Olivia’s knack didn’t usually work this way. Finding the other earring wasn’t difficult, but retrieving became very involved. It was hanging from a chain around the neck of seller of lost hats. He swore that it he would never part with it. Never! Unless…
Before she would recover it, she would reconcile the hat seller with his estranged husband, who was glass reverser (he turned discarded wine bottles back into sand and purified metal salts) needed a set of dice from a childhood board game, those were held by a mirror madam, who wanted her correct reflection back from the River. It continued after that but after much searching, cajoling, rummaging, and one riddle contest, she finally was given the Tag Aorous earring.
It was breathtaking, looking at it made you think of a perfect summer day, neither too hot nor too humid. It made you believe of the possibility of new love. Olivia tore her eyes away and returned it to her inside pocket, the one inside the third inside pocket.
She followed the scent of hot chocolat and found her way back to the cart. The proprietress was handing a pair of cups to a hooded woman.
“Merci! These smell like a mother’s hug,” said the hooded woman, her tail twitching with excitement.
“You flatter me but I won’t argue with you!”
Olivia caught the chocolat vendor’s eye and was gestured over.
“Any progress?” asked the vendor.
Olivia took the earring and placed it in the woman’s hand. Eyes wide, the vendor touched it, as if verifying that it was there.
“I can’t believe this, I…”
“It was a challenge,” Olivia said with a smile, “but I’m glad to have helped you.”
A tear ran down the chocolat makers face. Most people couldn’t afford her services so when she could reunite someone with a lost treasure, someone who had lost hope of ever seeing that thing again, it made her feel as though the arrondissement was a better place.
Suddenly, she was embraced. It was not unpleasant.
“I can never repay this,” murmured the vendor.
“There was the offer of unlimited chocolat,” said Olivia.
She held her out and squeezed the finder’s arms.
“You will never pay for another chocolat or pâtisserie or anything else I make. Let me start to make good.”
She was a good as her word, a large cup of chocolat and a bag stuffed with an assortment of sweets including almond dreams, ruby delights, petit eights, and moon pies (made with real moondust) were placed in her hands.
“You’re too generous.”
“Not at all! Please come back as often as you desire,” she said with toss of her head, the earrings flashed in the late afternoon sun.
Olivia wandered the stalls but the key she was looking for would not be found. It was very odd but no insight seemed forthcoming so she made her way to one of the many exits.
After a winding walk along narrow streets and alleyways, she found her way back to the arrondissement proper, though what that was subject to much debate among learned people. She had turned out near the Skeletal Cathedral so she sat on the stairs leading to that hollow edifice, nibbling on the contents of her bag of sweets and watched people on their way home, or whatever the night held for them.
Olivia didn’t hear him approch, she never did. It was as if he just slid in. That didn’t quite do it justice, but it was the best way she had of describing it.
“Would you like something sweet?” she said offering the bag to him.
“No. You have not found it yet.”
“I have not.”
“You assured us that you would have no problem finding this item.”
“And yet, you have failed.”
Olivia looked him in his non-descript face and said, “I have not failed! I’ve just not succeeded, yet.”
“I do not see the distiction.”
“This item (he had insisted that it be refered to as such), doesn’t want to be found. All lost things want to be found.”
“That is not my problem. It is your problem.”
“It’s going to take more time.”
“This is not a luxury you have,” said the man. He said it like you might say ‘it’s raining, or we’re out of cheese,’ but the threat was there.
“If you don’t wish to retain my services, I can stop right now.”
There was pause after she said that. She filled the silence by eating a bright red pastry that changed to orange and then to yellow before she popped it into her mouth.
“I wish to continue to engage your services. There will be a substantial bonus if you acquire it soon.”
“That’s not necessary.”
“Consider it an incentive.”
“I don’t’-“ she said turning to the client, but he had slid away. As always without a sound.
Sighing, she stood and began to walk to the monorail. As much as she wanted to devour the entire bag of pastries, it was her family custom to share any unexpected bounty. Just as Olivia turned a corner, she bumped into someone, knocking them to the pavement.
“I’m sorry!” she exclaimed.
The prone figure was a nun, a young woman in the habit of the order of the Déception Éternelle.
“It’s fine, just an accident,”
Olivia helped her to her feet.
“I must apologize again sister, it was terribly clumsy of me.”
“I’m not a sister yet, just a novice,” she replied.
“Either way, it was my fault, I’m a little distracted.”
“What troubles you?” asked the novice.
“I don’t want to burden you.”
“Sometimes, just saying what your problem is can lead to a solution.”
Olivia laughed and then covered her mouth.
“Sorry, that was rude.”
“I will forgive you if you tell me what is bothering you.”
“I’m looking for something but I cannot find it.”
“Where did you last see it?”
Olivia paused. She never spoke about work outside of family but there was something about this novice.
“I’ve never actually seen it.
“Oh! You’re a finder?”
“Then I won’t ask for details, I’m sure you have rules about that.”
“We do, have you engaged one before?”
“No, but everyone has rules.”
“So why can’t you find this thing?”
“I don’t know, it’s.. Elusive.”
The novice crinkled her eyes as she thought and then said, “Well, I know very little about what you do but when what I’m doing doesn’t work, I’d try something new.”
“What do you mean?”
“You could try not looking for it.”
“That’s…” Olivia trailed off.
“Of course, I’m no finder.”
“So let it find me?”
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have-“
“No, that’s an interesting thought.”
“It could work.”
“Good luck then, I must return to for evening prayers.”
“Thank you! And again, I’m so sorry I knocked you down.”
“Part of the ineffable plan!”
“Good evening novice… What is your name?”
“I am called novice Hortense.”
“Good fortune Olivia, I hope you find what you seek.”
“I hope prayers are… holy?”
“They always are!”
And with that Hortense moved off through the crowds. Once she was out of sight of Olivia, she stepped into a doorway, scribbled a note on a square piece of paper and folded it into the shape of a wren. It fluttered into the evening sky.
With a sigh, she made her way back to the nunnery. If she could endure the inevitable scolding and make it through evening prayers, she could endure being called Hortense. Not as pretty a name as Maxi, but safer. Much safer.