The Riddle of Prague
by Laura DeBruce
When 18-year-old Hana Silna travels to Prague to reclaim her family’s home, she discovers a riddle that may lead to a long-last flask.
The contents of that flask could change the fate of the world. When a ruthless enemy kidnaps her family Hana has to find the flask to rescue them. On her quest she meets a mysterious man with a penchant for poetry, a Gypsy girl with a haunting past, and Alex, an all-American boy who’s trying to save his sister from a crippling disease. It’s hard to trust anyone when the stakes are this high — especially when surrounded by experts in deception.
There’s only one flask, and Hana desperately needs to find it.
JFK Airport, New York, 1991
My mother says when we face our fears, we tap into a reservoir of courage. I’m not so sure. I’m strapped to this seat like a captured beast, and all I feel is panic. The airplane screams down the runway and thrusts its 800,000 pounds of steel into the sky. We’re taking off in the middle of a thunderstorm. My seatmate, immersed in a book, seems oblivious to the danger.
He’s got curly, blond hair that’s a little on the long side and one of those perfectly sculpted noses, and he’s wearing jeans and a batik-patterned shirt. Early twenties, I’m guessing. Not much older than me. The airplane gives a sickening lunge, and I tug the seatbelt tighter. My seatmate glances over, a bit eagerly, with piercing blue eyes.
“You all right there?” he asks with a crisp, European accent of some kind.
“I’m fine.” I’m not fine at all, but I don’t want to tell him that.
“This is the amazing part.” He gestures out the window, twirling his hand as if he’s conducting the storm outside. “Look!”
“I’d rather not.” The plane shakes, and I grab the armrests.
I’m only on this flight because my mother has inherited a house in Prague. Actually she’s reclaiming a house—the one where she grew up. The one the Communists took from her family when they seized all private property. My mom and dad had to escape when the Soviets invaded Prague in 1968. Now the Iron Curtain has lifted, and the people who left can finally return without being thrown into jail. Unfortunately for my mother, now means surgery and doctors. She’s at a hospital and can barely walk down the hallway, much less haul herself onto a plane. This didn't matter to the bureaucrats in charge of the restitution of property. If the transfer of the house doesn't happen immediately, they say it might not happen at all. That’s why my mother is sending me, her only child, in her place. That’s why I’m on this airplane instead of at the hospital at her side, where I should be.
What is something you've lied about?
I used to pretend I didn’t feel well so that I could stay home and read my Enid Blytons and Mom would buy Betty & Veronica comic books for me. I moved around a lot as a child, and when we moved to a new place, I would sometimes invent stories to make my life seem more glamorous. I told people that I used to work in a circus and that certain of my dresses were hand-me-downs from princesses. As an adult it’s harder to lie. I feel guilty.
Favorite season? Why?
Summer without a doubt. Summer means holidays and lazing on the beach with a book and hot weather and rose wine and large gathering of friends and family.
Who is the last person you hugged?
What is the story of your first kiss?
I was in 6th grade in Indonesia and we were playing Truth or Dare. The boy I liked, Mark Voltaire -- I have no idea what ever came of him or where he is -- explained that we should each put our mouths in a certain way and then touch tongues. It was kind of thrilling and kind of gross. I think it was a while after that before I kissed another boy!
Do you like kissing in public?
I’m pretty modest in that regard, except that I tend to hug and kiss people when I greet them or part from them.
She lives in the Washington, DC area with her husband and son and an unruly Golden Retriever.