If there was one thing I knew about Alex, it was that once he had a firm grip on my hand, it would take something extremely important for him to let go. It was something I liked him for. He had this sort of protection over me, which was enforced from the moment he saw me to the moment one of us had to leave.
Even when the third contestant came in, he squeezed my had to comfort me because he knew I couldn't deal with strangers.
"Hey, I'm Alex," he greeted the stranger.
"I'm Lillian," I said, then promptly shut my mouth. Introductions were pretty much as far as I ever got.
"Hi." Replied the stranger. "I'm Archie."
Well, two things made me like Archie. One, he had curly hair. Two, he had a button nose. These two things gave me a description that I always liked in boys, and that description was adorable. Not, like, in a fit kind of way. More in a cute, nice-looking kind of way.
I moved my fringe out of my face. I really wanted to know if Archie knew how this thing worked because Alex didn't seem to, but my brain wouldn't let me get the words out. I frowned, and then resorted to my stock port way of talking to other people: by nudging Alex, and telling him.
"I wonder if he knows what's going on," I muttered to him. This was how I always talked to Alex's friends, as well. At first they enjoyed mocking me for it, but my ever-protective boyfriend soon put an end to that.
"Hey, do you know what's going on here?" he asked.
Archie looked up. "Uh, no, not really. But I'd like to. When I was invited it wasn't advertised at all like this."
"Oh, same," said Alex.
I frowned again. Nobody had any idea how frustrating it was wanting to talk so much and having shyness hold you back.
"Um," I started, before tripping completely over my sentence. I sighed and tried again. "I like- um, I like your..." then my voice completely failed, so I just tugged at my own hair to show what I meant.
Archie smiled. "Thanks. I like your skirt."
I just smiled and nodded my thanks at him.
Then we all sighed simultaneously, which made us all laugh at the same time.
Then I got an idea, but apparently I'd used up my confident dialogue quota for the day so there was no way I'd be able to tell anyone. Instead I shifted my hand, which told Alex that he needed to let go. He looked at me, confused. This was not something I would normally do.
"I'm fine, honestly," I insisted. My voice always magically reappeared when I talked to Alex, and it actually annoyed some people. He let go, but kept a watchful eye on me as I ran my hands along the wall, searching for a dent or protrusion. Sure enough, as I got to about halfway around the room, one of the bricks came loose. I pulled it out, and it seemed like there was some kind of board behind it.
Seeing where I was going with this, Archie got up and helped me work the bricks around it free until none would come loose. Alex then stood up and we all inspected it.
"It looks like a Snakes and Ladders game board," said Archie. I nodded in agreement.
Alex pointed out three lights in the start square, each a different colour. These were obviously meant to signify us, as there were three other lights there which weren't glowing.
"This looks like a very complicated game," Alex frowned as I ran my hand over the game. It was completely covered in tiny little bulbs.
And, yet again, I couldn't voice what I thought properly, and had to get Alex to say it for me.
"She thinks it's a map," he told Archie. "That the bulbs will light up according to where we are on the board." Then he continued with his own thoughts. "There's gotta be rooms that we go into, that's what the squares are for."
Archie nodded. "Why won't she talk? If you don't mind me asking." He wasn't impolite, but it was just strange because hardly anyone ever questioned my silence.
"She's shy," Alex said, taking my hand again.
I swallowed, and tried again at speech. "How-? Um, the room." I finally managed, then, realizing what I'd just said didn't even make sense, added, "It's locked."
They both looked at me, seeing what I meant. So we'd worked out how we'd be monitored. We still needed to get out of this room, and we had no idea how.