(Name) slung her bag over her shoulder and hauled her three text books into her arms. The driver slammed the trunk doors of the shuttle closed and drove away, leaving behind a cloud of dust. She was unable to move out of the way in time. Coughing and sputtering, (Name) nearly dragged herself up to her dorm room. Never before had she hated those two flights of stairs so much nor had she ever been so tired. Taking three tests in a row was exhausting.
During the first exam, she was energized after having drunk almost four cups of coffee before class. Caffeine, after all, was your best friend after a whole night of studying. However, its effects began to wear off halfway through test number two. By the third examination, her energy had crashed. The letters on the paper were dancing and she was nodding off to the silent beat of sleep. Later on, she'd stumbled onto the shuttle and fallen asleep in her seat. The driver had to wake her up when they arrived at the dorm.
Nearly sleepwalking, she fumbled with balancing her books so she could fish her keys out from her bag. Seconds later, she found the right key out of four. (Name) put a little more bounce to her step as she strode to her door, thinking of a delightfully long soak in the tub to wash away the day. She felt her foot nudge something at her doorstep as she jammed the key into the lock. Looking down, she saw a tiny box at her feet. Somehow, she managed to pick it up, go into her dorm, and set her load on the coffee table without dropping anything.
The box fit in the palm of her hand. It was minty green with white polka dots and a white ribbon. (Name) carefully opened the box, setting the ribbon aside. The sweet scent of sugar and flowers wafted into her nose. Peering in, she felt a smile tug at her lips. Inside was a note and a miniature, glittering red camellia. (Name) took the note out first.
"Roses are red, Violets are blue," she read aloud, "Follow my trail, and find my surprise for you."
The cheesy little poem seemed to remind her of someone for a second, but the memory fluttered away before she could grasp it. Shrugging it off, (Name) turned the note over. Just as in the front, there was a message written there in familiar elegant print.
"A red camellia for the flame of my heart," it said. "Find the next where your day takes a start."
At the bottom was a footnote that instructed her to please not eat the flower and to take it along for the treasure hunt. (Name) blinked in confusion and picked up the red camellia. To her surprise, the petals felt like they were made of some sort of smooth paste. The scent of sugar floated up her nose. She realized this was one of those sugar flowers bakers used to decorate cakes – and a very intricate one at that. Setting it back in the box with the note, (Name) stood and stretched. As tired as she was, the treasure hunt poked at her curiosity. She decided to satisfy it.
Placing the box in a bag along with her keys, she made her way out of her dorm. Approaching the closed gate at the exit, (Name) spotted a miniature, russet box on the sidewalk. She hastily unlocked the gate and swung it open, scooping her prize up. That one was easy. Inside it was another note and a tiny blue tulip made of sugar paste.
"A tulip for the perfect lover," it said. "Find another before the house of the Perfect Father."
(Name) mentally begged the crisp pre-winter breeze to cool down her cheeks. The suspicion of who the treasure master was flared in the back of her mind. She shook her head and shooed it away as she put the russet box in her bag. A sigh escaped her as she began to walk, legs already aching at the thought of the long way she'd have to journey to her destination. Beside her strolled the ghost of her suspicions, refusing to rest.
After about thirty minutes, she arrived at the cathedral. Its enormous stained glass windows glinted with hues of orange and ocher in the evening sung. Gray stonework and red shingle roofs completed the exterior of the castle-like structure. (Name) slowly climbed the set of steps before the impressive mahogany doors of the cathedral. Resting at their feet was a white box. She quickly scooped it up. Within it laid a sugar paste forget-me-not and a note.
"Faithful love, forget-me-not," said the note. "Find the next at our favorite spot."
The ghost of her suspicions slightly solidified in her mind. If she was right, the treasure master was Arthur Kirkland. (Name) had befriended him a few days after classes had started, having bumped into him as they were switching lecture halls. Blonde, green eyed, and bushy browed, Arthur had made a big impression on her. He'd been the perfect gentleman – something she adored in men – and helped her back up, apologizing continuously. Conflict settled and apologies deflected, they'd headed their separate ways. Yet, they kept meeting up again and again until their friendship bloomed. And, apparently, it had blossomed into something else for Arthur.
Once the ivory box was securely in the bag, (Name) set off to hers and Arthur's favorite spot: a bench in a nearby park that looked towards a gorgeous garden. It was only a five minute walk, so her legs were very grateful. Her ears were also thankful, for the heavy honking of traffic gave way to the soft murmur of the leaves and cool breeze. Relaxed, (Name) approached the bench and plucked the lilac box from its perch. Her prize came in the shape of a sugary orange blossom and an equally sweet note.
"Sweet orange blossom, your purity equals your loveliness," read the note. "Find me where the world is soundless."
(Name) bit her lip in thought, setting the box into her bag with its counterparts. Soundless obviously means that there is silence. The only truly silent place in this part of town was in a bookshop near the seashore. Arthur had taken her there once. (Name) hoped she could remember the way.
After what seemed like hours of walking – in reality being thirty minutes –, she arrived at the bookstore. It was a sturdy wooden building with two floors painted in creams, pastel blues, and tangerines. The beach was ten minutes away by foot and the city fifteen by car, so the area was pleasantly soundless. It was a lovely place with clean roads and neatly trimmed patches of grass, but visitors were few due to the distance from the busy life in the city. Even if the drive was short, the noiselessness seemed to frighten most city dwellers. Those who did venture out were seekers of peace and a good book to read, much like (Name) and Arthur.
Scanning the vicinity of the bookshop, (Name) spotted the next clue sitting on the windowsill. Popping the box open, she found a white lilac made of sugar paste and one more note inside.
"To my dear white lilac, my first dream of love," it said. "Find the next and view the endless blue from above."
Her bag was almost full now. One more and she'd have to find a way to carry any others. As for the clue, (Name)'s brain protested at the thought of working any more. She was already running on fumes. Her stomach was rumbling and her legs ached. However, her curiosity was still in control and she pondered on. "Endless blue" could symbolize one of two things: the sky or the sea. (Name) immediately discarded the sky, for it was currently painted tangerine and periwinkle due to the approaching sunset. The only thing left was the sea.
As she trudged down the slightly beaten path to the beach, (Name) began to hope this hunt was ending. It was nearly sunset and she had to walk all the way back home. She cursed herself for following her curiosity's need to discover where the trail of tiny boxes like the orange one half buried at the bottom of a sandy dune led. Grumbling, she dusted it off, hoping it was the last one. The pink and white sugar paste rose made her smile a little, but the note caused a blush and a groan.
"My blushing white rose, I love you still and always will," it said. "Go ahead and climb this hill."
The box crowned the pile of its brethren as she huffed. If this was truly Arthur's doing, she was going to give him a good smack upside the head when she saw him. The notes were sweet and the idea cute, but the walk was exasperating. Climbing the dune was even worse. Her feet sank into the sand, grains slipping into her shoes and making her uncomfortable. (Name) nearly fell to her knees when she reached the top. It was then that her reality was suspended.
The sun sank into its watery bed, swaying waves of molten gold running away from its brilliance and greedily lapping up the bullion grains that made up the shore. Crimsons, gingers, and canary yellows were splashed on the celestial canvas, puffs of pastel citrus and ochre floating here and there. Their light shadows blended with the thick darkness behind the deep sienna rocks, painting silhouettes on the glittering sand.
And amongst the sparkling grains were dozens and dozens of seashells arranged into the shape of fully bloomed rose. The petals on the left brushed the edge of a checkered blanket in wine and ivory. Candles tried to compete with the radiant glow of the sunset and plates of succulent ham and mashed potatoes tempted the salty air with their savory scent. In the center was a cake whose top had the words "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" written in deep crimson frosting. On its perimeter were six bunches of green sugar paste, three leaves each, which seemed to be designed to accommodate six different flowers.
(Name)'s breath caught in her throat. Sitting on the blanket was her best friend, Arthur Kirkland. He was dressed in a white button-up shirt, loose black vest, rolled up ebony slacks, and no shoes. Blonde hair as messy as ever and peridot eyes glinting with the candlelight, he looked even more wonderful than the scenery. He beckoned her over and she skidded down the dune.
"Arthur," she said. "What's all this?"
"I knew you'd forget your birthday again, love," he replied. "So I took the liberty of setting up this surprise for you."
"And the notes?"
He flushed and mumbled, "That was a more personal matter…"
"A peach rose symbolizes the wish of being together as a couple," Arthur murmured as he fiddled with the hem of his pants.
Suddenly, (Name) realized that the seashells that formed the rose on the sand were all a peach color. Heat flooded her cheeks as she connected two and two together. Arthur stood up and took the bag of tiny boxes with him, placing each sugar flower in its rightful spot. She watched him intently, noticing how his hands shook. He wouldn't meet her eyes and his cheeks were sun burnt. (Name) took his trembling hands in hers.
"Arthur, do you know what the ambrosia flower symbolizes?"
"Your love is reciprocated," he said softly.
"May I give you an ambrosia?"
His whole face lit up, a smile blossoming on his lips.
"Of course, my darling."
Legends say ambrosia is the nectar of the gods. A florist would tell you it represents that you return someone's love. For (Name), ambrosia is a sweet, sweet kiss.