“We’re closed!” Jenny shouted through the door without paying much attention. Someone knocked on the pizzeria door as she was rushing through a final check for the night. She was in a hurry to catch up with her friends for a party but needed to leave the restaurant in good condition. The person knocked again and stepped closer to the door so that the dim yellow light from inside the pizza shop fell on her pale, round face. Jenny sighed at the familiar face and opened the door.
“Hey, Melody. What’s up?” she asked. She had not had more than a passing conversation with Melody Sharp in almost three years. Jenny did not have any friendship left for the woman, but she respected her enough to see what she wanted. The woman’s face softened into a smile and she reached into the coat pocket of her black suit.
“Happy Birthday, Jenny,” she said. She pulled a red-translucent node from her pocket and presented it to the now 18-year-old girl. Jenny’s face brightened and she reached for it. “It’s from Dana,” Melody added. Jenny dropped her hand, not completing the exchange.
“How?” Jenny asked Melody through narrow eyes. The woman quickly shook her head.
“No, I’m sorry,” she said. Her lip trembled and Jenny noticed she was moments from breaking into tears. With a deep breath, Melody collected herself. “I wanted to try and… I don’t know… change your last memory of her,” she sighed. “Sorry, I put too much thought into it. It’s not from Dana… I just think she’d want you to have it.” The answer appeased Jenny; Melody had always had a blind spot for Dana Sharp. Jenny felt bad seeing that Melody still mourned Dana after three years and reached for the red node. She understood they were married, but at her end, Dana turned on Melody too.
“Thanks, Melody,” she said sincerely. “But what is it? You wouldn’t give it to me if it was just a node.” Melody shook her head.
“It’s a key. To Dana Sharp’s secret lab, now your secret lab,” she said.
“Are you offering me a job?” Jenny asked. Melody shook her head.
“The lab has always been separate from Sharp Development. And I don’t expect you to be as nice to me as you are now, once you visit.” Jenny gave Melody a curious look, but the woman kept talking. “I don’t have the time to travel there regularly, nor staff that I trust enough, to keep it maintained. At least in your hands, it won’t be wasted.” Melody turned to leave but Jenny interrupted.
“What’s in there? You seem pretty confident I’m not going to like what I find.” Melody stopped at the door to answer, but she did not turn around.
“Dana had a lot of secrets,” she said softly. “When I married her…,” Melody’s voice was trembling. “She’s not the only one that lied to you. I’m sorry, Jenny,” she said and pulled open the door to leave. She left quickly, leaving the teenager alone in the pizzeria again.[Hurry up. Aury’s eyeing the cake. – Dread] the Whisper tickled the back of Jenny’s neck; it felt like Dread was breathing on her. Directly after that Jenny felt another Whisper vibrate in her ear. [On your way? Should we start? -Aury] Jenny rolled her eyes and giggled to herself. Only Aury would start the party without the birthday girl present. She had a vivid vision of him lighting the candle and singing happy birthday to an empty chair just to get to the cake Jenny’s mom made. She pocketed the red node and planned to put it off for the next day. Tonight she wanted to celebrate her birthday with her best friends. Jenny raised her arm and wiggled her fingers at the air. She opened a black portal and disappeared into it.