"Please, Lord. I know nothing is ever this easy, but… please?" Joan tried not to stare just like she tried not to plead. This summer would mark two years since her sister had run away from home to be with Brock. Nearly two years since all the resources of the Arc Foundation had been focused on finding her and praying her home.
The Brock look-alike gestured around the winter carnival, where shutters were nearly all open now on all the fanciful booths decorated like gingerbread houses, igloos, snow forts and ice palaces. The traffic had doubled just in the couple of minutes since Joan spotted the two of them heading toward her. He nodded at the benches placed against the wooden barricade around the ice rink, leaned in to kiss the tip of the Nikki looke-alike's nose, then hurried off through the thickening crowd.
Joan counted to twenty again, willing the girl to keep walking around the skating rink toward her. She looked away for another twenty-count, looked up again.
"Nikki?" She stood, a chuckle bubbling out of her at the way her heart raced.
The girl stared for several seconds, then her face flushed bright pink. Shrugging, she summoned up a smile and waded through the sudden influx of children intent on getting to the long building labeled Valentine's Sweet Shop, where the doors were just swinging open.
"Joan. How… weird to see you here." Nikki stopped, looking down at Ulysses, who tipped his head to one side and gazed steadily at her. "I didn't know you liked dogs.""A lot of things have changed since--" Joan swallowed hard and took a deep breath. Might as well jump in with both feet. "Since you ran away."