“The Little Orange Notebook” – Karen Linares Mendoza ’22

Today the sky is a soft baby blue color with marshmallow clouds across it. The weather? Mild spring breeze. My favorite. I note everything down. 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always just had one routine: write. From the moment I woke up, to the last minutes before I fell asleep, I carried a little mandarin orange notebook where I wrote everything I saw, heard, and thought about. I love my notebook because it contains my most precious treasure––my memories.

Each morning was the same. I woke up with no recollection of yesterday or the day before that or anything after December 5, 2021; so, the first thing I did was grab that little orange notebook placed on my nightstand and read the entries from the past few days. I learned word by word who I was, what I had done, and where I had left off the day. Every single page was a rich text that led me through my jumbled story of details from my life I couldn’t place together, but at least this way, I still had a small purpose in my life.

“Can they just get her to talk about something useful now!” 

Of course Joel was exploding now. It had already been 48 hrs and with no lead, he knew if he didn’t find some new information, our case would soon become lost.

“Hey, calm down Joel. They’re just trying to get her to open up, a l right?”

“By what, by letting her stall telling us her nice little routine with her little notebook? We know about the notebook! That’s WHY we brought her in, Carla!” 

“I know, I know but the poor girl doesn’t have a memory, and she’s only 19, ok? Imagine how hard it is to talk about anything, knowing you won’t remember it the next day. A timeline must be so hard for her to comprehend and you know… well…  she has to start somewhere.

Look, I know you care about this Joel, but she will tell us the information on her own terms ”

Joel sighed and crossed his arms. 

“Fine. I’ll leave you guys alone while I go look in the house for the notebook again, but can you at least go into the room to tell Hannah to center her questions around the fire? All we need is some kind of proof.”

“Yes, Joel, but you should just rest a bit before, yeah? You should sleep some, I know it’s been a long morning.”

Reluctantly, Joel finally listened to what I was saying and started to grab his jacket to leave.

“Hm. Ok. 

 Just call me whenever she talks about the fire.”

I touched my earpiece to talk to Hannah on the inside of the interrogation room. 

“All right Hannah, Joel is getting impatient, so can you try to probe her with some questions about where she thinks her notebook is right now? Or if she can tell us what she wrote the day of the fire.” 

“Yes ma’am.”

I looked at Hannah as she took a seat in front of Zaya, who was sitting down behind the cold metal desk. 

 “Very nice Zaya, but, well we’re gonna switch up the questions a bit now ok? What can you tell me about the specifics of what you wrote in your notebook yesterday?”

“I mean…like I said I write about the weather, activities I do in my day, just whatever I find interesting and I want to remember the next day. You know, it’s just the way I live my life… what’s still unclear??”

“Hey, you’re doing great Zaya, but my team on the other side of this room are people on your team that are just really looking for some very specific and valuable information that we think you might be able to tell us. I know you can’t see them but they’re waiting to see if you can help them. 

So how about I just ask you some direct questions and do you think you can tell me some straight-forward answers?”

“All right… ok I can try.”

“That’s what I like to hear, Zaya, so let’s go back to your notebook. You mentioned that you place it on your nightstand every night and take it with you as the day passes, so where is it right now?

“Uh… well it’s complicated. I have it here. In my mind, inside my memory for today at least.”

“Wait, so it’s not a physical material then?”

“No no, it is. I just choose whenever I want to take it out to write something but it’s not always visible for others.”

“Zaya, do you know where your notebook is right now?” “Do you know what you wrote in yesterday’s entry?”

“I’m confused Ms. Hannah, did I not just give it to you?” “If you don’t have it, who does?!” “If no one knows where it is, uh… uh…. how do I know who you are, how do I know if I’ve met you before? Where am I again?!”

Oh shit, she’s panicking. “I’m going in Hannah.” “We can’t have her breakdown” 

I opened the door quickly and entered the room. 

Hanna and Zaya both stared at me. Zaya looked both desperate and clueless as I saw in her eyes her fear. Fear that her mind was not enough to help us, and fear that she actually couldn’t even help herself.


Man it was already 10:00 pm and the stars were shining bright but I just couldn’t go home and sleep like Carla had told me. I decided to just go straight to Zaya’s property instead to see if I could find any trace of the notebook there. 

“Godammit. Look at this place.”

I was at the house where Zaya lived, which was in the Pine Tree neighborhood––a place where wealthy families often came to live. 

From her file, I knew she had inherited a good amount of money from her parent’s death but for being such a young girl with her mental condition, I was surprised to know that she still lived in this area. 

I made my way into the driveway of her house and got out of the car. Her porch was big and only had a couple of flowers that were drying out. 

“Huh, that’s interesting”

The door was locked so I began to look for the spare key that I figured couldn’t be hidden too well. 80% of the time, homeowners hide the spare key under the mailbox so I looked there and what would you guess, I found the key. 

The door creaked as I opened the door slowly. It was cold inside. 

In the living room there was no TV, games, or books, just a small couch. 

There were no big pictures or decorations and only the bare minimum of furniture. 

I walked up to the second floor where there was a master bedroom and a guest room. In the guest room there were only big boxes of cardboard but in the master bedroom, there was finally some sign that there was a person living here. 

Two big lamps on each side of the bed, long navy blue curtains, posters of a band around the room, and several loose clothes on a chair. That’s when I finally turned around and noticed the big wide open window. 

The house next door was perfectly visible from this angle. The master bedroom of the neighbors was especially clear looking out this window. 

“Ha, so this is where she could have seen everything.” 

I started to look for some place where she could have hidden the notebook close to the window. I opened drawers in a small cabinet next to the bed and then looked in the closet but nothing was obvious. 

I searched the room top to bottom but there was nothing I could find and just when I was about to give up and leave, I heard the front door open. 

Shit, I’d left my phone in the car and before I could exit the bedroom, I heard someone coming up the stairs.

Two voices became louder and louder as they approached the room and with no escape, I quickly ducked and hid below the bed.

“Hey, come take a look at this, Frank. This looks like her room.”

“Tim, you go look in the other rooms, I got this one.”

I heard footsteps right alongside the bed and I tried to hold my breath. Sweat was now dripping from my face and my heart beat so fast I thought its thumping would give me away. I saw his feet moving as he walked around the room and straight towards the open window. 

Stupid, why would I leave it open? I timidly peeked out from below the bed and saw as the man put his head outside the window and then reached to grab something. 

“I’ve got it Tim! Let’s clear out before anyone else comes!”

The man exited the room quickly but right before he was out of sight, I caught a glimpse of what he held in his large hand––the small orange notebook. 


“Hi, Zaya. We haven’t met yet but my name is Carla and I am the head of the bureau of investigation of Lance Township.” “I realize how scary and confusing this experience can be, but this is the moment where we most need you, so just take a deep breath.”

Zaya did as I told her and briefly closed her eyes.

“Hi ahh… so can I just say that I still don’t know what you want from m—”

My phone rang loudly just before Zaya could finish her sentence and I answered the call, annoyed already at the person who had interrupted the conversation that was just beginning. 


“Carla Santiam, you have under your possession one of our most valuable consultants. Let her go immediately, don’t ask any questions, and no one else will get hurt.”

“Excuse me, how did you get this number? Who are you?!”

Oh Carla, you already broke the first demand. Unfortunately we won’t have time to fully introduce ourselves today but I doubt this will be the last time seeing you. Now, given that you don’t seem like you’ll be cooperating today, we’ll just have to do this the hard way.

They hung up the phone and then gas began coming out of the air vent. 

“Hannah! Open the door now!”

Hannah quickly grabbed Zaya and led her out the door, closing it behind her as she said:  “Sorry Carla but you were always in the way. Vitia etra!”


I took out my keys and tried to open the door only to discover it had been locked from the outside. 

Knocking on the door I began to scream for help but there was no one on the other side for me. 

I began to breathe harder now. All the fog was surrounding me now. The air was getting thinner. I was getting dizzy. My vision became blurry. 

I collapsed to the floor. 

“Joel… help