 22, 2021 03:55

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B. W.
00:10 May 29, 2021



Philip Clayberg
01:17 May 29, 2021

Long time, no see. Hope you're doing well. Definitely enjoying the brief return to Springtime weather before the Summertime furnace returns next week. Been a slow weak for me, creativity-wise. One story so far, and trying to brainstorm ideas for the next set of story prompts (at least they seem somewhat more interesting than the last set was).


B. W.
04:20 May 29, 2021

I guess I'm doing alright, just a little bored tbh. I don't think I'm going to make a new story on here or anything, though I do have a few ideas for something else on another thing, could I tell ya?


Philip Clayberg
15:46 May 29, 2021

I'm not doing too well story-wise myself. After that week of four stories, I've been lucky to write just one story a week. In my case, it's probably mostly due to the ongoing situation of poor sleep, pain (muscle cramps, knee jerks (like right now), joint pains, etc.), and multiple bathroom trips each night. Not exactly the most inspiring of atmospheres for creativity. ----- Always feel free to discuss your ideas with me (whether or not you need help with them). It's good to be able to see through other writers' eyes. Sometimes that e...


B. W.
21:46 May 29, 2021

I'm working on like three stories at the moment because of all the ideas, and I could use some help with two of them, so here they both are: 1. I haven't actually started this one yet, I only just got the idea a few days ago. But the main characters name is Comet. The story is like a prophecy-type thing, but not exactly a 'chosen one' thing. A new character is supposed to come (Which is Comet) and Help the others defeat something. But she doesn't really believe that she could do it, and there's another part as well, someone may die, but it n...


Philip Clayberg
01:15 May 30, 2021

Another thing I'm dealing with has two terms for it (and I've found a third): Imposter Syndrome, Fraud Police, and (the third one) self-doubt. I don't want to make the mistake my middle brother made: creating a popular persona that has little to do with the real person. I'm glad people like what I write and the music I play, but I don't want them putting me on a pedestal (besides, I'm liable to fall off of it and hurt myself). ----- 1. A heroine named Comet. You seem to have a thing for female characters whose names start with C: Co...


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Charli Britton
12:34 May 26, 2021

If you are looking for a better title, you could always put the last line. "Always and Forever" Seems to fit ;) I wish I could do a closer read through but I am short on time. I also have another story posted. "Shadow Monster" If you ever have time before tomorrow a read through would be much appreciated. I like to get a few editing comments before the contest closes. I hate asking but sometimes thats what must be done.


Philip Clayberg
16:31 May 26, 2021

I tend to prefer titles that suggest rather than reveal too much too soon. "Transition Phase", for instance. But sometimes I pick something a little more precise, like "Two Sides of the Street". Also, "Always and Forever" sounds like the final story in a series. I get the feeling that there will be at least one more story (or maybe two?). Just because the two girls have expressed their feelings for one another doesn't mean it'll turn out as smoothly as the relationship of Deborah and Julie in "Bridging the Divide" and "Revelations". I'...


Charli Britton
17:16 May 26, 2021

She is definitely not in the same time zone. DOn't worry about reading mine, you edits were just so helpful last time and I am a perfectionist. I have read lots of her stories and Iove them, but I am always reluctant to ask people because I feel like it is rude.


Philip Clayberg
19:00 May 26, 2021

I try *not* to be a perfectionist. It just drives me crazy when I try to be one. I use my late father's dictum as a guide: "When you've done your best - *your* best, not anyone else's best - then that's good enough." Sometimes, though, it feels as if my best is far less than it ought to be. Oh. Sorry to hear that. But if Nainika ever *does* say "yes" to proofreading/editing one of your stories, you'll be glad for her help. I tease her a little when she proofreads/edits my stories because I know how good she is at it. I'll grumble an...


Charli Britton
20:26 May 26, 2021

I agree. I will probably never win, I won't be one of those 200+ comment stories. But Nothing wrong with trying, and sometimes it's hard to see the flaws in your own work... other times not so much. It's why I appreciate other's opinions when they can give them. :)


Philip Clayberg
00:14 May 27, 2021

Same here. I just wish I were less tired and in less pain so that I could share what I can do (the proofreading/editing part) with others. I'm not losing any time if I can't think of any ideas for my own stories, after all. But the more complicated the story, the longer it takes to give it the honest attention it deserves. I remember that my earliest stories took me much longer to edit than to type. A story that might've taken me 5 hours to type might be reread/proofread/edited at least once per day for the rest of the week it was typed...


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Asha Pillay
17:52 May 22, 2021

Nice sentimental story .I enjoyed it very much.


Philip Clayberg
18:12 May 22, 2021

Thank you. I just wish I could think of a better title for it. It fits the story, at least. Now I'm wondering what will happen next. They're together again, but where do they go from here? No relationship is guaranteed to last a long time, no matter who's involved. Maybe the junior or senior prom is inclusive enough that same-sex couples can also attend it. Maybe that'll be in the next story. But, of course, there will always be those who don't approve of such relationships. Still, tension is good. Without tension of some kind, sto...


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17:14 May 22, 2021

Not really my thing, but it is well written.


Philip Clayberg
18:07 May 22, 2021

That's entirely okay with me. No feelings hurt. I'm not sure if I'll ever write stories (or more than just a few) like the ones you write. I think "Transition Phase" was about as close as I've ever gotten to how you write. Not because I wanted to imitate how you write, of course, but to see if I could do my own version of it. It came out better than I expected it to, actually. Kind of like a cake that's baking in the oven and you worry so much that it'll turn out badly. Then the baking is done, you take out the cake, and you're blown ...


19:32 May 23, 2021

Also on the story in question concerning Grace, if she had feelings for her best friend anyway, why didn't she just stay a boy? Oh and....Lucian and Selena are happy to announce that the are expecting triplets...^_^


Philip Clayberg
21:06 May 23, 2021

You choose to ask me one of the most complicated questions. All right. I'll do my best to answer it as clearly and concisely as possible. I apologize ahead of time for any confusion. I've never delved this deeply into that series of stories before. I almost never write backstories for the characters I write about. I prefer to learn about them as I go along. Also, I usually prefer that readers think and come up with their own viewpoints rather than have the author tell them what the author was thinking about and trying to explain when ...


21:50 May 23, 2021

Sex is not decided yet, but the pride doctor has made it clear as she approaches her delivery that he would like the cubs to stay in as long as possible. She is on bed rest. I wrote a small interlude between Lucian and Selena before his meeting where he is rubbing a very active tummy for her to relax her. It is a sweet moment.


Philip Clayberg
02:35 May 24, 2021

Actually it *was* decided. How else did Lucian get Selena pregnant? (giggle) Wouldn't it be wild if the sonogram showed three lion cubs inside of the human Selena? The gynecologist would probably stare at the screen and ask, "How in the world did you make *that* happen?" And Lucian might smile and say, "We prefer au naturel, actually." That would be cool to read. Do you think that you'll submit the interludes as well (either at the top of a story or at the bottom of a story ... or maybe somewhere in the middle)? "I love the sound of y...


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Philip Clayberg
18:28 May 22, 2021

To everyone who's read the story already: I just discovered a goof near the end of Grace's second section. I said that she and Bonnie were in different classrooms (Grace was in Miss Harrington's classroom and Bonnie was in Mrs. Weiss' classroom). Which isn't true. They're in the same classroom with the same teacher (in fact, they're sitting in the same row; Bonnie's desk is ahead of Grace's). So I rewrote that part, deleting what wasn't needed anymore, and then updated the submitted version. I also fixed it in my offline version. I ho...


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