Arda woke up to the beeping of the alarm clock on her bedside table.
Without looking, she already knew that it was 7:00am. She had set the alarm clock the previous night to sound at exactly 7:00am so that she would have enough time to prepare for the day.
Although, the room curtains were down, the evidence of daylight was obvious.
The room was already bright and from the windows of transparent glass, natural light effortlessly seeped in through the dividing space between the sliding window curtains.
Arda found herself frowning at the alarm clock even though it was only doing its job.
She had to report to her project supervisor at 9:00am and then meet up with Luke for lunch. It would be their first date as a couple and the thought of it excited her. The thought also brought to her mind, the bizarre note and gift she had received last night.
She hated to admit it but she could not completely dismiss the message as a prank because of the expensive gift attached to it.
Arda sat up on the bed, threw her legs onto the floor, reached for the alarm clock and turned it off.
The silence as soon as the insistent beeping ceased, was welcoming and she stretched with a yawn, one hand over her gaping mouth.
She was still feeling sleepy and she knew it was because she had gone to bed late, thanks to her birthday party the previous night.
She had cleaned up the mess from the party with Jacob and Karina before going to bed and she was exhausted. She knew her friends were probably not as exhausted as she was. They both had an inner strength and energy that she admired.
Arda pushed herself off the bed and began preparing for the day. She dressed her bed, brushed her teeth in the bathroom and took a bath.
After creaming her body, she put on lingerie, wrapped a big towel around her body and sat down before the mirror at the dressing table. Then she picked up her hairbrush and started brushing her hair, her eyes on her reflection.
She had straight caramel colored hair that rested on her shoulders and she liked to wear it in a side part. Her hair color matched the color of her light brown eyes. Her lips were full and set in a face that nicely accommodated her wide set eyes and narrow nose.
On the dressing table was a picture of her, Jacob and Karina, standing at a leisure park.
Jacob was standing between her and Karina, his hands around them as they all smiled into the camera.
Beside the picture was a photograph of her and her family-Her father, mother and sister who was a couple of years younger than she was.
Her sister had dark hair like her parents but Arda was the only one with brown hair. And while Arda's eyes were light brown, her sister had blue eyes that mirrored their father’s. But Arda shared thesame color of eyes with their mother.
On skin color, Arda was darker than the three of them and sometimes when they appeared in public, people often said she looked like none of her family members but thank God for the same color of eyes that she shared with her mother.
Arda finished brushing her hair and touched the tattoo mark on her inner wrist. It was the image of a full moon. Anyone who saw it believed it was a tattoo.
At first glance, it actually looked like a tattoo but with a closer look, it had the markings of a mole right on her skin, hence it was a birthmark.
At an early age, her parents had told her to keep people believing that it was a tattoo so that they would not see her as a strange person.
To this day, she still obeyed them because she herself had come to find the mark, strange unlike when she was a child. She could still remember when she was about five.
In her pajamas, she had run into her parent’s bedroom, as they got ready for bed.
“Daddy, mummy what’s this?” she had asked, pointing at the mark and her dad had lifted her up, raised her hand and kissed it.
“It’s a tattoo.” her mum had responded.
“What’s a tattoo?” She had asked.
“A design on the body.” Her mother had answered. “We put it on you. Do you like it?”
“Yes. Very much.”
Her dad had kissed her cheek and her mum had drawn close to her, caressing the mark.
As she got older, she had begun to ask why the mark never faded and they would tell her it was because they had made it with a special ink. When she asked why her sister did not have one, they had told her it was because the special ink used was no longer in production by the time her sister was born.
By the time Arda was eight, they could not keep the truth from her anymore. Arda could vividly recall the night they had come to say goodnight to her and her sister.
She was lying beside her sister on the bed they shared and their parents were seated on either side of the bed. While she had her eyes open, her sister was already fast asleep.
“Arda, you are growing and we think it’s time to tell you the truth about your mark.” Said her father.
Arda smiled up at them, her head propped up on the soft fiber pillow. Somehow, her young brain had told her that something was not just right about her mark and finally, her parents were going to tell her the truth.
“Your mark is not a tattoo or design of any sort. It is a birthmark.” He told her.
“What does that mean?”
“You were born with it.” Her mother explained. “It is natural.”
Arda looked at the mark on her wrist as though she was seeing it for the first time. In a way, she was, because now she knew the truth about it and somehow, she found some peace in that knowledge.
“But why did you make me think it wasn’t natural?” she asked them.
“It’s to protect you.” Her mother answered.
“Let me ask you a question, Arda.” Her father said. “How would you feel if for example you saw someone with the image of the sun on their body and they told you that it was natural?”
Arda thought briefly about it. “I will think it was weird.”
“Exactly.” Her father responded and she understood their reasons for letting her believe otherwise about her mark.
“People will think I’m strange.” She said and somehow, she found the thought saddening.
“That’s why you have to keep the truth a secret okay?” her mum said and she nodded. “Yes mummy.”
“Good girl. If anyone asks, just keep telling them that it’s a tattoo, alright?” her father added and she nodded.
“Good night, Sweetheart. And remember to never draw unnecessary attention to your mark.” He said tenderly.
“Okay daddy, Goodnight.”
“Night baby.” Her mum said. “Always remember what your father has just said.”
“Sure, mum. Goodnight.”
She watched them leave and her dad turned off the room light at the wall socket, casting the room in darkness. She turned on the bed lamp just as they exited the bedroom, shutting the door behind them.
Arda took a deep breath, bringing her mind to the present. As she let her finger trace the mark, her eyes came to rest on a flier resting atop the dressing table.
It displayed varying birthmarks on the bodies of a mix of male and female models.
A Night of Uniqueness the title proclaimed. Flaunt your unique birthmark for a chance to win half a million bucks, the subtitle read.
Arda had been contemplating whether she should participate or not. Her parents had told her not to draw unnecessary attention to her mark but she reasoned that this event was just a show and the extra money would do her good.
Half a million bucks was a lot of money for barely any work. She could already imagine many things that she could do with the money.
Shifting her thoughts away from the competition, she focused on getting ready for the day.
Leaving the dressing table, she entered the walk-in closet, let her towel drop to the rug and slipped her body into a colorful summer dress that clung loosely to her slim figure. The dress flowed to her feet, the thin straps of the hand resting on her shoulders.
Arda picked up her towel from the ground and hung it in the bathroom before moving back to the dressing table where she applied minimal makeup to her face.
When she was done, she smiled at her reflection on the mirror. She was good to go. One glance at the wall clock and she saw that it was already 7:56 am. Damn, time truly waited for no one.
She slipped her legs into a pair of flat sandals, grabbed her backpack, stuck her phone inside and lingered as her eyes caught the gift on the note from last night.
It was lying at a corner on the dressing table. It really was beautiful and enigmatic. She drew closer to the table and touched it, wondering if she should wear it or not.