"Happy birthday, dear!" Willow's mother greeted her.
"Thanks, Mom." Willow smiled, her light brown bangs fell over her eyes.
Her mother waved to the kitchen table. "Sit. I will get breakfast and you can go through the mail." She walked into the kitchen. "I think there are a few cards and things for you in there!" She called back over her shoulder.
Willow pushed her bangs away with a finger and sifted through the mail. She opened a few cards from family members, friends, and her parents. An unopened envelope with her name and address on it sat further away. "Is this part of it too?" She asked, holding it up.
"Oh yes," Her mother brought a bowl of fruits and set it in front of Willow. "There's no return address, so we set it aside."
"I'll open it." She whispered. Her mother retured to the kitchen and busied herself among the food and dishes.
The envelope easily opened. She pulled a card out; the card was a sparkly pink and purple with a decorative "Happy Birthday to you!" on it. Her fingers gently opened the card and a folded letter fell out. She left it and read the writing in the card. The handwriting seemed strangely familiar, but she could not think of why.
Happy Birthday! Enjoy your special day. I might drop by for a visit soon, not sure when yet. I said a lot more in the letter enclosed with this card, please read that."
Willow sucked in a breath and blew it out, who could this be? She picked up the letter and slowly unfolded it. The same handwriting filled most of paper. Her eyes read the writing:
I assume you're reading this now. Well, I want to say please don't hate me. Sorry for how I hurt you; I want to start over with you. I miss you, Willow. I miss seeing you, I miss hugging you, I miss talking with you, I most of all miss seeing your beautiful face. I again apologize for what I did to hurt you, I understand if you don't want to get back together with me. I am very sorry for hurting you.."
Willow paused, she couldn't remember who had hurt her and when. This person was obviously a guy she was dating; yet did she ever date anyone? Her mind ached to remember who this stranger was and what he did. As hard as she tried, no memories came to mind. Nothing came to her, Willow sighed and continued the letter.
"So, please find it in yourself to forgive me. I understand if you found some other guy better than me. But I wanted to say I really love you, Wil. I really do. I have so enjoyed every second we spent together, every moment we shared in silence, and every laugh or tear we've shared. You're an amazing girl, and if I had't hurt you, I would've asked you to marry me. I laugh thinking about it, but it's true. There's no one else I'd rather be with than you, Willow. I apologize again for what I did, I know it was an awful thing to do. At the time, it was for the best. But now, I realize I was wrong.
I wish you a happy 19th birthday, my love. And I hope, that if you haven't found someone else yet, you will again accept me as yours.
Willow let the paper fall to the table. Her heart raced, who was this man? She stared at the scrawled signature at the bottom, Kyle. The name sounded a little familiar but she wasn't able to place why. Her mother came into the room, holding a plate with waffles. "Who was that from, dear?" She asked.
"Mom, who is Kyle?" Willow stammered over her words.
Sarah, Willow's mom, set the plate down and tilted her head. "Kyle?"
"Yes, that's who this letter is from." Willow whispered, fingering the edge of the paper.
"I have no idea, Willow." Sarah looked at the letter, her face started to turn pale, then red with anger. "You were dating someone?!" She screamed.
Willow swallowed hard. "I-I don't know!" She replied.
Sarah smacked a palm onto the table. "Is that why you were gone continually ? Is that why you always snuck out late?" Her brown eyes narrowed. "And this guy wanted to marry you, Willow! Is that why you came home crying one night, refusing to tell me what was wrong?"
"Mom! Stop!" Willow stood from her chair. "I don't remember meeting or dating or even talking to any guy named Kyle!" Her voice shook. "I don't know who he is, or how he knows me!" She rushed to the front door and grabbed the handle. "I need to go for a walk!"
"Willow, wait!" Sarah called after her.
Willow opened twisted open the doorknob and pulled the door open. In front of her stood a young man, no older than 20. His red-brown hair was smoothed back and his blue-brown eyes held surprise. He held a bouquet of flowers in one hand and was about to knock with the other. "K-Kyle?" She stammered, not knowing how she recognized or knew him, since she had no recollection of meeting him.
Happy birthday ! You've made it . Another year of joy and happiness . Blow out your candles , make a wish . But not like last years . Inhaled the air you wished you weren't breathing . Just to wish that you weren't doing it again this year . Wishing that it will all be over . That you can feel . Feel more than just the emptiness . Your deep into a hole , with no light . A hole where you can't climb out of . As you so desperately try to climb out the depression you consume and acknowledge on a day to day basis . You feel as if you are in a box . But it's not a gift . It was forcefully given . For you to keep . Hold and withstand alone . You are meant to hold that box and place yourself in it . You are wrong out of it . Theres no escaping . No candles . No wishes that could cause you better . Happy Birthday ! You've granted me another year of misery . Another year of pain . Tearing apart layers of my skin to feel . Wishing to feel love again . Love hotter than the flames against my face as I wish to be happy. or dead . Happy birthday . See you again next year . Hopefully its the last .
Summer is the absolute worst time of year, especially in this shithole of a town. Every summer is exactly like the previous: you get over-excited that school is out, make plans with friends that never end up happening, fall into a hole of depression, school starts again, and you start anticipating the next summer to come.
I am currently in the "I am about to fucking kill myself if I don't start getting orders from teachers who have no life, nor right to judge how mine is going" stage, which is right in between the depression and the rentering school stages. If that wasn't bad enough, my birthday lands right around there. The only reason I even remember this is because my mom tells me that I need to make a chocolate cake for my little sisters and pretend that I don't think cake is disgusting.
After I finish the cake, I continue my annual birthday traditions by checking the mailbox for birthday cards. I get the same ones every year, except that family members have slowly stopped giving a lot about writing personal notes due to not knowing anything about me. My Aunt Helen sends a $20 in a cat card of some sort, my Uncle Rodge sends $100+ (I choose to ignore the fact it was likely stolen), My grandmother sends a note stating what my gift from her is along with what my parents said they got me, and an envelope full of fine glitter from my cousin (I don't even open them anymore). I went through all of them with nothing new until I reach the last one.
A sky blue envelope with nothing on it other than my name written in silver calligraphy. It gives me an overwhelming sense of mystery and magic. I rush straight to my room and lock the door. Filled with anticipation I rip open the anonymous envelope, to find a ten-dollar bill, a five-dollar bill, two one-dollar bills, eighty-three cents in assorted change, and a note.
How has your birthday been so far? I miss you sincerely and
wish I could be there with you now. Do you remember that
one birthday of yours we spent together? The one where we
talked under the stars after everyone went to sleep? You told
me that it was the best birthday you ever had because you
got to spend it with me. I'll never forget how beautiful you
looked when you smiled at me.
Please promise to take care of yourself.
With all the love in the world,
I couldn't believe what I had just read. The memory in this letter was not one I was a part of, and who is Mnemosyne? I had so many questions, so many things I felt I needed answers to. So I did the most logical thing I could, I ignored it. That is fine right? It was probably just a prank anyway. Oh well, at least I'm $17.83 richer.
A Birthday Gift
"I remember kissing you. Your lips were chapped, and they felt rough against mine. Not like how I thought a girl's lips should feel. But I liked it. I liked the feeling of you close to me, the heat radiating off us. I remember how you blushed when our lips parted; I want to say it was like roses, but it looked more like a tomato. I laughed which made you blush harder. I remember kissing you, and for your birthday, I'd like to gift a kiss again. ~ Simon."
Sheila ran her thumb over the blue ink lettering of the card that came in the mail. She could almost believe it was for someone else but her name was on the top, clear and unmistakable. Her stomach lurched as she read it again. And again. Sheila was certain she never met a Simon. More haunting, though, was the abscence of feeling against her own lips, as if the ghost of this kiss danced before her, just out of reach.
A knock startled Sheila out of her thoughts and she quickly folded the card and shoved it under her pillow. A second later, her mom pushed through the door without invitation.
"Happy birthday darling!" her mother lilted for the third time that morning. Sheila rolled her eyes. Her mom liked to make birthdays a big deal. When she was a kid, it was nice to be the one that had the best birthday parties with ice cream cake and pinatas. Now that she was sixteen (officially!), all she wanted was a little privacy.
"I know you didn't want a party this year, but I did invite a few of your friends over."
Sheila paled. A 'few' to her mom could mean the school. All she wanted was her best friend Grace to help her decipher the letter hiding beneath her pillow. As if on cue, Grace burst through the open bedroom door, arms wide open for a hug. "HAPPY BIRTHDAY BESTIE!"
Sheila wrapped her arms around Grace. They were like sisters. Grace never even knocked on their front door anymore and Sheila's mom always joked she should have her own key.
"I'll leave you two to get read for the par-er, get-together." Sheila's mom winked and strode out of the room, leaving her door wide open, a habit Sheila always detested.
"What's up?" Grace asked, tilting her head to the side. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
"Or kissed a ghost," Sheila muttered. She added to Grace's furrowed brows, "close the door."
Once the room was secure, Sheila pulled the now crinkled card from its hiding spot. Grace read it, scowling at first. As her eyes roamed the page though, her brows shot up and to Sheila's surprise, she started laughing.
Sheila crossed her arms. "What?"
"He's such a dork," Grace snorted. "I can't believe he wrote it like this."
Sheila's heart skipped a beat. "You know about this? But I didn't...I've never kissed anyone, Grace. And I don't know a Simon."
Grace smirked. "I think he'll be at your party. And you do know him. Simon's his middle name."
Sheila shook her head in confusion. Middle names were a well-guarded secret at school, though no one quite knew why. It was a tradition that stretched back to the third-grade when people took turns guessing if their middle names were Marie, Nicole, or Lee.
The doorbell went off, chimes reverberating through the walls of the house. Grace pursed her lips. "That might be him."
Sheila gulped as she made her way to the stairs. Grace watched from the bedroom door. Her heart pounded in tune with her feet on the steps. She felt sweat dot her palms as she reached for the front door handle. Her sigh of relief was almost audible when she saw who it was.
"It's just Brent," Sheila called up to Grace, but Grace was no longer lingerng at the top of the stairs. Sheila frowned.
Brenton was Sheila and Grace's dorky counterpart; he made up their trio. The three of them had been best friends since kindergarten. Sometimes, though, Sheila did feel bad when they left Brent out to do more girly stuff.
"We're trying to figure out something very important," Sheila confided to Brent, who was still standing on the porch, trembling. She wondered what was wrong but decided not to bring it up. "Want to come on up?"
"Uh, actually," Brent took one shaky hand and ran it through his spiky blond hair. "Well, first of all, happy birthday."
"Thanks, but why are you acting so weird?"
Brent sucked in a sharp breath. "Did you get my card?"
"Your card? I-" Sheila froze as realization dawned on her. "Brent, what's your middle name?"
He smirked and stuck a hand in his jean pocket. "Simon."
Sheila's mouth fell agape and a rush went through her. She could feel her face prickling and for a minute she thought that Brent even looked kind of cute. "But I--I mean...we never--"
"In my dreams," Brent amended. "I remember kissing you in my dreams."
Sheila tried to reply but the words were stuck in her throat. She felt stupid for standing there, staring, but she was paralyzed. With fear or desire, she didn't know.
Brent cleared his throat. "And I, er, was wondering if you wanted that gift?"
For your birthday, I'd like to gift a kiss again. That's what the card had said. For a moment, Sheila stood there, analyzing Brent. His spiky blond hair made him seem older than he was. His electric blue eyes were open and friendly, and now they were so wide she could see his dilated irises. And his lips...well they did look quite soft.
Brent's shoulders sagged in the awkward silence. "I'm sorry, I should..."
"Wait," Sheila called as he turned away. "Don't leave without giving me that gift."
He woke up with a pounding headache and sluggishly pulled himself out of bed, careful not to disrupt the sleeping stranger and immediately spotted the empty bottles on his desk, then glanced back to the unknown man curled up on his bed. Whatever he did, he knew he would probably regret it.
Tossing on his clothes he immediately got to work, starting laundry and brewing coffee, just waiting for the stranger to wake up. Remembering the beer bottles on his desk he walked back into the small bedroom, and gathered them up, as well as an evelope he had no recollection of recieving.
Tearing it open sloppily after throwing away the bottles, he squinted to read the cramped scrawl on slightly crinkled notebook paper.
"Happy birthday! I hope you have a good one lovely!"
The man smiled faintly, tracing the little heart they wrote next to their writing with his index finger, and wondered why he even took it out of the drawer. Maybe to remember their voice. It didn't matter though, they were gone. Just not absent from his mind.
He set the birthday card one of the desk's many drawers and turned to the still sleeping figure on his bed.
Weighing whether he should wake up his apparent partner from the night, he walked over and gave the pale man a light shake. No response. Again, he shook him, a bit harder this time. Again, again.
He didn't even have to check the pulse.
The cold body was enough to know it was what happened to his sister.
A sleeping figure that stayed asleep.
In Montana, Andrew stopped at their mailbox as he turned into the driveway at the ranch. He pulled out the usual pile of flyers and a couple of magazines, and as usual, stuck his hand back into the box to be sure there wasn’t something at the bottom. His fingertips sensed an envelope, and he stepped out to double check when it didn’t slide out easily.
A thick packet, he pried it out gently. It felt like there was something stiff inside it. Looking at the postmark, he saw it was old, almost six years old.
What the hell? How had this been misplaced for so long. The postmark is from Florida, the town was close to the military base. Addressed to Alanna Quade? Who would be sending a ten year old girl a package like that? She’s in Ireland now. Do I peek and see who it was? I would have six years ago. Not now. I have to trust she’ll understand it was sent well in the past. I’ll get James to shift it to her, or maybe Harry can do it.
Andrew took the plain brown envelope and placed it on the passenger seat on top of all the flyers. He reminded himself to check the mailbox more frequently. It wasn’t often when they got anything important these days, but assuming wasn’t a good idea. Everyone living on the ranch got mail delivered to this box. Its clever design prevented anyone without the key from getting into it.
I’ll have to remind my sister to check it for us every day. The walk to the box would be good for her now that she was getting back into shape after the birth of her triplets. Blaire was getting on toward the end of her second trimester with the twins. I’ll talk it over with her first. I love her beyond life, I hope she doesn’t scare me like she did ever again.
Alanna fumbled for her phone, slapping at the beep. Opening one eye, she picked it up to see what the fuss was. A text message.
Send me a photo of a table in your room. I need to deliver a letter for you.
It’s 3 AM! I’m going to have to take the sounds of my text and email notifications. I’m not in Montana anymore. Come on Uncle James, you should have remembered.
Since she was awake anyway, she turned the bedside lamp on and shrugged out from under the fluffy down comforter. There was a desk in her room across from the bed. A big armoire stood beside it. Cardamon’s cottage was over three hundred years old. Built fifty years after Murphy’s pub, it didn’t have closets and had only been updated to reflect plumbing and kitchen modernization.
She liked the minimal amount of clothing the black stained oak cabinet housed. She didn’t think she’d need much in the way of fancy clothing. She framed the picture, focusing on the corner of her desk where it snuggled up to the massive oak planks of her wardrobe, and snapped the shutter. Attaching it to her message, she texted back.
It’s 3 AM here, but I heard your text come in. I’m turning off sound alerts for my messages and emails. I keep forgetting we’re so many hours ahead here. I bet you did too. Thanks for playing delivery boy, Uncle James.
Oops, sorry. I will keep that in mind. This came in the mail for you yesterday. Andrew asked me to shift it to you. I wanted to get it out of the way before I forgot about it. You should have it by the time you finish reading this message.
The faint pop as the letter arrived, caught her attention. Uncle James was accurate and prompt as he promised, and she pulled the chair out to sit on. The letter was more of a package. The address was faded, and it looked like it had been wet at on point in its travels. The script was neat block print, giving very little hint as to who the sender was.
She turned it over, looking for a return address and found nothing. Only the post mark hinted at where it came from. Somewhere in Florida, the date was six years ago just before her birthday. Curious she flexed the envelope gently and realized there was something very stiff inside it.
Sleep forgotten, she slid her thumb under the flap on the back and slid it along loosening the brittle paper and folding it open. Excitement bubbled in her, as she peered inside.
A sleek brushed silver picture frame with a portrait in it was stuck inside. Wiggling it free she set it under her desk lamp only to stare at the two women it portrayed. They looked like they were in love, their arms wrapped around each other as they looked into each other’s eyes. She turned it over.
The inscription on the back was dated July 4th, 2014. On our wedding day, with love Hallie and Ginger Ascot.
Oh my God, I wish this had come to me back then. I wonder what else is in the envelope. But I wonder if I would have understood what I do now. Ginger had become part of her life again. She was even starting to call her mom, even though Blaire had her heart. It was kind of crazy having three mothers.
Alanna slipped her hand inside and found a single sheet folded into thirds. Unfolding the heavy paper, she started to read.
You have no idea who I am and it`s a complicated story. I`m Hallie Ascot. I met your mother a couple of years ago and it wasn`t long before I fell in love with her. Her soul was tortured, and she was under so much pressure from her family to conform to being straight, married and having kids.
She`d kill me if she knew I`ve tracked you down. I want you to know, she`s never forgotten about you. She cries for you in her sleep. I can`t tell you how hard it has been for her to work her way out of the black pit she was in. I met her when she was on leave after boot camp. She had to enlist or face jail for her drug habit and a long list of minor offences committed while she was high or trying to get high again.
She`s a Marine now. In officer`s school, and the military is sending her to school to learn about explosives. She`s going to be a bomb tech. And she did me the honor of marrying me a few weeks ago.
She`s been sober and clean for eight years now, and she`s saving her alimony for your college fund. I`m so proud of her I could burst, and I hope you will be too.
I`ll understand if you don`t respond. But I had to try.
Alanna stared at the address. The same one she had now, and the phone number was the exact one she had in her cell phone contact list. Her heart did a jitter and tears slipped down her cheeks.
I wish I could go visit them now. I`ve been giving Ginger a bit of a cold shoulder. Yeah, she`s getting to be mom in a lot of ways, but I need to tell her and Hallie it changes now. I think fate was wise keeping this from younger me. I don`t know what dad and Grammie would have done. This is better, I`ll tell them when I go home for Thanksgiving.
She picked up her phone and to send one more message as she climbed back into bed. Searching her phone contacts, she clicked on Blair Quade.
Mom I need to talk to you. This letter has me a little upside down. Call me, but remember, I`m eight hours ahead of you.
She plugged the charging cable in, and turned over to let sleep claim her, and heard the faint ping of a message coming in.
Right, remember to fix the notifications.
Everild Winther sat at her desk in the wee morning hours of her 25th birthday. She enjoyed coming in early while the ideas she had for characters were fresh in her mind. Ev was working on several projects and wanted to get her workday over as soon as possible. She wanted to get home before her roommates Hannah and Jessica. Working for Game Tech was an amazing opportunity, after a year of working there she still could not believe how much she loved her job.
Ev put down her pen and opened her Smash Chat. Everyone had access to the chat, it was used for communicating feedback on new games. The programmers thought it would be funny to call it Smash chat because they wanted to “smash” any bugs in the games before their release. Every employee was encouraged to beta test new games and chat with other beta testers. All interactions were anonymous because you were assigned a username. She was hooked on the latest beta Battle for Mordad.
Tibor: Hail beast master.
Tibor: How goes the war?
(Ev) Oniyeka: Bloody and long my friend.
Tibor: Do you have time for a campaign today?
(Ev) Oniyeka: I hate to disappoint but “real” work must be done today.
Tibor: Later today?
(Ev) Oniyeka: Sorry big plans tonight.
Tibor: No back up! How daring.
(Ev) Oniyeka: Ha ha no, just some non-gaming fun.
Tibor: Let me know when you are free the beta for Mordad ends in a week.
(Ev) Oniyeka: I will be in touch. There are more battles will be waged. May Zugha be defeated!
Tibor: Have a good day.
(Ev) Oniyeka: You too.
-End of chat-
Ev smiled at her computer as she closed her chat. What Tibor’s job was at Game Tech? She had tried to figure it out but with no success. She had bonded with the employee assigned the username Tibor when she first started testing games 6 months ago. Tibor was fun to team with and did not give her crap for being new to gaming. He took her under his wing and taught her so much. He did not know that she teamed up with him more than any other player. Other than being male and working at the same company, she wondered what he looked like. Was he in a relationship? She needed to stop daydreaming and get her work done.
Nathan Torsten smiled as he closed his chat. He stared at the rows of desks below. Where are you Oniyeka?
“Give it up bro,” Brad said as he walked into the office. “I know that look. You’ll never guess who she is.”
“You could tell me,” Nate said looking up at his best friend.
Brad shook his head. “Look man, you know we made this anonymous for a reason. We wanted honest feedback without the threat of reprisals against the employees hanging over their heads.”
Nate stood and walked to window overlooking the floor below. “I know,” he said rubbing the back of his neck. He turned to look at Brad. “It’s only a week early. They are going to announce the new beta testing team at the end of the month.”
“You got it bad for this woman,” Brad said as he slapped Nate on the back. Nate turned back to the window searching the employees below.
“Ok, but if I get caught or the boss finds out I am throwing you to the wolves,” Brad said as he typed. Nates head whipped around to stare at Brad.
“You are the best,” Nate said as he came around to look at this computer. Brad typed a little bit and said,” Her name is Everild Winther.”
Nate practically shoved Brad out of his chair. He wanted to check the employee directory to find her.
“What if she is ugly or with someone?” Brad asked holding the door open.
“I don’t care, I just want a chance to know her.” Nate said as he typed furiously on his keyboard.
Two hours later Nate knew much more about Everild Winther. He found her picture in the directory and then stalked her social media. The first Instagram photo that popped up was of her cosplaying as Wonder Woman with bunch of her friends at Comic Con. Her profile said she was single. She was beautiful with long dark hair and deep blue eyes. He found her art on DevianArt, she was an amazing illustrator. She was a character designer. And according to all the birthday wishes, it was her birthday today. Her friend Hannah tweeted out to all their mutual friends that they were meeting up to celebrate at a club called Muse. Tonight’s theme at Muse was Masquerade. All the guests wore masks. Nate would meet her tonight and if she rejected him, it would be okay because he would just be a man in a mask not her co-worker and friend Tibor.
“JES-SI-CA! You have 30 seconds to get your butt down here, or we are leaving you here,” Hannah yelled up to the loft.
“Hold on. I need to get my shoes,” Jessica yelled as she ran around the room.
“I am digging the wolf mask,” Hannah said as she appraised Ev.
“Why go as Red Riding Hood when you can be the Big Bad Wolf,” Ev said with a giggle.
“I like your Vamperella costume,” Ev said to Hannah as she turned around.
“I’m ready,” Jessica yelled. Ev and Hannah looked up the stairs to see Jessica dressed as Poison Ivy descend.
“The men better watch out tonight,” Jessica said as checked out her friends.
“Let’s get going,” Ev said.
They all piled into Ev’s Honda and sped off into the night.
Nate checked Ev’s Instagram; her friends called her Ev. He had been referring to her, as Ev in mind when he thought of her. She and her friends were at Muse, and she was dressed as a wolf. He had changed his mind several times before settling on Batman for his costume. He was nervous about approaching her, but it was now or never.
Nate drove his truck to Muse and parked. Once he was inside, he fought the crowd to get to the bar. He wanted to get a good view of the dance floor below. He needed to find Ev. After an hour of watching and sipping his drink he finally caught sight of her with her friends on the dance floor. He made his way down the stairs and moved into the crowd.
He kept watch on Ev and her friends, so he did not lose them. Suddenly, they were gone. He looked around. Maybe they went to the bar. He cut through the crowd again and made his way up to the bar. Ev and her friends were at table not too far from the bar.
He went to the bar and ordered a drink for Ev. He told the waitress to tell her it was a birthday gift from the Dark Knight. Off the waitress went with the drink. Nate thought he would stop breathing when she got the drink. The waitress pointed to Nate and Ev looked at him.
Ev looked toward the bar for the man that sent her the drink. How did he know it was her birthday? Maybe because Hannah and Jessica told the bartender and everyone else, they met. He was tall, 6’3” dark hair, muscular. “Hello Dark Knight,” Ev thought to herself.
“Oh, I do love a bad boy,” Hannah said as she stared at the man.
“Yes, broody, rich, and handsome is my type too,” Jessica said as she sipped her margarita.
“I should go thank him for the drink,” Ev said as she got up from her stool.
“Wait, do you know that guy?” Hannah asked as she grabbed Ev’s hand.
“No, but I know you two have my back,” Ev said looking at them both.
“Ok, don’t do anything I would do,” laughed Jessica.
He watched Everild Winther walk toward him with her drink. She was about 5’6” and curvy. He watched her hips sway as she approached. Damn, he was getting excited to finally see her in the flesh. Nate shifted from foot to foot, trying to calm his nerves.
“I don’t think we have met before,” Ev said looking up at him.
“No, we haven’t. Bruce Wayne,” he said smiling extending her his hand.
“Tall- check, muscular- check, deep voice- check, likes Batman- check. Can this get any better,” Ev thought as she looked up to him.
“Nice to meet you, Bruce. The Big Bad Wolf at your service,” she said as she shook his hand.
When she smiled the right side of her mouth went up more the left. “Focus, Nate. Say something,” He chided himself.
“Are you enjoying your birthday?” Nate asked. She hopped up on a stool and put her drink on the bar.
“Yes, I love to dress up and dance. How about you?” Ev asked as she scanned his face. She was trying to see his features better to see if she had ever met him before. She was drawing a blank, they had not met before.
“I like cosplay and dancing is fun with the right person.” Nate said as he watched her reaction.
“Are you the right person?” Ev asked with a raised eyebrow.
“I am willing to try, if you’ll join me?” Nate said holding out his hand for her. She finished her drink and took his hand. She saluted her friends and he led her to the dance floor.
They danced for hours together and with her friends. They did sit and talk when they needed a break. He asked her about work, and she asked about his, neither divulging where they worked. They had so much in common and she seemed to be interested in him. They went out for one last dance as it was getting late. They swayed to slow song.
“She knows my real name now; she is so beautiful. How can I tell her I am Tibor?” Nate thought as he pulled her close, breathing her in.
He put his head down and whispered in her ear,” I would like to see you again. Are you free next week?”
Ev pulled back a bit to look at his face. She smiled and nodded.
“Yes, I would like that very much,” Ev said laying her head on his chest.
“There is a gaming release party for a game I have been waiting to come out. Would you go to the release party with me?” Nate held his breath. “Would she figure it out? Could I carry on not telling her until the party?”
“Sure, where is it at?” Eve asked intrigued.
“Its being held at the Civic Center on the 17th, will that work?” Nate asked.
“Yes, I would like that. What is the dress code and what time will you pick me up?” Ev was staring in his eyes.
“No masks this time, Mr. Wayne,” she said with mock sternness.
Nate laughed, “You have my word, just me not the bat.”
“Great, I’ll just be me.” Ev said.
“That’s all I want,” Nate thought as they finished their dance,
Her friends were calling her name, it was time for her to go.
“Can I kiss you?” Nate asked holding her face with his hands.
“Yes,” she said closing her eyes.
Her lips were soft and warm. Nate pulled her against him, holding her tight. He was finally kissing the woman he was so intrigued with. She tasted sweet and her body felt so right tucked against him.
“Holy heart failure batman,” Ev thought to herself as Nate deepened the kiss. This man was strong, handsome, and knew how to kiss. Ev held him tight wishing this would never end.
“Eh hem,” Hannah said loudly.
“Get a room,” yelled Jessica laughing.
Nate released her not taking his focus off her. “I’ll text you the details this week.” He brushed his thumb over her cheek and waved goodbye to her and her friends.
“Damn girl, that was H-O-T,” Hannah said linking her arm with Ev.
“When are you seeing him again, you are seeing him again?” asked Jessica.
Ev put her hand to her lips and sighed. “Next week, he is taking me to party.”
The next seven days were heaven and hell all in one. He and Ev texted and talked as much as possible. She did still chat with “Tibor”, but she only did one campaign with him. Nate still had not approach her at work. He worried that she would angry that he kept his identity a secret. All would be revealed at the party tonight.
His phone rang while he was getting dressed for the party.
“Hey Brad, what’s up?” He said while checking his reflection.
“Dude, you need a back up plan if she freaks out on you” Brad said. He was at the Civic Center helping with the presentation equipment.
“I trust her. I think she will be confused at first, but she will not be mad.” Nate wanted to believe she would be okay with his explanation.
“Its your head on the chopping block man, Good luck” Brad hung up.
“Please let her understand,” Nate chanted to himself.
Ev was wearing her favorite dress. She checked her make up for the 10th time when the doorbell rang.
“This is it,” Ev thought. “I can do this.”
She opened the door and smiled up at Nate. The mask and the darkness at the club really did prevent her from seeing Nate’s face this clearly. He was just as handsome as she imagined.
“Wow, you look beautiful,” Nate said as he kissed her cheek.
“He smells so good.” Ev thought to herself.
“Thank you. You’re not so bad yourself,” she said with a wink.
“How could she be even more beautiful every time I see her.” Nate thought as he took her hand. “Shall we go?”
They talked all the way to the Civic center. When they parked Ev noticed the big banners announcing the Game Tech release of Battle for Mordad.
“I didn’t know the release was today.” Ev said looking at Nate.
“You have heard of this game,” Nate feigned ignorance.
“Yes, I work there,” Ev said surprised.
“I do too,” Nate said, “I’ve never seen you around.”
“Well, it is a large company. It is at a happy coincidence. I had not planned on going to the Game Tech release because of our date,” Ev said smiling.
“Yes, I guess we never got around to talking about work. We had other things to talk about,” Nate pulled her to his side.
They talked about their jobs at Game Tech. His heart was beating so fast, he was so worried she would be upset. The subject of the Tibor never came up. She was accepting the situation well. They walked into the ballroom and started searching for a place to sit. They chatted with people they knew and introduced each other to the co-workers they did not know. They sat at a table with Brad and his date.
After dinner was served the company president got up and gave a short speech introducing the game trailer. The lights went out and large screen descended from the ceiling. They entire crowd got quiet.
They watched the trailer whispering comments to each other about different things they liked in the game. When it was over there was thunderous applause from all the employees.
The VP of the game development went up and made a speech.
“…..In conclusion, I want to thank all the programmers, artists, and our beta testers for helping us make Battle for Mordad one of the best games to come out this year.” The crowd applauded. The VP signaled for quiet. “Before we go back to partying. We wanted to make an announcement. We will have a dedicated team of beta testers starting next month. As employees you can still beta test as you have in the past. We value your feedback. As a surprise for our employees, we analyzed the best game play and the best players who beta tested Battle for Mordad. I would like to present a gift to the best team and best player.”
Nate looked at Brad, panic filling him with dread. Brad shrugged and mouthed, “I know nothing.”
Nate had seen the statistics for the game. There was a good chance that he and Ev would be recognized as a team. Ev grabbed his hand and whispered, “Are you okay?” She was concerned. Nate never got to answer.
“May I please have the employees whose usernames are Tibor and Oniyeka come up front to receive their reward.”
Ev gasped and looked around the room. She wanted to see who Tibor was. She got up from her seat and so did Nate. She looked at him in confusion.
“What are you doing ?” Ev asked.
“I’m Tibor,” Nate said quietly.
Ev was stunned. “Nate was Tibor. How long had he known she was Oniyeka? How did he find out?” She needed to get away from him and this party. She turned from Nate and ran out the door and down the hall. She could hear Nate calling her name. She did not stop. She ran until she found a taxi stand outside the Civic Center. On the ride home Nate called several times. Ev just shoved her phone in her purse and cried quietly until she got home.
“That man has a lot of explaining to do,” Jessica said as she scooped ice cream in a bowl for Ev.
“What did he say?” Hannah asked. She was making a pitcher of margaritas. That was the tonic for dealing with heartache, alcohol, ice cream, and your best friends.
“I don’t know why he didn’t tell me. We have been chatting for 6 months. He knew I worked for the company.” Ev, pushed her ice cream around in the bowl.
“True, but he didn’t know your real name. I want to know how he found that out. Wasn’t it supposed to be a secret?” Jessica said waving the ice cream scoop.
“Yes, but he works in the programming department so it possible he knew the person or people who set up the usernames,” Ev stared out the window into the darkness. “What else didn’t she know” Ev was troubled.
“But why wait 6 months to find you,” Hannah said dipping the glasses in salt.
“I don’t know, and I don’t want to talk to him right now.” Ev’s phone was locked up in her desk upstairs so she would not give in and answer Nate’s calls.
Ev and her roomates finally went to bed at 1am. The rest of the weekend she left her phone in her desk. She slept in late and then hung out with her friends. Sunday night came and Ev was trying to sleep but with little success. She stared at her ceiling and counted sheep. She could usually distract herself by working on new characters, but she was not inspired.
Ev got about 3 hours of sleep and went in late to the office.
When she got to her desk there was a giant sword on her desk, flowers, and a note.
Ev picked the up the note. It read:
I know I should have told you who I was.
I am sorry I kept the truth from you.
I am giving you back your sword, the one
you gave me in our first campaign.
I care about you and I hope that you will
give me a second chance. Hopefully,
you will not run me through with it.
My office is on the third floor #173. I hope to
see you soon.
Ev remembered the day she gifted him the virtual version of the sword in their first campaign together. That was 6 months ago, when she did not know it was Nate. Nate should have told her before the game launch party. Ev sat at her desk, her coworkers staring at her. She could not escape this. They worked together and she really did like him. Ev thought he should suffer a little bit before she forgave him, so she came up with a plan.
Nate stood in the kitchen staring at the vending machine. He was miserable all weekend. Ev wouldnt take his calls and all his texts were unopened. He wondered when she would come in.“Would she forgive him? Would she still want to see him? Nate hoped she would.
Nate checked his phone. He had a text from Ev.
I have your scout.
If you want to save his life,
Come to your office.
You have 30 seconds
Or he loses his head.
There was a picture of Brad kneeling in Nate’s office with his hands behind his back. Ev had the sword to his throat. Nate was more than 30 seconds from his office, so he took off at a run. He smiled, maybe he still had a chance.
Ev went looking for Nate but his office was empty. She looked around and saw Brad in his office next door. She checked to see if he was on the phone or if anyone else was in the room. She looked around to see if anyone else was near by. It was lunch time so most people were not in their offices. Ev flung open Brad’s door and pointed the sword at him.
“How did Nate find out my name?“She shouted at a surprised Brad.
“Whoa,” Brad said jumping from his chair hands raised. “Look he was crazy about you, he talked about you all the time."
"That doesn't answer my question Brad," She walked forward with the sword trained on Brad. He backed up slowly.
"Okay, okay it was me. I was in charge of the assignments of the usernames. I am the only one who knew." Brad bumped his back against his window.
"When did he find out my name?" She shook the sword in Brad's face.
"Hey, now. He held out until the last minute. He knew that once the beta team was announced he was aftaid all the usernames the employees used would be reset. And then he would never find out who you were." Brad put his hands down when Ev lowered the sword.
"When?" she asked again quietly.
"Your birthday," Brad said.
Ev walked around Brad's office for a moment and formulated her plan.
"Brad, you are going to help me with some payback," Ev said smiling.
"What do you have in mind? I will not let you hurt him." Brad said defensively.
"You will be a prop in this scenerio and I promise no one will get physically hurt."Ev stated. Ev then filled in Brad on the plan. He was her hostage and witness to what was about to unfold.
Nate stopped short of his open office door.
"Ev? Are you in there?", he asked as he peered around the door frame.
Nate saw Brad still kneeling on the floor, Ev holding the sword over his head. He looked up at Nate with a grim expression on his face.
"I am the Beast Master Oniyeka, you have dishonored our warrior pact. I have taken your scout. What will you do to make up for this dishonor?" Ev boomed out. Nate put up his hands and moved into his office. He closed the door behind him.
"My scout has done no wrong, please release him," Nate said, never losing eye contact with Ev.
"I need someone to pay. Will you take his place? Make the sacrifice to regain your honor?" Ev lifted an eye brow.
"Yes, you may take me instead."Nate kneeled on the ground next to Brad.
"You may go Scout, but before you go you must witness this warriors oath to regain his honor. Do you accept? Ev pointed the sword at Nate. Brad nodded and moved behind Nate's desk,
"Do you Tibor, promise to follow me into battle, sacrifice yourself to protect me, and repay me in kind for the wrongs you have done me?" Ev was trying not to smile.
"Dude say yes so I can get out of here," Brad ordered. "I dont want to be here when you start getting mushy."
"Yes, I will do as you ask. Can I get off the floor now?" Nate looked up at Ev smiling.
"Yes," she said and hugged him around the middle when he stood up. Brad let himself out the door.
"You scared me Ev," Nate was looking into her eyes. Ev laughed. "Did you really think I was going to use this sword on Brad or you? This thing is heavy."
Nate pulled her tight to him and breathed her in.
"Don't think I have forgiven you yet," she said to his chest. "You have a lot to make up to me."
"I know, " He pulled her back so he could look at her face. "I have many ideas about that too."
"No more games," Ev stated. "No more games," Nate agreed.
"Then kiss you big dummy," Ev said as she grabbed Nate's face. Nate kissed her until she was out of breath.
"The best is yet to come," Nate said and Ev laughed.
Please be kind this is my first challenge.