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Ria, are you ok? By Bruno Maiorana Characters: 10793

Updated: 2018-04-10 12:02


Book 1 - Ria, are you OK?

1 - Ria

There are some things in this world that no one has ever seen. Some hidden in the darkest corners of long, forgotten caves, others remain dormant in the bottom of the ocean, and many things are buried under the asphalt that paves our highways and cities.

The world hid them to make them difficult to obtain, and the elements play their part to make sure they remain hidden. But the day will come when they are discovered - by me. My name is Ria, and I'm a treasure hunter.

Ever since I was a kid, I'd been fascinated by mysterious things. Not the supernatural ones, but the kind of things you see every day, the ocean, the sky, the stars, the universe. Things that envelop you in their immensity and take your breath away with their magnitude. They make you question existence itself, making you feel minuscule and powerless in their presence.

As a child, I also liked looking for things that were hidden or lost. I would ask my mother to hide something for me to find again. She would record the time it took and tell me whenever I broke my record.

Flashbacks of me waiting impatiently outside my bedroom door frequently spring to my mind, with me trying to catch whatever rustle my mom made inside the room while she was finding a place to hide the object from me. (It just happened to be that later, I found out that she actually knew I was listening, so she used to make some random noises just to put me off.)

Then she would open the door and smile.

"OK Ria, are you ready?"

I would nod excitedly.

"Find the pen I've hidden, and if you find it in under two minutes, there's ice cream for you."

Then she'd say, "GO!" and I would go crazy trying to find the pen.

May 7th, Two thousand five. She said she had a special surprise for me. I waited outside the door patiently as I had done countless times before, only this time I couldn't hear any sound coming from the inside. Oh yes, it was also my thirteenth birthday.

She instructed: "The object I need you to find for me is a small piece of paper. Now, I am aware that a small paper could be easily slipped in or rolled into anything, anywhere, which is why I'm giving you a whole twenty-five minutes to find it."

Piece of cake, I thought. I had never had more than fifteen minutes to find something before. I knew this room like the back of my hand, plus I had a whole twenty-five minutes. There was no way I could fail.

"And what's my prize?" I asked her as she was leaving the room.

"This time it's a surprise." She set the timer and said, "Go!" closing the door behind her.

After she left the room, I felt the air getting heavier and heavier, weighing my whole body down, as if she was controlling the atmosphere in the room.

Ignoring my gut feeling, I systematically started searching every corner of the room, unfolding all the clothes, shaking out the pages of every book and inspecting every crack and crevice where there would be enough space for a small paper to slot into.

I painstakingly inspected behind the light switch. I unplugged everything to check if it was rolled into the sockets in the walls. I unscrewed the electrical plugs in case it was stuck onto the back of it, and took apart all the electrical appliances in the room with the tiny Swiss Army knife I had always carried around in my pocket.

Twenty minutes later and nothing. I was starting to get nervous, as I had literally gone through every nook and cranny in the room without success. There was all this tension in the air. Something was definitely wrong, and I could feel it burn from the inside. She hadn't made a sound when hiding the surprise, she hadn't told me what the prize was and had given me twenty-five minutes to find a piece of paper - it all added up.

When twenty-three minutes had passed, Mom came into the room to see how I was doing.

"It's not here, " I said. I huffed and plopped down on the floor.

"It is here and I know you will find it because you have a gift. I believe in you, so concentrate and think outside the box. You can do it, Ria, " She smiled and left the room, leaving me even more puzzled as the timer ticked down to ninety seconds.

A shiver ran down my spine. I sat on the floor, powerless. Why did she have to give me so much pressure on my birthday? Why couldn't I hear anything when she was hiding the paper? Why did she give me twenty-five minutes? Was there a connection?

Only one minute left. Why did she say she believed in me and I have a gift? Was it some sort of clue? Concentrate, think outside the box. Concentrate, Ria. Concentrate.

You have a gift. Outside the box. Concentrate!

The box...

A gift...

Twenty-five...

Those words were connected!

Only thirty seconds left. I could do this, I know I could. A gift outside the box, twenty-five gifts. No, a gift of twenty-five. No, not twenty-five, twenty-fifth, the twenty-fifth, a gift in a box on Christmas. A gift on Christmas, that was the clue. I had received a gift from her last Christmas, it was a pair of running shoes, the same ones I am wearing now, yes! Shoes! It had to be hidden inside my shoes. With only fifteen seconds left, I took off my shoes and removed the soles to find the paper hidden underneath. In the last five seconds remaining I opened the door and showed her the paper.

A tear ran down her cheek as she t

ook me into her arms and proudly cried: "I just knew you could do it!"

And she did know. Parents are fantastic at recognizing their kids' talents, and she had spotted mine. The gift of pattern recognition and problem-solving. A gift I didn't even know I had, up until this very moment of my life. She knew I could pick out the different patterns of that day and put them together to find the treasure.

2 - Peter

There were some places in the city worth spending time at. Having experiences, unique experiences, like having lunch alone in town on a sunny afternoon.

The waitress brought me a dish called Nasi Lemak, a traditional Malay dish made of rice, anchovies, egg, and cucumber. Just what I wanted. That's why I loved the Karma Café. There were no menus, but instead, they served you whatever they wanted you to have and then you would pay what you thought it was worth. The idea was that you got what you deserved, hence the name.

Besides having no menus, the place had no decorations or ornaments of any sort, and the people who worked there wore plain, white T-shirts. There was nothing to entertain or distract the customers with. No signs, no wifi, no music, no posters. Just tables, chairs and a cardboard money box. You didn't even need to chat with the staff, they just brought you your food and left.

It was dining made simple. There were already enough things to worry about in life so it was nice to go there and have someone else decide what I was going to I eat that day. The waitresses were cute as well so that was always a plus. Was that sexist? Even if it was, so be it. It was honesty over diplomacy.

In an alternate timeline, I would probably be the head chef of this restaurant. Coming up with the right dish for every person was not an easy job but it sure was fun. Imagine this, if a party of four walked in, I would cook ravioli for one person, masala dosa for the next, with the third getting fried crickets with honey and sesame oil, and the last would get a traditional African dish called 'I just throw anything into a pot, boil it, serve it and make up a cute-sounding African name for it', like 'pula pula' or 'tuku tuku'.

My second favorite cafe was definitely the Neko Café. Not that I was a big fan of cats, but it was just fun to see what they did with the knowledge that they weren't of my responsibility. They might as well start a fight or break a vase and I wouldn't be the one cleaning up after them. On the contrary, it would be really amusing to see something like that. Was that selfish? Even it was, so be it. Honesty first, right?

After finishing the meal, I slipped a ten-dollar bill in the box at the entrance and went my way. Not that I had somewhere special to go to, it was just that food was digested better when I walked.

My reflection stood lankily in front of me as I checked myself out in a store window. I looked the same as I did at the age of fifteen, I was slim, tall, and even wore my hair in the same way.

I felt the urge to check my right pocket. There was a set of keys in them. They were my keys, the ones I needed to use to enter my apartment, and there was also a long list.

Every day I would wake up and meditate, and after fifteen minutes of that, I would habitually make a list of seven things I wanted to get done that day. Sometimes they were as simple as sweeping the floor or buying groceries. Other times they were more complex, like texting a girl or preparing for a breakdance battle. Most of this particular day's duties were checked off before lunch, and now the list was reduced to just two items. One of them was writing a short review of my washing machine for an old friend who wanted me to. Not that there was anything special about my washing machine, or maybe there was, I didn't really know. My friend had a website about random stuff, so the washing machine review would probably go in between a post about some Renaissance artist and a Russian recipe for beef stew.

The second thing I needed to get done was to pick up a few books from my parents' place in Milwaukee. Even though I moved away from home a few years ago, there was still plenty of things left there. It was also a good chance to see them one last time before I left for India two weeks later.

I was already twenty-five so I decided it was about time I went out to see the world, otherwise I would regret not traveling when I was older. True, I should have probably started ticking things off my bucket list a little earlier, but twenty-five wasn't such a terrible age. Let's say I got to live until I was seventy-five, that would be twenty-five years of living according to other people's expectations, and fifty years living my way, following my own rules, or at least trying to.

3 - Ria

Mom died three months after my thirteenth birthday. It turned out that she had been battling cancer for about a year but chose not to tell me so that our last months together would be as cheerful as possible. The day I turned thirteen, she already knew she didn't have much time left, which was why she was crying.

As for the prize for finding the paper in my shoe, I got a brand new Fisher S4 Metal Detector. It was just what I had always wanted but every time I asked for it, Mom objected, saying I was too young to be out there searching for treasures all by myself, and she was probably right.

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