Excerpt from Night of Cake & Puppets (from Mik’s perspective):
“I grab the scroll out of my jacket and slip the black satin ribbon off, and…I unroll it.
And there she is.
A beautiful drawing of a beautiful face. Her big, dark eyes look wide and expectant. She’s not smiling, but she’s not not smiling, either. No voodoo blood-freeze. There’s warmth there, and she’s looking right at me. I mean, it’s a drawing, of course (if she did it, and I assume she did, then she’s really talented), but it’s a drawing for me, and it seems to shoot a spark at me like real eye contact. With eye contact, the intensity of spark is due to…I don’t know, chemistry, whatever that really means. There are degrees of zing and tingle, depending on the eyes in question, and though these are just graphite renderings of eyes, there is zing. There is tingle.
At first the face is all I see, but then I realize what it is I’m looking at. What it is that she’s given me. Her face is in the center, but the whole page is covered in a diagram: streets and landmarks, carefully drawn and labeled. My first thought, seeing the scroll tied with ribbon, had been that it looked like a treasure map, and…it is.
It’s a treasure map. And the treasure? There she is, in the center of the page, the X-marks-the-spot.
Zuzana is the treasure.
I have a dark thought that it’s a joke, that one of my friends has done this, but I dismiss it. None of my friends can draw. Besides, none of them even know I want to know her. I haven’t mentioned her, for fear of pubescent-caliber backstage hijinx, and I don’t think I stare at her. (When anyone’s looking.)
No. It’s got to be real.
So I do that awkward thing you do when you get good news in the company of strangers and you look around at them, grinning like an idiot, and they look back, not grinning like idiots, and you almost have to tell them, to tell someone. You almost hold up your piece of paper and say, “The girl I like just gave me a treasure map to herself.”
But you don’t. You just don’t.
So I don’t.
(Okay, so I do, but I immediately want to take it back. The knot of strangers is unmoved by my joy. In fact, I think that guy with the hat is the Enemy of All Happiness and might follow me and try to kill me.)
Pull yourself together, Mik. You have a map to follow.
I turn my back on the Enemy of All Happiness (on the principle that most people who look like they want to kill you probably won’t) and study the map. My map. Because it’s for me. From Zuzana. Nope, not gloating. Just stating the facts in case you tuned out for a minute and missed it. Zuzana made me a map to herself.
And in a little speech balloon emanating from between her lips is written, in tiny letters:
Seize the night.
And I blink and feel a surge of certainty and excitement, because of course that’s what one does when one wants something. One seizes it.
Well, maybe not all things. Cats, for example, do not respond well to seizure. Probably girls don’t, either. So this might not be a good credo in life, but for Saturday nights in general and this one in particular, it works.
My eyes keep returning to Zuzana’s face. There’s a smile pending, I think: the faintest tug at the left corner of her mouth, captured like a smile on pause. I want to unpause it and watch it unfurl. So how do I do that? Where do I go? Words. Places. Focus, Mik. Stop grinning.
What are your thoughts, Shelf Lifers? Are you excited to read about Zuzana and Mik’s first date? And what do you think of the cover(s)? Sound off in the comments.