Treasure Hunt

envelope and bow illustration

One year left.

One year left in my twenties.

One year left until I fall into Proper Adult territory and I have to start preparing myself for wrinkles and grey hairs.

One year left to get my 30 Before 30 list ticked off. Shit. I better start booking my trip to Peru. And I need to put in a bit more overtime if I’m going to have any chance of getting a promotion. No idea if I’m going to be able to get a dog, though. Not with all that bloody overtime I work.

Ah, postie. Let’s see if anyone’s bothered to put a card in the post.

Mum has. Can always rely on my mother to make me feel loved. It’s a right soppy bastard of a card, though.

To My Precious Daughter
Thinking of you on this special day,
Sending all my love straight your way.
You complete my world and make my day…

Blah, blah, blah. Four bloody verses. Why does she always buy birthday cards that are more like novellas? Let’s see what she’s written.

Dear Kate,
Please visit Number 15 on Hackton Street to begin your treasure hunt. I’ll see you soon.
All my love,
Mum
xxx

Fucking treasure hunt! Yes, Mum! You can’t get away with a treasure hunt past 30. She’s a good egg is my mother.

Wish I had someone to go with, but I suppose that’s another thing I won’t manage to tick off my 30 Before 30 unless by some miracle I meet a man and drag him down the aisle within a year. There’s still some hope, I guess.

***

15 Hackton Street is a florists called “Blooms and Plumes”. Nice. I go inside and am instantly smothered by the sickly sweet scent of flowers.

“Hello, I’ve been sent by my Mum to –”

“Kate, is it?”

I nod. The florist bends down behind her counter and retrieves the biggest, most beautiful bunch of flowers I’ve ever seen, all wrapped in a beautiful white bow. There’s a little card attached to it.

“Best read the card now, love,” the florist says knowingly.

I retrieve it from its envelope eagerly.

Dear Kate,
Please visit number 176 James Road.
All my love,
Mum
xxx

On I go.

***

IT’S A BLOODY CAKE SHOP, ISN’T IT?!

My mum’s the best. I hope it’s chocolate flavour. With strawberries on top.

It must be a good bakery because the place is rammed. Guess I’ll be waiting a while.

“Kate is it?” says a guy behind the counter.

How does he know my name? I nod at him and he beckons me forwards. The people around me look pissed that I’m skipping ahead, but sod them. It’s my birthday.

“Saw your flowers and assumed you’re the birthday girl,” he says, with a sad smile. It’s almost a sympathetic smile. Perhaps he knows I only have on more year in the twenties.

He places a huge box on the counter and opens the lid with a flourish. There’s a message piped on the cake.

Go to 67 Sheldon Lane.
Love, Mum
x

It’s a chocolate cake with strawberries on top. Win.

***

A card shop. God, I hope I’m not going to be handed another four-page greetings card. I can’t handle any more schmaltz.

Ah, balloons. I can see them at the back of the shop – they’ve got my face on them. Cringe.

“Thank goodness you’re here. I’m sick of these balloons cluttering up my shop, missus.”

“Sorry,” I say with an apologetic smile, but I don’t know why; it’s not like I ordered 30 odd bloody helium balloons with my own mug printed on them. I’m going to have to carry them through the streets, aren’t I? How embarrassing.

The grumpy shop owner hands over the strings, and I see there’s a gift tag attached.

Meet me at The Cross Keys Inn for a drink. Mum x

I was quite hoping to have some free time to review my 30 Before 30 list – see which ones I could try and tick off quickly. I could probably go on the London Eye sometime soon. Maybe I’ll drag Mum along with me. She’d like a nice day out in “that London” as she calls it.

Oh well, a birthday drink will be nice, I suppose. She better be buying.

***

The pub looks closed. I can’t see any lights on in the windows. I hope I haven’t got the wrong Cross Keys. There’s three of them in this town alone, but it’s usually this one we go to. Must make mental note to call my pub something a bit more unique when I get around to opening one. Was that on my 30 Before 30 list? If it is I suppose it’ll have to be moved over to 40 Before 40. Is that even a thing? Maybe it shouldn’t be. Sounds like a lot of pressure.

I better try the doors, I suppose. Maybe they’re just trying to conserve electricity.

I guess so, because it’s open. And it’s eerily quiet inside.

“SURPRISE!”

“FUCKING HELL!”

“Language, Kate!”

Everyone’s laughing at me. And I mean everyone. Everyone’s here. Work people, old friends from high school, all the relatives. Is that? Shit, it is; it’s my ex-boyfriend. Gross. What are they all doing here? It’s only my 29th, for God’s sake.

I look at Mum, and then I look at the banner that’s pinned up across the wall behind her. Then I look at her again. She looks sheepish.

“Mum?”

“Yes. I’ve got some news, love.”

I look at the banner again.

Happy 30th Birthday!

30? Does she really think it’s my 30th? God, this is so embarrassing.

“I’m 29, Mum.”

“No. I’m sorry, love. You’re 30. I checked your birth certificate. I’d got your birthday muddled for years.”

I go cold. Then I go all hot and I think I’m going to be sick. I gawp at her, and at everyone around her. They’re all wincing.

“Serious?”

She nods.

“How could you get it a whole year wrong?”

“Well I was dosed up on co-codamols the first few years of your life. You ripped me from here to here, I was in a lot of pain,” she says. Everyone winces even harder. “I didn’t know my arse from my elbow, love, never mind the year. I’m so sorry.”

This can’t be happening.

I’ve lost a year of my life. A whole year. Which birthday did I celebrate twice over? How could this have happened?

Shit.

“My 30 Before 30,” I say. “I’ve achieved nothing.”

Everyone’s looking at me like I’ve just been told I’m dying. Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday is blaring painfully loudly without anyone speaking and I wish I could tell him to piss off.

“Glass of champers?” says a member of the bar staff. He’s holding a glass and a bottle.

I smile at him and take the bottle gratefully. “Can I just have a big straw?” I say.

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Author: Ellie Scott

Ellie Scott is a freelance copywriter and fiction writer from Sheffield, UK. She writes speculative and silly short stories and flash fiction. She has published two short story collections - 'Merry Bloody Christmas' and 'Come What May Day'. In 2018 she was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize Short Story Competition. She can often be found loitering on Twitter (@itsemscott), Instagram (@tinysillystories) and Medium (@elliemaryscott).

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