While the wind whistled through the trees, Jaya and her best friend, Austin, lay in her backyard. Beep, beep, beep went the door as Jaya’s mom, Mrs. Nallark, entered the house, so both kids got up and ran into the house.
“Mom, did I get any mail today?” Jaya asked. She had been waiting for another letter from her French pen pal.
“Is that all I get? No ‘hellos’ or even a ‘hey’?” Jaya’s mom replied.
“Hi, Mrs. Nallark. Did you have a good day?” Austin said cheerfully.
“See, Jaya? That is what I want when I get home from work. You did get a letter, but it’s not from your pen pal. It’s from your Great Uncle Timothy and it is addressed to Jaya and Austin!” exclaimed Mrs. Nallark.
Immediately, Jaya ran into the dining room, grabbed the letter, and ran back into the kitchen. She and Austin ripped open the unexpected letter and took it out. It read:
My dearest Jaya, and her best friend, Austin,
Your great, great, great grandmother owned a very special box. In it was “the meaning of life”. She instructed her heirs to pass on this box until it reached the fifth generation after her. That is you. She also instructed whoever had the box when the fifth generation was of age, to put the special keys in a secret place that they must find. I have already done that for you. Now you must find the keys to inherit “the meaning of life”. Your first clue is” Look for a tile on your number____ eye”.
Your Great Uncle Timothy Wilkins
P.S. I have included three tickets to London so that one of your parents can go with you. London is where you will find your next clue.
Mrs. Nallark read the letter and took out the tickets. “I will go with you on your adventure,” she declared. “I haven’t had good fun in a while!”
After telling Austin’s parents about the trip and getting permission for him to go, Mrs. Nallark, Jaya, and Austin set out on their journey.
On the plane to London, Austin and Jaya were discussing where the key might be hidden. “‘Look for a tile on your number ___ eye.’ That’s what the clue is,” Austin stated.
“Yeah, it’s really confusing.”
“Well, we know it has something to do with… oof. The person sitting next to me keeps trying to sleep on me!” Austin exclaimed as he pushed his seat partner away from him. “Anyway, it has to do with an eye. Do you know of any famous London eyes?”
“That’s it! The next clue is at the London Eye! Good job!” Jaya said excitedly. “Now we just need to figure out the number part.”
Austin replied, “When we get to the London Eye, we might be able to see something with numbers.” The threesome got off the plane, checked in at the hotel, which was called Covent Garden Hotel, and then went to the London Eye.
When they got there, Austin explained to Jaya’s mom that they needed to look for numbers. Looking for numbers wasn’t very hard because soon after they started searching, Jaya called out, “There are numbers on the Ferris Wheel!”
“Now we just need to figure out what to do with the numbers. Maybe we need to look for a specific number,” Austin told Jaya and her mom.
“My father always told me that ‘the best way to find answers is by asking questions’ so that is what we should do. Maybe we should ask the ride operator,” suggested Mrs. Nallark. So, they all went over to the operator and asked him if he knew Timothy Wilkins. Saying that he did indeed know Timothy Wilkins, the operator told them that the number was 23 and that they needed to figure out what to do with it. Then he gave them all tickets to ride the Ferris wheel.
Soon they soon realized that the number 23 was referring to the Ferris wheel car and that they probably needed to ride in that car. So, using the tickets that they had just gotten, they got into the car. There they found a little glass tile with the word “Meaning” on it, a clue, and three plane tickets to Egypt.
“This must be the first key,” Jaya said excitedly. “Let’s read the next clue!”
To find your next tile, you need to go to the great place that points to the sky.
“There are tickets to Egypt! I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt! What in Egypt points to the sky?” Asked Austin. All three sat on the Ferris wheel thinking. “Ooh! Ooh! I got it! The Great Pyramid at Giza! It’s a pyramid, so it ‘points to the sky’!” Austin said, quoting from the clue.
“No. It’s obviously the Heliopolis Obelisk in Cairo. It’s the oldest obelisk in Egypt,” explained Jaya.
“NO!” yelled Austin. “Why would they italicize the GREAT, if the clue led to the OLD obelisk?”
“It’s at the Obelisk!”
“Obelisk!” And just like that the friends, who had been friends for forever and always, stopped being friends.
On day two of their adventure, Jaya, her mom, and her best friend got on a plane to Egypt. “I’m so excited! I’ve always dreamed of going to Egypt!” said Austin to Ms. Nallark, jittering with excitement.
When they landed, they didn’t even bother checking into their hotel, they went straight to the Great Pyramid because Mrs. Nallark had sided with Austin and agreed that the clue probably was at the Great Pyramid at Giza. When the not-friend kids and Mrs. Nallark got to the pyramid, they once again used the asking-questions tactic. The tour guide at the bottom of the pyramid seemed like a good person to talk to, so they went over to him.
Since neither of the children wanted to talk, Jaya’s mom asked the guide, “Do you know a Timothy Wilkins? We need to know if you have anything from him.”
“Hmmm. Timothy Wilkins, you say? Oh! Yes! I am supposed to give you this,” the guide said as she pulled out a trio of tickets to Paris, a glass tile with the word “of,” and a note, which read:
Up, up and up. I have many stairs. Up, up, up.
“We need to go to the Eiffel Tower,” Jaya and Austin said in unison and then they both turned away.
“I said it first and I thought you were my friend and you would be nice to me!” shouted Jaya.
“We are not friends!” Austin angrily screamed.
“I guess we can just skip going to the hotel and head to the airport because our plane is in two hours,” Mrs. Nallark stated. That being said, the mom and the still-fighting kids were on their way to Paris.
In Paris, the group yet again skipped the hotel and headed to the Eiffel Tower in a taxi smelling of dead fish. Near the Eiffel Tower were a lot of shops, so Jaya and her opposite-of-a-best-friend co-traveler went to a bakery and got croissants. After their quick snack break, the trio started to try to figure out what to do next. “Mom, I think we need to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower,” Jaya said matter-of-factly.
“I think you’re right, Jaya. Up we go!” said Mrs. Nallark. And up they did go. At the top, they searched for anything that might be helpful.
Finally, Austin shouted, “I found something I think it is the next clue!”
“I could have easily found that,” said Jaya, annoyed at her used-to-be friend, but she went over to him and read the note.
You have found your last tile. Now you have to go to 2839 Scaford Lane, Albany, NY 12212. I have enclosed three tickets to New York. There you will meet me and I will give you “the meaning of life.” I must warn you, when you open the box there is one last puzzle to complete. Your adult supervisor/helper cannot assist you in any way while you put together the last puzzle.
Your Great Uncle Timothy Wilkins
Inside the envelope, was the last glass tile, which said, “Life.” “Oh, I get it! The tiles spell out ‘Meaning of Life’,” explained Jaya. “We stayed in one out of three of our hotels. Can we stay in this last one? Please.”
“Sure we can, Jaya,” replied her mom.
“Finally, we’re going back home to the U.S.A. where I can hang out with my real friends,” said Austin exhaustedly. After sleeping the night in the hotel at Jaya’s request, the tired-from-adventuring group went to New York, their last destination.
When they arrived at 2839 Scaford Lane, they were greeted by a woman in a maid’s uniform.
“Hello! Welcome to the Wilkins Estate. I am Mary, Mr. Wilkins’ housemaid. Please come in. He has been expecting you,” she explained and then took us up to the top of the grand house. There, Jaya, Austin, and Mrs. Nallark met Mr. Wilkins for the first time.
“Jaya. Austin. Mrs. Nallark. Good afternoon,” he greeted the group as he noticed that something was wrong with how the kids were acting with each other the kids.
“What is going on? Is something wrong?”
“Umm, well, Jaya and Austin had a fight, and now they aren’t friends,” Mrs. Nallark explained to her uncle. He looked concerned for a second, but then he smiled. It wasn’t a big smile. You couldn’t see it unless you were trying to look for it, but it was there.
“Well, let’s get straight down to business. I presume you have all three tiles. May I see them?” he asked calmly. As Austin showed him the delicate glass tiles, he nodded as if in deep thought. “Well then, I guess it is time for me to give you my great grandma’s box.” He went into the next room and came back carrying an intricately designed box about the size of a small tissue box. On the box were three, square holes. “Please put your tiles in place.”
Jaya did as he said and put the three tiles in the holes, so that they read out “Meaning of Life.” When she set the last tile in place, the box slowly glided open. Inside the beautiful box sat two crystal puzzle pieces.
“Where’s the ‘Meaning of life’?” Austin asked.
“Oh, you will find it when you put the pieces together. My niece cannot help you. You and Jaya have to do it yourselves, and I know that you’re not friends anymore, but you will just have to be able to stay in the same room as her. Do you think you can handle that to get the ‘Meaning of Life’?” Austin grunted in reply.
“Well, we’ll leave you to it. Goodbye! If you need anything just push that little button over there and someone will come. Have fun! And remember, ‘The end lies in the beginning’,” Mr. Wilkins said as he ushered everybody, except the two kids, out of the room.
“Now what do we do?” asked Jaya.
“I don’t know about you, but I really want to figure out what the meaning of life is. And you can do what you want to, but I am putting these pieces together, whether you like it or not!” said Austin in annoyance. He tried to jam the pieces together, but it didn’t work. After a while, Austin let Jaya try and she did to no avail. They quarreled and argued and fought, but eventually they realized that they were really best friends all along and that friends are one of the most important things in life.
“We don’t need to open some lame box to figure out that the meaning of life is having true friends, like you, Austin,” Jaya said as they put the two pieces together, each holding one piece. As they did, words carved themselves into the crystal. They read:
Life has many meanings, but one of the most important is friendship.
Smiling, Austin said, “Wow. That was a little bit of magic, but I didn’t need magic puzzle pieces to tell me that all I needed was a true friend because I already figured that out when I met you, Jaya.”
“’The end lies in the beginning’. That’s what he said, and it is true. We were great friends in the beginning, and we are great friends now,” replied Jaya. The true friends realized that they had always needed each other and would always need each other, no matter what.