Choyce sits on a park bench, watching the birds fly around the wishing well, and eating a turkey sandwich. Toasted, with two slices of provolone, one barely there turkey slice, no tomato, and lots of mayo. And it’s cut diagonally into triangles, of course. She takes a bite and a glob of mayo squishes out onto your chin. A wrinkled, red manicured hand reaches out with a napkin. She wears a gold and topaz bracelet. The owner of the hand laughs as she cleans your chin. Her laughter shifts into a strange song. It’s subtle at first, “dun dun dun dun”, then layers and harmonies grow and crescendo. Eventually the sound crescendos into a melody of bells, strings, and piano keys.
Choyce wakes up with an excruciating headache but rather than reach for water or tylenol she reaches for the letter in the top drawer of her night stand.
The letter smells faintly of gardenias. A delicate scent to match the delicate cursive.
Read the [[letter->Letter]]
Have some [[breakfast->Breakfast]]
//My Darling Choyce,
Congratulations! Words cannot describe how proud I am of you. I’m sorry that I won’t be there to see you walk across the stage. I hope that you know that I am always with you. I’m right here, cheering you on along the way.
With all my love,
[[Back to the present->Breakfast]]She walks out of her bedroom and into the kitchen. Her roommate sits at the small circle dining table, eating some cereal.
“Good morning, Kim,” she says while looking through the pantry for your favorite cinnamon cereal, a bowl, and a spoon.
She chuckles, “It’s 12:15.”
She pours her cereal into the bowl. “Exactly, Good morning!” She grabs the milk from the fridge and pours it over the golden cereal. She places the milk back in the nearly empty fridge. The only other items being strawberry jam, Kim’s leftover salmon from last night, and your leftover chicken breast.
“Ughh, I feel terrible. How many shots did Erika make us take last night?”
Taking a seat across from Kim, Choyce answers, “I don’t know, 3?, 4?”
Kim groans in response.
Choyce eats your cereal in a comfortable silence for a moment.
“Hey, where’s your bracelet?”
“What do you m-no. No, no, no, no. It has to be on my wrist because if its not then I l-”
“Maybe you took it off and you don’t remember?”
“No, I never take the bracelet off.” She rushes out of her chair. She’s startled by a sudden ding, the sound of the spoon dropping. It splashes the milk from her bowl onto the mahogany table.
“Do you need help looking?”
“Yes, I’m gonna check in my [[room->Room]]. Can you look around the rest of the apartment please?”
Choyce does about seven loud, rapid knocks before Kim gently pulls her arm away from Erika’s door.
“This is urgent!” Choyce says with a glare.
“Yeah, but if you keep knocking like that she’s gonna think we’re the cops.”
Ignoring Kim’s warning, Choyce continues to knock.
Erika opens the door looking unamused. “This is no way to wake up the birthday girl.”
“Your birthday was yesterday, today is the day that I need to search your apartment to find my Nana’s bracelet.”
“Wait, you lost your bracelet?”
“Yes, now can I come in and look for it please?”
“Yeah, of course,” Erika says while letting Choyce and Kim in. “Do you know where you might’ve left it?”
“Maybe I left it in your room while we were all getting ready?”
The three of them walk into Erika’s room. Erika checks on her nightstand then under her bed. Kim examines the vanity and dresser. Choyce looks around, trying to determine what spot to devote her energy to. She sees a glint of gold behind the bronze framed mirror.
“I think I found it guys!” Choyce hurries over to the [[mirror->Erika's Apartment Last Night]] and reaches for the shining object.
“Welcome to The Essentials! How many?” The hostess says as she grabs a couple of menus.
“Oh, sorry we’re not dining in,” says Kim.
“No worries! You can make your to-go order at the bar. It’s to the left.”
“No, she means, I lost my bracelet. Have you seen a bracelet laying around?”
“Here, I’ll check, the staff usually leaves lost items here behind the front desk.” The hostess turns and rummages through a box on the table behind her. Choyce sees a glimpse of gold as she pulls a bracelet out of the box.
“Is this it?”
Choyce sighs, “No,” this bracelet is missing the bright blue gems that used to embellish her wrist. “Is it okay if I look for it? We were sitting in the booth over there.”
“Yeah, sure, follow me.” The hostess leads Choyce and Kim to the table they dined at [[Last night->The Restaurant Last Night]]
Choyce goes straight to the bar as soon as her and Kim are let into the lounge.
"Choyce right? It was nice talking to you last night.
"Yeah, you too. Have you seen a braclet around here?" her words rush out as she asks the bartender."
"No, I'm sorry, I haven't."
"Ok, thanks anyways." Choyce walks off to check out the section that her and the girls were sitting [[last night->The Lounge Last Night]]."Choyce, Kim, and Nema are getting ready in Erika’s bedroom. Ari Lennox plays from Erika’s phone and they all sing along. Erika sits at her small white vanity, applying shimmery gold lotion to her chest, arms and legs.
"I can't believe you're rubbing glitter on yourself!"
"Hey it's my birthday, I want to glow."
"Shea butter does the same thing," Kim says as she leans towards Nema with an eyeliner pen.
"Don't listen to them, you look incredible!" Choyce stands in front of a full length mirror. She slicks a section on the right side of her hair with some gel then adds some gold bobby pins.
“Thank you Choyce, I'm happy that someone appreciates the glow." Erika walks over to Choyce. "But speaking of shea butter, your coils are popping!” She says while tracing a strand of Choyce's hair.
“Why, thank you!”
“What’s your secret?”
“I leave my hair alone as much as possible.”
“It can’t be that simple.”
“Well, whenever I used to complain about having to get my [[hair->Hair]] braided, my Nana would tell me that if I keep my hair in braids during the week and don’t bother it, it’ll do whatever I want it to on the weekends.”//A seven year old Choyce sits on the floor in front of the couch as her grandma masterfully transforms her big beautiful mass of coily hair into braids. Choyce’s eyes are transfixed on the television. She watches whatever new Disney original movie she was obsessed with at the time. She winces from time to time as grandmother’s fingers pull and place strands of her hair into an intricate shape.
“Hey that he’s pretty cute,” grandma says, effectively turning Choyce’s whine of pain into a growing giggle.
“Grandma!” She says, still laughing.
“What? Hmmm I guess I am a little too old for him.”
The two of them laugh together//
“Did you find it, Choyce?”
She snaps out of the memory.
“No, it’s not here.”
[[Back to the present->Erika's Bedroom]]Okay, okay, don’t freak out Choyce. You’re gonna find it. Don’t worry. Just think, when was the last time you had it?
[[Erika's apartment->Erika's Apartment]]
[[Club->Lounge]]“Nevermind, It was just a bobby pin.” Choyce stares as the golden hair accessory with the shock and hurt, as if it betrayed her. “Did you two have any luck?”
“Sorry, no,” says Erika.
“Me neither but don’t worry. We’ll find it.”
“I hope so.” Choyce drops the bobby pin in the trash can on her way [[out->Find the Bracelet]] of Erika’s bedroom.“You know what I think?” asks Nema.
A chorus of “whats” follows her question.
“I think that it's time for the birthday girl to give a toast!”
The lyrics of the song change to “yeses”.
“Okay, fine, since you all are so eager for the birthday girl to do a speech.” Erika says, mocking humbleness. “Thank you all for celebrating my 25th birthday with me. This has been an important year for me. I finally found a job that I love, I bought a new car, and my awesome friends are here killing it with me! I'm really proud of us for all of our [[achievements->The Gift]] Kim is a celebrity makeup artist, okay! Nema’s over here with her recent promotion at the bank, and Choyce-”
“Is still trying to get her life together,” Choyce says, a slight tone of bitterness in her tone.
“I was gonna say that Choyce is gonna kill her interview with the fancy tech people tomorrow!”
The bitterness dissolves. “Thanks Erika. Happy birthday!”
“Happy birthday!!!!” The choir echoes.
//“I’m so proud of you honey. My sweet little Choyce got into the college of her choice!!!”
“Thank you grandma.”
“There’s something I’d like to give you.”
She pulls a jewelry box out from her cream leather bag with embroidered floral.
Choyce’s face fills with excitement. Tears swell up in her eyes as she opens the box to reveal the topaz bracelet. The bright blue gems are lined in delicate gold.
“But this is your statement bracelet grandma. Your wrist looks naked without it!”
“It’s yours now.”
Choyce pulls her grandmother into a tight hug. “Thank you,” she whispers trying not to let the tears out.
“You’re welcome, sweetheart. Now try it on.”
Choyce lets go of her grandmother and reaches her arm out to her. Her grandmother slides the bracelet onto her wrist.
The two of them admire how the gold compliments the undertones of Choyce’s skin.//
[[“I don’t think it’s here,” Kim’s voice brings you back to the present.->Restaurant Bathroom ]]“Hey Kim, I think that I stopped by the bathroom last night to fix my makeup. I’m gonna go check in there.”
“Do you want me to help you look?”
“No, ummm, you can just wait for me in the car.”
The tears start to swim out of Choyce’s eyes before she can get to the bathroom. They flow, a current resisting her attempt at strength. Choyce paces the bathroom as she cries. Trying her best to breathe and feeling like she’s failing.
A ping from her phone startles her.
(text-style:"emboss","blink")[Interview in two hours.]
She stops pacing, stands in front of a mirror, wipes her face with a too stiff sheet of paper towel, then walks [[out of the bathroom->Find the Bracelet]].Choyce’s hair is slicked into a bun. She wears a turquoise button up, black pants, and black heels. Janet Davidson, her interviewer asks Choyce a question but she is having trouble focusing.
She grabs for her bracelet, a nervous habit she hadn’t realized she’d developed. She holds her hands together after remembering the bracelet is gone.
“Sorry, could you repeat the question please?”
“What is your biggest aspiration?”
“My grandmother lived by this Maya Angelou quote, ‘Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.’ I aspire to reach that state of success.
Choyce is laughing with the bar tender as she drinks her margareta.
"Okay," he says,"You're turn, what's your favorite [[childhood memory->Lunch at the Park]]?"//Choyce sits at a park bench with her grandmother.
Zip locked sandwiches sit in the large baby blue lunch box between them. Plastic containers of fruit sit on each of their laps. Choyce slurps the sweet juices of some watermelon wedges as her grandmother munchies on chunks of mango.
A dribble of watermelon slips down Choyce’s chin. Her grandmother wipes it off with a napkin without a word.
The braces that Choyce used to hate flash with her self-conscious smile
They watch the geese in the nearby pond in a sunny type of silence.//
Choyce gets a [[notification->Back to reality ]](text-style:"emboss","blink")[Interview in 1 hour]
Choyce ignores the notification. “I think I know where my bracelet is.”
“That's great!” says Kim. “Where is it?”
“Remember I left the lounge early.”
“I figured that you just went back to the apartment.”
“No, I went to the park.”
“I don’t know, I just-it doesn’t matter, let’s just go.”
“Your interview is in like 45 minutes. You can’t go to the park, get back home and get ready in time.”
//''“I know, but this is more important.” She goes to the [[park->Park]]
Choyce closes her eyes to contemplate. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Goes to to the [[interview->Interview]] ''//
Choyce sits on the park bench of her childhood, after searching every inch of the park. She watches the geese in the pond with an empty gaze. It isn’t the same. She wishes that her Nana were there to watch them with her. Her last remnants of hope have been drained. The bracelet is nowhere to be found. Her stomach grumbles. She digs through her handbag, looking for the gold wrapper of her emergency candy bar.
She pulls out the topaz bracelet.
She is simultaneously filled with shock, annoyance, and joy. How could it have been here the whole time? How could she’ve been stupid enough not to look? Why does it look different?
A gold pendant now hangs from the bracelet. The words, //I’m always with you// are engraved in a delicate script akin to her Nana’s handwriting.Choyce leaves no inch of her room unsearched.
She looks under her pale yellow comforter.
Behind her floral curtains.
She rummages her wooden drawers.
She lifts up her cream woven rug.
She evaluates every corner of her closet.
She even checks if any of her plants are harboring the beloved bracelet.
She cannot [[Find the bracelet->Find the Bracelet]]