In The Eye Of The Storm

Fifteen. The turning point of my life. The day when I found out that I was not an Adams; I am Black.

My name is Carrisa Black, eighteen years old, haunted by a man in the shadows, running through the fog that blinds me from my path to a normal future and hoping to know who my real parents are. I am pushed into the eye of the storm.

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4. Welcome to The PerformingArts Studios

Tuesday, May 20, 2008, 12:46 pm

Sitting on the wooden bench of the park, I looked around, patiently waiting for time to pass and for someone to approach me.

 

Alley Way wasn’t exactly your typical park. Yes, it had trees, flowers and other simple plants I couldn’t name with some statues and benches here and there, and a little fountain in centre, but it was square-shaped park that was only two football fields big and was bang smack in the middle of the city, with the roads directly next to the pedestrian pavement. Also, alleyways surrounded and glass skyscrapers towered over the park, somehow casting timid shadows on some parts of the area. Still, not exactly the best place to have a private talk. Nevertheless, people chose this place to meet up with friends and other strangers, which also included the anonymous person willing to meet me.

 

As I watched men, women, children and joggers pass by, I wondered who would be the one paying me a visit and probably giving me answers I needed and craved for. It could be anybody. For all I knew, the person might already be here. I kept my eyes alert, scanning the area for any unusual behaviour or interestingly dressed individual.

 

There! My eyes widen and steadied at a figure lurking in a deep alleyway to my left. He was just standing there, with a hat on his head, black glasses and high-collared long-coat to hide his face. It was him: The Silhouetted Man! Slowly, I got up from the bench, keeping my sights on him, and started my way to the man of secrets and shadows. But as he realised my intentions, he disappeared, letting the dark behind engulf him.

 

You are not getting away from me! I thought. Not again!

 

I broke into a sprint and quickly crossed the road with horns blaring behind me. Soon, all I saw was little light and I halted, fearing I would bump too hard into a wall and lose the guy. I reached out for the cold, damp walls on either side of me while creeping my way into the depths of unknown. Eventually, my eyes adjusted to the strange pitch-blackness of the path. I could see the corners and changes of directions. There was an inky blob in the other end of the alleyway, and as I continued to stare at it, it created a shape of a person. A…man. I ran. While my mind was focused on the still blackness, I didn’t realise that there was a tall plank on the floor, in my way.

 

“Ah!” I tripped over and fell face first on the cold, hard ground. “This is why you should be more careful,” I scolded myself, bringing myself to my feet. Once I was re-orientated, I looked around and found that the blob was gone. Damn!

 

But was there was a switched on torch. I picked it up and was relieved to be able to see things more clearly if not everything at once. The circle of light stopped at a red arrow pointing to the left on the wall where I saw Silhouetted Man.

 

He wants me to go that way. I guessed.

 

At a slow pace, I walked cautiously down the maze that was set for me, turning at every corner and following other similar looking red arrows. It was a long road to the unexplored, vigilant for anything that could cause me harm and attentive for any signs of Silhouetted Man. Left. Right. Left. Right. Right. I began to feel the emptiness of the place and my adrenalin started to wear away. The sense of doubt and being lost was crawling up my body; overwhelming and crushing my hopes of finding him, or even getting out of this place. The only thing that was holding me to reality was the little directions around the place, the red arrows that lead me somewhere I didn’t know yet.

 

After twenty-five agonising minutes of numerous twist and turns, the illumination from the torchlight revealed a metal door. It was at the end of the straight, narrow path in front of me, with light from the other side finding its way through the limited gaps around the door, creating some kind of halo, enticing me to come forward and open it. There was no telling what was the behind the door, but judging by what this city’s reputation – expensive offices at every corner – I would guess that it was a business building, and inside, business men and women would be doing their business, working their heads off. However, I was not able to hear a single sound from either side; it was pin drop silence. Then again, walls and doors could be made to insulate sound.

 

I didn’t feel desperate anymore, I was calmer that I had a discovery and this might lead me to whatever I am looking for. Answers. I reached out to the knob. At first touch, it was icy cold, confirming that this building has a lot of money put into it and therefore would be rather chilly air-conditioning. Steadily, I twisted the knob and carefully pushed open the surprisingly light door to find myself in a big, white room.

 

Actually no, I was in a white reception area. People were entering from a crystal clear glass, automatic, floor-to-ceiling sliding door that was ten metres wide and five metres tall. Some stopped at the reception desk, that was in the middle only a few metres away from the glass, while others walked round it and to the grand, dinging, gold-coloured elevators that was at the far side of the elongated hall. There were also doors equally spread on both sides of rectangular lobby and by the looks of it when people open them just a crack, they were like meeting rooms. I looked around one more time, but still did not seem like I recognised this place. Why would I anyway? I headed for the receptionist, walking ever so normally so no one would think I didn’t belong.

 

Printed on the front of the desk was the company’s name:

 

PerformingArts Studios

 

Hmm. I thought. Why would I be brought here?

 

Approaching the front desk, I said, “hi.”

 

A pretty looking lady with chestnut hair and light brown eyes looked up at me, “welcome to the PerformingArts Studios, how may I help you, miss?”

 

“Have you seen a guy pass by here, um, six-foot-three maybe? With a hat, sunglasses and a long-coat with a high collar?”

 

“Sorry, miss, I haven’t seen anyone like the person you are describing,” she seemed genuinely sorry to me, and sounded like she was telling the truth.

 

“Um, ok, may I know what this company is all about?”

 

“Well, isn’t obvious?” she gave me a puzzled look, “it’s place for people who like to do performing arts.”

 

“Yeah,” I paused, thinking of what to say next, and nothing too suspicious. “Do you have brochures?”

 

“Yes, please help yourself,” she gestured to the side of the reception desk. There I saw different piles of leaflets, flyers and brochures. I picked up the one with the title ‘PerformingArts Studios: What We’re All About’.

 

I skimmed through it, “‘here in PerformingArts Studio,’ blah, blah, blah…‘we teach students different arts’…‘the hired workers are the best of the professionals at their work.’ Yeah right…‘proud to be able to your choice of arts education’…‘our founder and CEO, Mrs. Jenny Strickland, has a degree of Doctorate of Arts and is the world-class actor.’ Ah, this is what I need.”

 

A picture of Jenny Strickland was pasted at the top of the cramped page. She looked middle-aged and had ginger hair tied up into a bun, striking, blue eyes, thin lips, slightly pointed nose and chin and an oval-ish head. All in all: a damn serious face. Which intimidated me a bit. But, I needed to see her. Maybe she could tell me about Silhouetted Man.

 

“Hey, miss receptionist,” I called to the lady. She turned my way and I continued, “where can I see Mrs. Strickland?”

 

“At this hour,” she glanced at her watch, “she would be in her office. But you will need an appointment to be able to talk to her.”

 

“Just tell her: it’s important.”

 

“Tell you what, I’ll give her a call and see if she’s busy. If not, I’ll ask her if you can meet her. Sounds good?”

 

“Great.”

 

The lady picked up the phone beside her and speed-dialled to whomever she was calling to (there is always a possibility that Mrs. Strickland had an assistant to answer all her calls). After a few moments of me standing and waiting, she put down the phone and said, “alright, Mrs. Strickland has agreed to meet you, only as long as you won’t take too much of her time. She’s at the twentieth floor. You will find her office in the next corridor to the right from the one you get off from. It’s not hard to find.”

 

“Thank you, miss,” I looked at her name tag, “Fuller. And I all I need is ten minutes!” and made my way for the elevators. I pushed the up button and the elevator to my left dinged and opened. Excitedly, I hoped on and realised that the elevator had two doors, both directly opposite each other, and was surprisingly spacious compared to other ones that I have been on. I looked at the button pad. Different levels had specific uses.

 

YOU WILL NEED A KEYCARD TO ENTER THE RESTRICTED AREAS

30 – RESTRICTED AREA

29 – RESTRICTED AREA

28 – RESTRICTED AREA

27 – RESTRICTED AREA

26 – RESTRICTED AREA

25 – RESTRICTED AREA

24 – RESTRICTED AREA

23 – RESTRICTED AREA

22 – RESTRICTED AREA

21 – RESTRICTED AREA

20 – CEO AND HIGH-RANK STAFF FLOOR

19 – STORAGE ROOMS

18 – DRAMA

17 – DRAMA

16 – DRAMA

15 – DRAMA

14 – DRAMA

13 – ART

12 – ART

11 – ART

10 – ART

09 – ART

08 – MUSIC

07 – MUSIC

06 – MUSIC

05 – MUSIC

04 – MUSIC

03 – RESTAURANT

02 – PRACTICING STUDIOS AND PERFORMINGARTS HALL

01 – LOBBY/RECEPTION

 

I wonder what’s in those restricted floors. That’s enough floors to be able to hide something huge! I thought to myself, then pressed the twentieth.

 

After precisely twenty-five seconds later, I got off and found myself in a grey, dull corridor that appeared to be relatively empty, except for some plant pots here and there. I guess the phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ was right; well in this case, don’t judge the building. I wondered if all that floors were like this or it was made dull only because the CEO wanted and the rest had gold and silver with all sorts of colours. I was facing a floor-to-ceiling window, similar to the one in the reception area but doesn’t open, that showed a spectacular view of the adjacent tinted-glass building that was only ten metres away. On the other side of the corridor were doors that, also like the lobby downstairs, were spread equally across the wall. I strolled my way to the left and turned the corner. She was right; Mrs. Strickland’s office wasn’t to miss. Her door was the only one that was wooden and inscribed on a gold-platting was her name, title and room number: Jenny Strickland, founder and CEO, Room 2001. I knocked on the mahogany door and waited.

 

“Come in!” a voice called. I twisted the brass handle, pushed and closed the heavy door. She was sitting on a business chair behind a black exclusive table that was seemingly clean for a CEO of a major company; only a few pens in a penholder and small piles of paper were present on the tabletop. Then again, Jenny Strickland’s face reflected order and discipline.

 

“Good afternoon, Mrs Strickland, my name is Carrisa Black-”

 

“Sit over there,” she pointed at a seat closest to me. She was wearing a black business suit and a black, tight pencil-skirt with black stockings and black high-heels. Her hair tied up like how it was in the picture on the brochure.

 

I sat down on a grey cushioned chair and from looking around the room, everything in here was also grey, though there were some whites and blacks on tables and other decorations.

 

“Please, Miss Black, make it quick,” her tone was firm, “as you can see, I am a very busy woman.”

 

No, I can’t see. I thought with annoyance and made sure my face didn’t show the same thing.

 

“Mrs Strickland, there has been a man following me for the past six weeks, but I didn’t get his face. Then-”

 

“Where is this leading to?” there was a glint of irritation in her voice.

 

“Please, just listen to what I have to say. This man, I saw him about an hour ago near Alley Way Park. So I followed him. But after a few minutes, I kind of…lost him,” she started to raise her hand, but I pushed through, “but he left signs, red arrows, and they lead me here. To this building. There has to be a reason why he brought me here.”

 

“How do you know that it was the same man who made those red arrows or is those red arrows were painted newly at all?”

 

“I don’t. But I what I do know is that someone lead me here!”

 

“Ms. Black, why would someone bring you here, to the PerformingArts Studio? Unless you’re planning of enrolling here. Is this why you are making such a ridiculous story?”

 

“No!” I was standing, now, angry that she was not listening to me. So much frustration was boiling up inside of me in the past month and a few and now I was letting it all out on some one who I didn’t know, who was just in front of me, sitting calmly on her chair.

 

“Miss Black, sit down,” she ordered and somehow I obeyed. I didn’t know why I would oblige to her will, but I couldn’t ponder on that. Not when I was fuming. Then she smiled and slowly started to nod her head.

 

“Why are you smiling like that?” I asked her with a bit more of an impatient tone than I would have liked.

 

“How old are you?”

 

“Eighteen.”

 

“I realise you would a good addition to our team,” she told me, still smiling.

 

“Our team?”

 

“Are you studying?” she didn’t answer my question. I noticed. Maybe she didn’t get it as one.

 

“No.”

 

“Are you working?”

 

“No.”

 

“Gap year, huh?”

 

“Yes.”

 

She bent forward to lean on her glass table, hands held together as if she was praying and spoke, “then I am offering a free place in our acting special class that starts two days from now. What do you say?”

 

It took me by surprise, but I quickly recovered and answered, “um, I have to think about it.”

 

“Think quickly, Miss Black, because I am only taking applications until this time tomorrow,” she slid a business card in front of me, “send it to me at that email address.” I took the card as she stood and stretched arm towards me, opening her hand for a shake. I looked at it, clasped and shook her hand. I was astonished by how strong Mrs Strickland’s grip was.

 

Before I opened the door to leave, she said, “I hope that we meet again, Miss Carrisa Black. It would be delightful,” and I shut the door.

 

 

Tuesday, May 20, 2008, 3:07 pm

When I arrived home, they were already back from the party. The white four-wheel Honda was parked and everyone was inside, the adults sitting on the sofa, reciting exciting stories from the past few hours, and the boys were nowhere to be found.

 

Found a new friend, huh, bro? I thought with a concealed grin.

 

“Carrisa! How was it?” as always, mum was the first one to greet me.

 

“Good, actually. I was offered a free spot in a special class in the PerformingArts Studios,” the thrilled expression that was visible on her face was priceless to see, “but I’m not sure if I should go.”

 

“What are you talking about? Take the opportunity! Say yes!” now she was hugging me, and my arms were around her small waist, “I knew you would find something for you, Carrisa! I knew I could count on my daughter.”

 

I’m sorry, mum, but I’m not your daughter. At least, not your real daughter. I thought sadly, but keeping the smile on my face.

 

Tuesday, May 20, 2008, 8:45 pm

After dinner, I went to my room and took out the business card that Mrs Strickland gave me earlier today. Then, I switched on my laptop, opened my Gmail account and started writing a letter.

 

Dear Mrs Jenny Strickland,

I would like to join your special acting class that starts on Thursday. This would great be a appreciation to me…

 

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