Eric walked in through the front door of his house. Ruby ran up to him while nearly tripping along the way. She wrapped her arms around him. Eric returned his daughter's hug with a smile.
"Easy there, tiger," Eric said.
"What took you so long?" Ruby asked. They both pulled away from the hug.
"Sorry about that, work was getting exciting and I lost track of time." He scratched the back of his neck while looking at Ruby suspiciously. "Anything new happen at school today?"
"Nothing much, I've just been thinking about my sixteenth birthday coming up."
Eric smiled while laughing slightly. "I can't wait for it."
Ruby frowned instantly. "Can I have a party with all of my friends, dad?"
"What do you mean?" He made a disappointed expression.
"Everyone else had big parties this year, I was hoping that I could have one too." Ruby's eyes grew larger, indicating innocence.
"Okay, I'll think about it."
A smile returned to Ruby's face. "Thanks dad." Ruby left the living room.
Eric felt crushed, but he quickly disregarded the emotion after realizing how selfish it was. He noticed that his wife entered the room.
"How was work today?" Clara asked.
The edges of Eric's lips stretched apart so far that his smile looked creepy. "I completed my project today, it was a huge success."
Clara went closer to him and kissed his forehead. "Congratulations, Eric!" The two of them kissed intimately.
A couple of weeks went by and Ruby's birthday was only a week away. Eric still never answered his daughter's question regarding her birthday party. He sat at the breakfast table with his family. Eric was drinking coffee while reading a newspaper, Clara was on her laptop checking emails while eating eggs, and Ruby lazily ate her cereal with an elbow on the table and a fist pressed up against her cheek.
Ruby spoke up, "Dad, can I have a party with my friends?" I don't care if the party's big or not."
Eric put down the newspaper and then sighed before responding to Ruby. "I'm sorry Ruby, but I already made arrangements with my boss." Ruby didn't say anything in response. Although, her disappointed expression was clear to her dad. Eric continued, "I understand that you must be tired of spending your birthdays with me every year—"
"That's not true. I love spending my birthdays with you. I just wanted things to be different for once."
"It will be different, I promise. I planned something spectacular for you."
"Like taking you to work with me to see my project."
Ruby beamed with excitement.
Clara became alerted of the conversation. "What, Eric?" Clara said. "You know that you can't take Ruby to work. She's got school on her birthday."
"Not anymore," Eric said, "her principal said that he'd be fine with it."
"And your boss?" Clara said.
"Him too," Eric said.
Clara looked unconvinced. She shook her head while Eric placed his hand on her shoulder.
"Trust me, everything's going to be just fine."
Ruby's birthday arrived. She and her dad were walking toward what seemed to be an office building. The building was three stories high with desks peering out of some of the windows. The two of them reached the main entrance. Above the double glass doors read, "Beyond Limits Incorporated."
Eric pressed the red button located next to the door on his right and began speaking into the speaker below it. "This is Dr. Eric Straden and his daughter Ruby Straden."A buzzing noise sounded. Eric pulled open the door for him and Ruby to enter into the building. He briskly made his way to the nearby elevator while Ruby struggled to keep up with him.
Eric pressed the silver button besides the elevator door and then turned to face his daughter. "Ruby, I need you to make me a promise."
"Don't tell your mother about anything we do today."
Ruby looked confused but then she nodded in response.
The elevator arrived with a ding noise and then the stainless-steel doors split apart from one another. Eric and his daughter stepped into the elevator. Eric took out a key from his pocket and inserted it into the keyhole on the B3 button. He twisted the key a quarter turn to the left causing a number pad to eject from the left of the B3 button. Eric typed in a six-digit pass code and then pushed the number pad back into the wall with his thumb. The elevator doors began to close. A hand reached into the elevator, which caused the doors to reopen. A blonde woman in her mid-thirties wearing a blazer joined Eric and Ruby in the elevator. She was holding a stack of folders with a couple of rubber bands wrapped around them.
"We're heading down, Jane," Eric said.
"Yes, I know," she said.