“Welcome, welcome. Thank you for coming to my party.”
“It’s lovely here. Thanks for inviting me.”
“I’ll help put away your belongings if you don’t mind. And the presents can go to the table in the corner.”
I smiled, for the bazillionth time today. I smiled so hard and so fake that my jaw hurt. In a roomful of fifty-something-and-more-were-coming people, I just wanted to be by myself. Yet, it was my party, and these were kinda my people, so I straightened up at the front door, waiting for the next surge of noise and presents and birthday wishes. Waiting to see if I’m going to have a social panic attack.
Then there he came. Ryan. The one I anticipated most. In his boring dark gray shirt and black pants, he looked taller and leaner, while his chin-length brunette curly hair tucked neatly behind the ears. He smiled, and I looked back. “Remember, Thi, he’s not the most handsome guy in this room,” and despite that, my nerves were rushing through every vein, failing in all possible ways to keep me calm and cool. I smiled back.
The world might have to fight hard for underrepresented groups, but my party didn’t have to. People from all ages and genders and whatever were all here, in the same room, eating the same food. There was my grandma in the corner, showing my best gay friend a scarf she got from Buffalo Exchange. There was my mother talking to all the boys in search for The One for me. And then there’s Ryan, the guy that mother might have missed, getting food from the counter. “HE’S ALONE!” my true and least modest self screamed. With that, I made my way towards him, slightly push this a drunk friend to the left and another exciting friend to the right. My mouth was busy with “excuse me” while my eyes fixated on Ryan.
Just when I almost reached him, he looked up, and then there was nothing.
The room was entirely covered in darkness, and as I reached my hands out, I touched no one and felt nobody. Empty. I guess no Ryan for me, for real and for ever.
“Sixty years ago there was a woman. A woman so brave and strong who spied on the Highest King in the most guarded Kingdom. A woman who despised the trust of her people and stole the priceless crown of the most respected Queen.” A voice pierced through the dispiriting room, loud and stern.
“Uh, yeah?” I mumbled with annoyance. No matter how out of league Ryan was to me, that was nothing compared to a woman from a sixty-year-ago Kingdom. “Who are you?”
“That lady is now in this room, finally showing herself to the public. She was hiding because…”
“Stop it, stupid,” said my grandmother, jumping out of nowhere. There was no scarf on her but a necklace with a dangling black pearl. There was no walking stick but two fists holding firmly. “What do you want?”
“You are going to solve a case. You are finding bombs.”
“What?” I muttered, and as though that wasn’t enough to wake me from this ridiculous dream, I yelled, “what? WHAT? WHAT?”
“You are going where the clues lead to and find the bombs hidden in the city. Twenty-four hours, eight of which you can use to sleep, and if the bombs are still missing at this time tomorrow, this building will blow up, and this party will be a firework in itself.”
Three… two… one… I passed out.
Great. I passed out. I woke up on the floor, with my grandmother finishing the last piece of cake on my left, and the guy who I assumed spoke nonsensically earlier looking through my books far on the right. [22:58]. One hour and two minutes were gone. “OK, I’m good now. Tell me what I need to do.”
“Here’s the key to the motorcycle. I parked next to you in the second level basement, so, don’t worry, you won’t get lost, at least not that early in the game.”
“This is not a game,” I emphasized with resentment.
“The map and the first clue will be on the vehicle. Good luck finding it.”
My grandmother took the key, pull me from the ground, and in a blink we were riding the motorcycle out of the residential area. I was at front, while grandmother hugged me tightly around my waist. I didn’t look for the clue. I wanted to get out of there, to see the light to believe it was all not a dream, to trigger my brain into thinking mode, and to look at my grandmother in the eyes and ask, “what?”