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Melissa's hand recklessly fumbled in her backpack, reaching past crumpled papers and all the dried-out gel pens.

"Hurry up," the bus driver impatiently snapped, as she stared at the long line of kids. "I haven't got all day!"

"I'm looking for it," Melissa mumbled, now furiously tossing her notebooks out. Her bus pass was missing, and this meant a lengthy two-mile walk home. "You know I come on the bus every day" she tried, but wasn't successful. The doors of the bus closed in a hurry She sighed, yet as she put everything back into her midnight backpack, something caught her eye.

A shiny gold chain was sticking out of the front pocket, revealing itself daintily. Melissa's shaking hands reached out to touch its thick, smooth texture. She gingerly pulled it out, glaring nervously at the heart locket in the middle. The paint had chipped off, now just showing the cheap material it was made of. "Mama," she whispered.

"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Mellie, happy birthday to you," the crowd chanted. Presents, presents were everywhere. Some wrapped in bright red, others in huge bows and clown party bags. And the balloons, they were all the colors of the rainbow, dazzling beauties covering the entire ceiling, each with a huge 4 on it.


Melissa jerked, startled by the sound of her name. It was Chloe, with a concerned look on her face. "Whatcha doing here; it's almost four o'clock!" Melissa opened her mouth to tell the bus pass incident to her friend, but stopped. She saw Chloe curiously looking at the locket in her hand.

The Locket of Lost Love accepting gift from mother
"You can put it on," that gentle soothing voice said

"It's nothing," Melissa anxiously said as she put the necklace in her pocket. "Anyway, I have to get home." A brisk autumn breeze hit her face as she got up.

"See ya tomorrow! Are ya coming to ballet today and . . ." Chloe's words were drowned out by Melissa's flashback.

Breathing in as much as possible, and then letting it all out, just blowing away the flames on the candles. How much fun that was. Of course, nothing could beat opening presents, so the sweet sound of "Present time!" rang through the air. They then all formed a circle, and each delightful box was passed around. Clowns, yes, clowns. Clowns were on this certain bag, filled with glittery tissue paper. Inside, though, was the best treat. A locket.

Melissa continued on walking. A grin slowly formed on her face, as the memory became more and more real. How she longed to go back there, to her fourth birthday party, the time when no one seemed to have a care in the world. Now her heart ached. "Mama," she whispered, once again.

A girl, with curly light brown hair and a surprised smile, and a thirty-year-old woman, with a straw hat and warm, soft eyes, were stored inside the locket. "You can put it on," that gentle soothing voice said. "Like this." Then an outburst of giggles exploded through the air. It jumped around the room until each person was absolutely hysterical. The smile faded, and turned into a frown. Just what was so funny?

"Oh, Mellie, dear, you look exactly like your mother when she was a little girl, identical, I must say. Your bright, happy face, and beautiful eyes," an elderly man kindly explained.

Melissa, for the second time that day, dug inside her backpack. Finally she found a small pocket mirror and gazed at her reflection. Is that you, Mama? Am I looking at you? Suddenly, her eyes swelled up and tears began to drop, one by one. She just couldn't help herself. And with a painful resentment, she opened the heart locket. Yes, there it was, a girl, with curly light brown hair and a surprised smile, and a thirty-year-old woman, with a straw hat and warm, soft eyes.

Before she knew it, Melissa was on Marshwood Boulevard, and just a few yards from her house. There would be Dad, trying to cook the quickest dinner, while watching ESPN at the same time. He probably would barely hear her walk in and start her homework.

*          *          *

The smell of grease awaited Melissa as she stepped inside.

"Hey, Mellie. Decided I would order Chinese, OK?" Dad said.

"Hmmm . . . is that the Bulls game you have on?"

"Nah. It just finished."

Melissa just nodded and started to head upstairs, when her father's voice stopped her.

"What's in your hand?" he asked, maybe a little louder than he meant. He was staring right into Melissa's teary eyes, and sensed that something was wrong. "If it is a teacher's note or something you better just come out and say it 'cause . . ."

"No, Dad." And Melissa opened her hand.

"Bye, honey," that amazing voice said. She stepped out into the lawn and walked down the gravel driveway.

"Bye, Mama." But little did anyone know how true that farewell was.

The woman floated into her Volvo and took off. Down the paved street, past the deep wooded area and soon out of sight.

A phone call came much later, followed by many others. The house soon became lonely, as everyone, looking quite ghostly, left. What is a hospital? What has happened? And where is Mama?

"Is that what I think it is?" Dad exclaimed, trying to sound more enthusiastic than he really was.

"She is gone." Melissa choked on the words, not even believing it herself. She just shook her head.

"No, that is where you are wrong." He took the locket from her hand and opened it up. "She is right here. In the locket of lost love."

The Locket of Lost Love Jessica Blanton
Jessica Blanton, 12
Old Greenwich, Connecticut

The Locket of Lost Love Lydia Trottmann
Lydia Trottmann, 12
Fort Collins, Colorado