Missing girls are not hard to find. They are mothers and daughters who go on long walks in winters, usually along lakes. They have eyelashes like spider legs and paint their fingernails bright shades of reds and pinks to hide the built up dirt caked underneath. Missing girls tend to have insomnia and believe in things like heartbreaks and ponytails. They will usually say things like, “Something beautiful is really happening, isn’t it,” when the cashier tells them their credit card is declined. They are afraid to use words like “narcissistic” and “paroxysm” because they don’t want to appear as though they are showing off. They pretend to live in dollhouses their fathers built for them and enjoy birdwatching on the weekends and prefer to be called by famous last names only: O’Keefe, Kennedy. When missing girls were young, they used to walk to ponds and feed the ducks Wonderbread. Now, the lakes have dried and the ducks have disappeared. Missing girls grieve deeply because of this. When they are lonely, they will sometimes go off into darkened woods to search for other missing girls. They may laugh or dance when they stumble upon a white tooth shimmering within the mud only to feel, moments later, ashamed. But missing girls long for other missing girls and cannot help but feel strange pulses of excitement upon discovery. They feel the hardened strands of brown hair around roots. The delicate touches of bone. A familiar shiver in seeing how long their nails have grown this year.
Mercedes Lucero has been previously published in Printers Row Journal, Whitefish Review, Kalyani Magazine, among others. Her short story, “Memories I Cannot Recall,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is an fiction MFA candidate at Northwestern University and you can find her at mercedeslucero.com.