The days following were a blur of events and emotions for Tonya. She bottled her thoughts and prepared herself by going to the gym each day for several hours after work. After she showered and toweled off, she dressed at her locker and headed to the front desk.
“Checking out?” The young guy at the counter asked.
“Yes.” She held out her key chain card as he scanned it.
“Got any plans for the weekend?”
“I’ve got an event that starts on Friday and goes through the weekend. But other than that, nothing out of the norm.”
“What’s the event?”
She faltered a moment, debating on whether to answer with the truth. “Um…I’m going to the Arena Games, actually.”
He froze as a statue, “The Arena Games? Like the secret Arena Games?”
All she could do was nod.
“How did you get a ticket for that? I’ve been trying for years to watch them.”
“I got an invitation.”
“Wait, you’re in the Arena Games? Like, a contestant?” Tonya nodded again. The guy was losing himself and growing louder as he spoke, “How did you…How did you get in the Games?”
“A letter showed up at my door with instructions. That’s all I know.”
“And you’re doing it?” She nodded in answer. Using his hands, he emulated with sound effects his head blowing up. “You…are…awesome. I hope you win. Good luck.”
“Thanks.” She grabbed her stuff and flew out the front door.
In her apartment, she dropped her stuff on the couch as well as herself. “What did I get myself into?”
Her eyes traveled around her spotless apartment. The pictures on the wall were perfect and level. The minimalist decor tastefully done. Pillows firm and crease-free. Every item was in place and orderly. Seeing her pile of stuff on the couch, she debated for two seconds before getting up and putting them away.
Wanting to take her mind off of the day, she went to the bathroom and ran hot water into the tub. She dropped a lavender bath bomb in the water and watched it dissolve and fizz, releasing her favorite fragrance into the air. Tonya stayed in the water until it grew cool. She then dressed for bed and tuned in to a restful night sleep.
It was Friday, the first day of the event. Looking at the instructions, she found the location and check in time. She packed a light bag with a change of clothes and a few toiletries and left it near the door. Work proved to be a typical Friday with all the frenzy and preparations for the weekend. People were telling of plans and events but Tonya remained secluded in voicing her plans. Quitting time arrived with a line of people at the computer time clock itching to regain their freedom for the weekend. Tonya would have to hurry to get home and change clothes to get to the check in on time.
With no delays or hardships, Tonya stood in the parking lot of an old, run down building. Its massive size made it look like an old stadium, fitting for Arena Games. The instructions said to locate door 2F and follow the knocking instructions. She found a faded directory sign that showed the way to the door.
The unadorned, metal door was nothing special. There was no signs or any indication that what she was doing was even right. She looked around to see if anyone was watching her. The feeling that she was doing something illegal loomed over her. She followed the instructions and knocked four times and paused, two times and paused, ending after another three knocks. She stood there waiting for the door to open.
“I feel like an idiot.” No sooner had she said this did the door open out with a black sleeved arm holding it open.
“Get in.” The deep voice said.
If this was a prank, the person deserved an award, Tonya thought as she stepped into the darkened building with the steel door slamming shut behind her.
“Follow the white line to check in.” Tonya looked around and saw no one to embody the voice.
The white line on the floor reflected the poor lighting, giving her a direction to head. She could hear voices as she walked. At first it sounded like a small group of people whispering, but then she realized that she was in another room than the rest as the white line disappeared under a set of double doors. The silver push bar glinted in the dark like a lost diamond. Pushing the bar forward released a river of conversations from hundreds of people. It was humming like a hive; one that she hoped to become queen of by the end of the competition.
Swirling lights shined their colors across the expansive area. Lazer lights pierced the fog as women in diminished sports jerseys danced on stage. The music was thumping as the DJ bobbed with the beat. Tonya didn’t know if it was a club or a sports stadium.
“Miss?” The unfamiliar word brought her back to herself. A man seated at a white table wearing a referee shirt beckoned her with his hand. As she approached he asked, “Name?”
He searched for her name on the tablet next to him. “Yes, Tonya Stennard. Here is your pass. Wear it at all times unless directed otherwise.” A lanyard with Arena Games stitched on it held a picture of her.
As Tonya looked at it, her name caught her eye. “Um, they misspelled my last name. It should be Stennard, not Spartan.”
The man smiled at her. “Here at the Games, you are known as Tonya Spartan.”
TO BE CONTINUED…