The light’s failing.
She still keeps a lookout for a small, brown shape in the dunes of white. She remembers the feel of it between her palms, downy and warm. Papa had been smiling when he gave it to her, and the thought of going home without it is enough to make her face crumple.
There’d been nights when she looped the keychain around her finger and kept the fabric mouse pressed against her cheek. It reminded her of those far-off things she thought about sometimes: like the feeling of someone patting her cheek, or tucking a stuffed animal into the crook of her arm.
No one does that now, so she wonders often who it could have been. She suspects it was the nice lady in the photos – Mama. The one who’s missing.
She’s parting another small snow dune with her tiny hands when she hears a voice call her name breathlessly. She turns – and there’s Papa, red in the face and without his favorite scarf.
“Where were you?” he says, hands on his knees, and then frowns when he sees her bending. “What are you doing?”