Mum says I’m not diary-ing enough. That I have to do it at least three times a week. I love my mom but sometimes, SHE JUST DOESN’T GET IT!!! How am I supposed to write in my journal (something I NEVER wanted in the first place) when there is so much burden on my shoulders. I mean, I have my Karate exam coming up AND a REALLY REALLY REALLY (three “really’s.”That just about says everything) important football match. Which reminds me… I forgot to tell you that… *drum roll*… I MADE IT TO THE UNDER SIXTEEN GIRL’S FOOTBALL TEAM AT SCHOOL!!!!!!!!!!!!! SQUEEEE!!!! It’s not like I’ve been dreaming of it my whole life, or anything, it’s just that I LOVE football. I mean, I also LOVE everything that has to do with sports and athletics, but FOOTBALL ROCKS!!!!! Sometimes, I find myself dreaming about it. No kidding.
Anyway, because I am selected for the team, I have to attend after class coaching sessions for the coming few weeks, which is going to be super tiring, but super fun at the same time. Our school has appointed two specially trained football sirs who will guide us and provide us with pointers. Mum is real proud of me, though I haven’t yet told dad, probably because I keep forgetting.
The only downer in my life right now is the fact that I’m VERY EXTREMELY nervous about my karate exam. I get SEVERE butterflies every time I think about it. Plus, my twelfth birthday is in two months, and I have simply GOT TO publish my novel before that!! Oh wait! I haven’t told you about my book before, have I?? Well, it’s called High Expectations and It’s basically about this teen detective (very much like Nancy Drew), Zoe McKenna, who goes around solving crimes and busting criminals. Wait a minute!! I have an awesome idea!! Why don’t I let you in on a bit of the book, eh?? Let me just copy the first chapter for you…One second… And cut…. And paste…. And DONE!!!
Chapter 1: Of Emeralds and Sapphires
“Watch out Zoe!’ Hayley Tiara, my BFF shrieked as I swerved my silver vehicle and dodged a trash can by inches. ‘Looks like I have my work cut out for me!’ I laughed as I turned off the engine. I earned my Driving License recently and don’t think the inspectors were fair when they let me pass. ‘That was close,’ Hayley remarked, heaving a sigh. ‘Tell me about it,’ I answered, jumping off. ‘Grab your guitar and let’s go, go, go!’ Hayley bustled. I smiled to myself. It was really nice meeting my best friend again.
My dad, mum and I had just relocated into Tulip Creek about three months ago. We lived here for the first decade of my life, though when I turned ten, dad got transferred. I spent the next six years of my life in Spamet Ville, a little village about nine hours by flight from Tulip Creek. I’d felt so lonely… For the first week, at least! I made friends and settled down in no time at all, but I always kept Tulip Creek close to my heart, as it is my home. When dad retired just five months ago, we shifted back to Tulip Creek, where I was reunited with Hayley and a few other close buddies from elementary school. It was THE best.
I snatched my guitar from the back seat and trailed behind Hayley as she marched on inside Eve Knight’s mansion. Wait a minute!! Who’s Eve Knight? You might be wondering.
Let me start by telling you that six years ago, just before moving out of Tulip Creek, I started a school band, simply because of my passion for music (definitely equal to my fondness of mysteries).
Eve Knight, Giselle Gracias and Hayley, who were my closest pals back then, immediately volunteered to be part of it. We elected yours truly as the lead vocalist, Giselle (thanks to her four grades in the Trinity exam) was automatically our pianist, Hayley was most comfortable strumming the base while Eve was most suited to star as drummer. I also played the lead guitar.
We decided to name our little orchestra “The Rising Phoenix.”I don’t exactly know why, but maybe the name just appealed to us. The Rising Phoenix began practicing religiously every day for at least an hour. We played for most school events and were even booked for a few social gatherings around Tulip Creek itself.
Alas, before we could really bloom and maybe take our group to the next level, dad announced that we had to move to a whole other city. I was shattered, believe it or not. Even though I am a generally bubbly, cheerful person, I was feeling really down in the dumps, considering how I now had to part with my best mates.
Of course, once I got used to the different routine at Spamet Ville, I was quite content over there, too. But at night, when I was tucked into bed with some toy or the other, I would muse over Tulip Creek and all the fun I used to have with the gang, as we called ourselves. Hayley, Gis and Eve discontinued the band, however much I pleaded with them to do otherwise. They insisted that if the four of us wouldn’t be playing together, then we wouldn’t play at all.
Thankfully, after dad quit, he agreed to moving back to Tulip Creek. It was the happiest phase of my life, getting back to my homeland. Gis, Hayley, Eve and I rejoiced and celebrated my first night with a sleep over at Giselle’s. It’s not that while I was away the four of us didn’t meet. We Skype-d regularly and visited each other at least once a month. But getting back for good was REALLY something.
Needless to say, The Rising Phoenix was restarted with much pleasure. Back to the present, Hayley and I were ten minutes late for our weekly rehearsal.
‘Ooh, Giselle just texted me,’ Hayley squealed, her face glowing under the bright light of her iPhone. ‘Apparently, Eve’s dad just summoned her to tell her about something that happened to her aunt,’ Hayley informed as we scrambled up the marble staircase leading to the Portuguese-style entrada. ‘I hope everything’s okay,’ I mumbled as we made our way to Eve’s Neon, spray painted bedroom. Actually, we’re supposed to be practicing in the garage. But because of the constant boom box blaring in Eve’s parlor that screams out Swedish House Mafia’s latest tunes, her dad sound proofed the whole place, so we get to rehearse there instead.
‘What’s up in you’re part of town??’ I questioned. Even though Tulip Creek is considered one of the smallest cities in the States, it’s definitely among the top ten when it comes to pace, based on the activity that goes on around here. Even though Hayley’s house is located just two streets away from mine, there are so many inaugurations that it’s kind of hard to keep track of every single bakery that commences. ‘Well, there’s a new library that opened up last Tuesday, but when you look at the crowds that flock there every hour of the day, you’ll think that it’s been standing since the nineteen hundreds!’ She chuckled. That’s another thing about my little hamlet. Because it’s so small, you somehow figure out about every single event going on.
‘Good morning, Mrs. Knight!’ I greeted as I spotted Eve’s mom darting about the magnificent kitchen, updating the numerous gourmet chefs on the exotic menu. ‘Hello girls! Unfortunately, your practice will be held in the garage today. I have to tell my daughter a few things. Just for today. I hope you guys don’t mind.’ Mrs. Knight said, halting for a moment to read our expressions. ‘Don’t worry about us! We’ll be fine. At least we can practice,’ I pointed out. ‘That is true,’ Mrs. Knight agreed, smiling in a motherly manner. Hayley and I waved good-bye and trooped down the stairway to the garage.
‘Hey, do you know that there are tryouts in a couple weeks for the Battle of Bands this year? We should really take part. I mean, we could seriously win, you know??’ I urged. ‘Is it really going on now? Wow. I didn’t even know that. You’re right, we should take part. We should get ready to kick some singer butt!!’ she agreed. I shook my head. Although Hayley is the most focused person I know, she’s the worst when it comes to observing stuff that stares you in the eye. Weird, right? I usually thought focus and observation came hand in hand, but my best friend is the living proof of the exact opposite. ‘There’s a poster pinned on Cocoa Bean’s notice board. It tells you all about the auditions,’ I informed.
Cocoa Bean is this coffee place near my house where we, the Rising Phoenix, usually patronize for a quick mug of chai. She nodded just as we arrived the Knight’s garage which housed four of their luxury sedans. ‘Look whose late,’ Giselle sighed as we took our places. ‘Sorry, dude, ‘I apologized, ‘I woke up a bit late,’ I sheepishly grinned. Giselle threw me a forgiving smile. ‘I think Eve’s going to take a while. Why don’t you play your newest solo? Isn’t it something by Kelly Clarkson?’ Hayley inquired, directing the question to me. ‘Yeah, that’s sounds like a good way to pass the time. Oh, and the song is Breakaway,’ I said, lovingly threading my charcoal black guitar, my most prized possession. ‘Super! I really wanted to hear you play, but we were too busy last rehearsal,’ Giselle pronounced, folding her legs. I swung my guitar strap over my shoulders. Slowly, stringing random chords, I began. I started quite casually and gradually became more and more absorbed. The chorus was the main tricky part, but I think I managed it quite well. I don’t mean to brag, but Giselle and Hayley looked quite hypnotized.
I came to an abrupt stop as I heard the distinctly familiar voice of Abby Knight, Eve’s younger, adorable sis, yelling my name. ‘Zoe! Call for you! Zoe!!!’ She screamed at the top of her lungs. ‘Sorry guys got to go!’ I apologized, shoving my guitar in Hayley’s arms. I tore to where I thought the voice originated. As I’d guessed, it was the Knight family study with walls lined with bookshelves, an actual indoor fountain and four laptops perched on historic, wooden writing desks. ‘Call for you, Zoe,’ Abby innocently reported when I reached, panting. ‘Hello?’ I spoke into the receiver.
Mom: Hey, Zoe?? Is that you?
Me: Morning mom! Yeah, it is me. What up?
Mom: Did you take your car out to Eve’s?
Me: Yeah… Why?
Mom: Your dad wants to borrow it.
In my mind, I’m totally thinking, ‘That’s what you called for?? Really?? Isn’t he coming here anyway?’ But, I mean, whatever.
Me: Okay, when will he be here?
Mom: He left just now. I’m guessing that he’s there already.
Me: Bye mom.
(In case you were wondering about how dad could come to Eve’s place without the car, I’d better inform you about the fact that Eve’s manor is just three blocks away from our house)
I hung up the old-fashion telephone and trudged downstairs for the second time that day. Before I completed even half the carpeted steps, the doorbell sounded. I quickened my pace and made for the door. ‘Hello dad!’ I gasped as I swung open the door (which is not an easy feat, considering the weight of all the antique trinkets dangling from the top).
‘Hey Zo? Mind lending me your poor father keys just for a bit?’ He questioned, grinning from ear to ear. I smiled back and dug into my pocket. No keys. How could I have forgotten? I had left my car keys in my guitar case in my hurry to rush for the phone. Typical. ‘I left my keys in the garage, dad,’ I shamefacedly told him. He nodded, with a look that said ‘go on, get them already!’
I raced through the flower beds (sorry Mrs. Knight!) and dashed into the garage. ‘Hey, Zoe, I need to talk to you guys about something. It’s kind of serious,’ Eve, who was now positioned on a stool, said. ‘Two seconds,’ I returned. Plucking my guitar case from the chair I was sitting on, I zipped open the small front pocket where I kept a few essential knick-knacks I usually need while I was on prowl. There it lay. A fluffy, electric blue key chain with my Chevrolet’s keys dangling from it. I swiped them and darted back to my dad. ‘Here you go,’ I offered, placing my funky key chain onto my dad’s humongous palm. ‘Thanks honey. Okay then, G.B!’ He waved. (‘G.B’ is the short form for ‘Good Bye’. He uses short-forms on a regular basis. Though, actually, thinking of the short forms is more time consuming.) I waved till he had rolled out of sight and then strolled back to the garage.
‘Eve, what is it that you were so desperate to tell me?’ I asked once settled comfortably on a club seat. ‘Well, my Aunt Vanessa Larson, she lives just next door…’ she began. ‘We met her once.’ I interrupted, a bit impatient. My sixth sense was pricking my neck. Real bad. ‘Okay.’ She continued. ‘Anyway, she has just past her 40th birthday. She celebrated it with her close friends and family who threw her a surprise party. In Paris! They offered to pay for her holiday, because she was, after all, the birthday girl. She eagerly agreed, and they were soon on a flight to the world’s fashion capital!!They went shopping for designer jeans, dined at the most exotic places around and all and had this crazy get-together with all these famous celebrities like …’
‘Get to the point!’ I yelled. Why couldn’t my friends EVER cut to the chase (especially when it mattered most??)? It was so irritating. But then I realized that Hayley and Giselle were staring at me like I had just suggested that we Scuba dive in the Arctic region with. It suddenly sank in. I had just screamed at my closest buddy. ‘Sorry Eve, I shouldn’t have yelled like that,’ I apologized, after making myself more composed. My temper doesn’t usually get the better of me, unless, like this case, there was another mystery. ‘It’s okay,’ she forgave, flashing me an innocent smile.
‘Anyway, all of them gifted her really expensive stuff, like silk gowns from Chanel and matching earrings from Gucci, but, the most expensive gift was a Sapphire and Emerald necklace,’ She paused. ‘So when Aunt Vanessa returned from her holiday, she kept it safely in her cupboard vault with the intention of putting it in the bank the day after, but the next morning, before she could even change from her striped PJ’s, it mysteriously vanished.’
Oops, got to go for my shower…