Jane Anne's life was happy and full for many years. She taught English literature in the high school that she had attended herself in her hometown. Her husband Mark finally became a family doctor after years of school and internship. Her best friend of all, Melissa was also her sister in law. They saw each and spoke to each other often, although they lived hours away by plane. Jocelyn lived a little closer, but visiting her still involved a long drive. Somehow Andrea fell right off of their radar grid.
She missed Andrea at first, but life carried on and she got older. She eventually forgot all about Andrea and the firm place she had held as part of the 'Fearless Four' as they called themselves in high school. Jane Anne had two children, both girls. Melissa had three children, two boys and a girl. Jocelyn had one child, a boy.
One summer day when Jane Anne, Melissa and Jocelyn were thirty one, they sat on the back deck of Jane Anne's new house. She and Mark had done well over the years; they built a beautiful house overlooking the local fishing stream. Susan Smith had put up a pretty good pretence of protest when she was asked by both Mark and Jane Anne to join them at the new house, but she finally relented and moved in with them.
They idly watched their children splash and play in the gently flowing brook behind the house. The brook was the same one that the four friends had waded in when they were in high school. Eventually the conversation turned toward Andrea. The last one to see her was Jocelyn, and that had been at least ten years earlier. Andrea dropped out of university in her second year. Jocelyn tried to contact her several times, but her university roommate said that she had left school, and she didn't know where Andrea had gone.
"Where do you think andrea is now?" Jane Anne mused while she sipped her iced tea.
" I don't know either. I haven't heard from her at all since that one phone call, and the one baby picture." Jocelyn said as she swung her denim clad jeans over the edge of her lawn chair.
Jocelyn had called Andrea's parents, but they didn't know where she was either. One day she got a panicked call from Andrea. She told her friend that she was pregnant, and that she was about to give birth. She desperately needed three hundred dollars for a birthing clinic in a small city in the west of Canada. Jocelyn wired her the money, and two months later Andrea sent a birthing card with a clinic picture of a newborn, with the name and weight of the child. A cheque was sent for three hundred dollars.
Jocelyn kept the card and the envelope, but she ripped up the cheque. She sent a letter back saying that Andrea was to consider the money as a baby gift. Jocelyn received no reply. When she wrote another letter about six months later, it was sent back as being undeliverable because Andrea no longer lived there. Jane Anne, Jocelyn and Melissa called Andrea's father at times over the years, but he still didn't know where his daughter disappeared to. His wife had left him two years after Andrea left school. It was her dad's best guess and fervent hope that his wife had gone to join Andrea wherever she might be.
It was Jane Anne's idea to hire a detective to find her. Andrea's dad could have hired one himself, but there was some rift between the father and daughter that prevented him from doing so. The very next day, she called a detective that she found in the yellow pages of a nearby city. She went to see him two days later armed with Andrea's baby's birth card, the original envelope that it came in, and whatever information she was able to glean from Andrea's father. There was nothing more she could do after that, but wait.
The other two women wanted to contribute, but Jane Anne wanted to do it herself because she felt that she owed Andrea the most. Her mind went back to the first two months of high school, and how Andrea had befriended her, along with Melissa and Jocelyn. Thinking about high school led her memories back to a time when she did not have Andrea, Jocelyn and Melissa as best friends. She remembered a time when her mom struggled to keep a roof over her head and food on the table. She suddenly remembered the story journal, and the List of Gratitude that had grown out of it. She kept up the list all through high school, but it became abandoned under a mountain of homework during her first year of university.
She knew that all of her university books and odds and ends from her dorm rooms were stored in the basement, so she raced down there as if finding the list was of the utmost urgency! After a quick search, she found the oak trunk that held the last remains of her university past. She remembered she had put the list in a little black binder after it had outgrown the story journal. Eventually she found it, and she pounced upon it like an eagle upon its' prey.