What You Don’t Know (Excerpt)

“Ouch!” Elizabeth exclaimed as she felt something cold and hard hit her directly on her ankle bone.

There was sand in between her toes and salty water up to her shins. She reached down to her ankle to try removing the irritating feeling something was causing. The water was cloudy, so she didn’t really know what she was looking for. She blindly found her way to a glass bottle with a shriveled cork screw top. There was a sad looking red bow around the bottle neck, and inside the bottle was a slightly crumpled small piece of paper. She quickly turned around and headed in the direction of the parking lot. She gathered her beach towel and bag and rushed to her car. Not knowing what was in the bottle made Elizabeth more curious, but at the same time, more cautious. She was nervous to find out what this eerie bottle was holding. She was all about the mystery. She loved watching Law and Order on TV, and her favorite childhood book was the Nancy Drew series. She loved trying to solve mysteries, and she liked the thrill and shock the mystery gave her.  

She situated herself in her car. She had the air conditioning on along with the radio blasting the newest pop culture music. She took out the bottle and slowly untied the bow. She struggled to take the corkscrew out of the bottle and ended up using her car keys to pry it out of the grip of the bottle. She reached into the bottle and brought out the tiny piece of paper. It was no bigger than the size of her palm. She had to unfold the paper about eight times for it to reveal its mystery. Elizabeth was shocked to see what was written on the paper.

She read to herself, “The five steps to answer all of your questions”.

Elizabeth did not understand what that meant. Especially since, besides that mystifying title, the page was blank. She flipped the page over, hoping there was more information. Though, there was nothing on the back except a poorly drawn smiley face. After examining the sheet of paper for five minutes, Elizabeth slipped it back into the bottle, stuck the bottle in her beach bag, and started to drive home. She made the music louder and rolled down the windows. She tried everything to forget about the bottle and move on with her day.

Two days passed since Elizabeth had found the bottle. She mostly forgot about it. Though, when she got back home from the beach on that brisk Friday evening, she found the bottle lying on her bed. It looked fresh and new. The bow no longer looked sad, and the corkscrew was not shriveled. The paper inside the bottle was folded with crisp creases. Elizabeth examined it in awe. She took the paper out of the bottle and unfolded it.

Again she read aloud, “The five steps to answer all of your questions.”

Except, this time, underneath the title, it was not blank. In small cursive print, there was the first step that said Step One: Get closer to the water. Elizabeth was confused at this step. She was already very close. She came to the beach every day. How much closer could she get? She looked at the print, and it somehow looked familiar. She was so puzzled about what the message meant, but she was more baffled about how it appeared on the paper. The last time she checked the paper in her car two days ago, there was no message. She flipped the paper over and saw how the poorly drawn smiley face was now colored. She was bewildered at this new paper. But it wasn’t a new paper. No one knew about the bottle, and it had stayed in her bedroom closet since Tuesday. She frantically stuffed the paper back into the bottle and threw the bottle onto a pile of clothes in her closet.

She sat on her bed, staring at her bedroom wall and trying to think about anything but the obscure bottle that laid in between her gym clothes and purple dress. She cringed and slowly arose from her bed. She walked over to her desk and turned on her sticker covered computer. From Avatar: The Last Airbender to Disney princesses, Elizabeth collected stickers with all of the characters. She showcased her favorite ones on the top of her computer. She brushed her fingers against the pop-up stickers, surrounding the glowing apple as she opened the laptop. When she brought up a new tab, she prepped her fingers to type something she knew was absolutely crazy. She typed into the Google search box, “bottle paper appearing messages”.

Elizabeth spent at least an hour trying to figure out what was going on with the eerie bottle she found in the ocean and decided to bring to her house. She was prepared to take notes on anything she would be able to find. She couldn’t think of anything else. She had literally asked all of her questions, and she couldn’t find any answers. There was nothing on the entire internet that was able to help her solve her problem.

She decided to take notes anyway. She reached into her desk drawer for a loose leaf paper. She found one crumpled up in the corner of the drawer. She flattened out the paper and picked up her new fountain pen that she was so fond of. She grasped the pen where the shiny golden pattern was as she touched the sharp tip to the paper. She titled the document, “Mystery Bottle”. She continued to write all of the information she had. She mentioned where she found the bottle, how she found the bottle, what she saw on the paper, and how the paper changed. Along with every event, she wrote an entry beside it, showing how she was feeling at the time of that event. She was determined to solve this incredible mystery. She was really enjoying feeling shocked and slightly scared when the new message appeared on the paper. Forgetting about this was not something Elizabeth planned to do.

She folded the paper and put it back in the corner of her desk drawer. She was satisfied with the effort she had put into the notesheet, but she couldn’t shake off the memory of the new bottle and changed piece of paper. By the time she finished doing the rest of her homework on her laptop, she decided to go eat dinner. Her parents had already started eating when she came downstairs. She glanced over her mother’s shoulder to see what they were eating. Chicken and rice with no seasonings and no spices. She crinkled her nose and walked away. She made herself a sandwich and had some yogurt for dessert. She then ran back to her room. She eventually dozed off, and she woke up to the sound of her fifth alarm indicating that she was running late for school. She rushed to get ready, and she finally reached her car after what seemed like five minutes of participating in an obstacle course. She finished her granola bar and then proceeded to drive to school.

Elizabeth was lonely at school, and she was lonely at home. Her only friend moved away from Florida last year, and Elizabeth had not been able to make any new friends since. At home, Elizabeth felt lonely without her sister, who was in college. She was so ready to finish high school and join her sister at the University of Florida. Elizabeth was a wonderful student, and she was able to receive good grades. Though, when she was told to work with other students, she struggled. She was very awkward and was not able to communicate her thoughts and ideas properly. During lunch, she did homework in her homeroom class. She was not a part of any after-school clubs, and she did not participate in class. After school, she would go home and eat a snack while finishing her homework. Her favorite place was the beach. It was one of the few places that allowed her to be at peace with herself. On the beach, she was able to collect her thoughts and relax. She tried to go to the beach everyday after school. She had become acquaintances with all of the people who worked around the beach. All of the lifeguards knew her, and people who worked at the food truck knew her, but they were polite, nothing more.


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