VIBRANT oranges and yellows streaked across the sky as the sun slid down the horizon. The day was finally coming to an end but the celebration had yet to begin. Thousands of people crowded the sidewalks and waited impatiently for the parade to start. Many adults began chattering excitedly as others scrambled for a better view. Children squealed from their strollers as vendors bounced around to make last minute sales. It seemed like good feelings were unavoidable, but Elena was putting up a hell of a fight. Her small lips were pulled into an unpleasant frown as she wrapped her thin, red sweater around her body. She had been shoved twelve times in the past twenty minutes and the cold was sinking in at an alarming rate. To top it all off, she had no idea where her friend Alison was. Deciding that it would be easier to meet in a restaurant, Elena picked herself off the concrete and weaved her way into the throng of people.
Abruptly, loud music blared from speakers stationed on either side of the street. Shouts of joy echoed throughout the crowd and Elena clamped her hands over her ears as she walked. She had been coming to this festival for years. In the beginning, there was a couple hundred people and about five floats or so. Now, it had quadrupled in size and felt oddly suffocating. Elena spotted a dive across the sidewalk and made a beeline towards it. Suddenly, she felt a sharp pain in her stomach and doubled over. Clutching her side, she glanced up and saw a man in a black hoodie frantically shoving his way through the crowd. Annoyed, Elena rolled her eyes and hobbled her way over to Rusty's.
The place had way more than its fair share of business for the festival, but it didn't seem to be too overcrowded. Elena frowned at the tacky mustard colored wallpaper and the rustic red pleather of the booths but slid into one anyways. It was comfortable despite its hideousness. Tucking a strand of black hair behind her ear, Elena hoisted her purse up onto the table and allowed herself to relax slightly. An ache in her stomach reminded her of the guy in the black hoodie and she quietly swore to herself.
"Ma'am," a soft voice broke through her bitterness and she turned to look up at a girl about her age. Her mousy brown hair was pulled into a bun and half-apron was sloppily tied around her waist. A name tag under the lapel of her shirt named her 'Christy' and she had a small notebook with a pen poised to write. "What can I get for you today?"
"Umm...Can I just get a coffee? Black, and thank you." Elena responded with a half-hearted smile.
"Sure thing!" The waitress jotted it down and walked off towards the back.
Elena peered through the large bay window and watched as street performers danced across the road. It wasn't so bad watching the festival from here; she had a nice view but didn't feel so overwhelmed. Suddenly, she remembered the reason she had ducked into this place. She dug through her purse for a few seconds and retrieved a five dollar bill and her phone. Alison had probably already called a bunch of times wondering where she was and it was best if they met up before it got too dark. Something was off, however, when she grabbed her phone. In fact, it wasn't even Elena's phone. It was the exact same brand, color, and even had the exact same background as hers. It was so well duplicated, Elena wouldn't have even known something was wrong if it hadn't been for the fact that she scratched it last week. The scratch was small -- about the size of her fingernail-- and was at the bottom of the screen. Since it happened, Elena would absentmindedly run her thumbnail across it a dozen times a day. A feeling of dread starting creeping up her throat. Someone had gone through a lot of trouble to deliberately replace her phone.
Elena swallowed down her fear and swiped to the unlock screen. Slowly, she pressed her passcode like she'd done a hundred times and it worked like a charm. Without thinking, she instinctively typed in her own phone number and waited for whoever stole the phone to pick up. A thousand things ran through her mind, but she couldn't think of anyone who would do this to her or why they would. Christy returned with the coffee and set it down on the table. Elena slid the five dollars over and mouthed for her to keep the change. The waitress offered a polite nod and sauntered off to help other guests.
Soon Elena was greeted by her own voice telling her to leave a message and a sigh escaped from her lips. She canceled the call and tossed the phone down on the table. Sipping her scalding coffee, Elena debated what to do. She could call the cops, but they probably couldn't do much and she'd have to fill out a bunch of paperwork. She could donate or even keep it. However, it seemed pointless to go through all this trouble for a worthless phone. Feeling exhausted, Elena decided that she'd just leave it on the table and let someone else worry about it. She finished her coffee in one last gulp and swung her purse over her shoulder. She stood up and turned to leave as a group of guys walked in. Suddenly, the sound of her ring tone cut through the air like a knife. Despite her best judgment, Elena whipped around and grabbed the phone.
"Elena Cromwell?" A deep, gravelly voice scratched through the phone.
"Who is this and why did you take my phone?" Elena blurted out and was immediately met with dirty looks from other patrons. She quietly ducked back into her booth and took a deep, calming breath.
"I have your mother."