The Birthday Party
I made my way to the car. I put my keys into the ignition and listened to the engine starting as I softly counted my breaths. It had been almost ten years since I've seen him. Why am I going now? Because I can't get him out of my mind. I had to go see him, I just had to. The two-hour drive was long, and it reminds me of why I moved so far away in the first place. When I near him, I grab the bouquet of flowers I'd bought on the way from the passenger's seat.
The walk was long and the silence in the cemetery didn't help. After a minute or two, I near his grave, and I crouch in front of it. I place the bouquet down and dust the tombstone with my hands.
"I've missed you," I softly mumble, trying my hardest to keep my tears at bay. I walk back to my car, this time enjoying the deafening silence. It meant I wasn't bawling my eyes out over him, and crying was something I couldn't risk. I have a party to attend, my party.
-TEN YEARS AGO-
As I laid on the living room sofa, scrolling through social media, I looked up and saw my mother and father working on the decorations for my birthday party. My father delicately placed the balloons and bunting throughout the room and I saw my mother through the corner of my eye in the kitchen working on her different array of sweets and snacks.
"Are you going to get dressed any time soon?" my mother yelled at me with a slight tone of both disappointment and urgency. I think she knew deep down how much I didn't want this party to happen, but it's not like I had a choice; she forced me into this. In all honesty, I wasn't one to go out and socialize as much as my peers did and that made my parents believe that I was lonely and/or bullied at school. To be honest, I didn't know if I should have been taking offense to the fact that they thought I could be bullied as if they saw something wrong with me.
"I'll get dressed in a minute," I grunted to my mother, "No one important is coming any time soon." I knew my sister and her boyfriend were on their way, and as I said this, I saw through my peripherals my parents share that look of 'stop with the tone, miss', but I just really didn't care.
I slowly stood up from the couch and let my hair down from its ponytail. As I walked towards my mother, I ran my fingers through my hair and tucked it behind my ear. I gave her a small kiss on the cheek and walked back through the living room and towards my room. I quickly slipped out of the sweatpants and shirt I had on and put on the dress my mother had bought me. It had a sort of bodice that lifted my breasts and hugged my ribs to make it seem as though I was skinnier than I was. The sleeves were puffed and flowed down my forearm. The dress was short and highlighted the summer tan on my legs. I slipped into some trainers and reapplied some blush.
As I exited my room and made my way back to the kitchen, I heard the garage door opening and knew my sister and her boyfriend-of-the-week had arrived. I tried not to make any distinct face that would warn my parents of the things I was feeling. It's safe to say my sister was always my parents' favorite and they weren't that great at hiding it. In their eyes, she could do no wrong, but in mine, I could see every flaw she hid.
Before entering the kitchen, I made a pit-stop in the living room and gave the OK to my father's balloon placement. Soon, my sister and her boyfriend, whose name I could hardly remember, were coming in with a present in their hands. She quickly hugged my mother and so did her boyfriend and they made their way to the kitchen table where they put down the present.
I pretended that I wasn't listening to their every move as I helped my father with the last of his enormous bunting that covered the entirety of the living room.
"Are you going to hug me or what, Georgie?" my sister said as she made her way towards me. I quickly turned around and gave her a light hug, just enough to please her.
"How's college, Brit?" I asked her, to deal with the formality of pretending to care about what she had to say. She talked about her amazing professors, her straight As, and her amazing group of friends in her sorority. I homed in on her boyfriend who hugged her from behind as she continued to blab about shit I didn't care about. What the hell is his name? Steve? No, that was last year. George? No, that was the "friend". Jordan? Paul? Michael? Conner? Will? Jack? I soon decided this was a lost cause and continued to listen to my sister's speech about how awesome her life was.
"... and so Rach and I went up to Sam's room so we could go to the restaurant, but she was out like a light," my sister said as she continued a story that I had no context on. My mother and father had finished their decorations and sat on the couch opposite my sister, devoting their attention to her.
"So instead of going out to dinner, they invited me and Clarke over for pizza," said her boyfriend as he smiled at her with these loved-up eyes.
"Ryder and Clarke really made up for Sam's inability to stay awake," my sister exclaimed, and she rubbed his arm lightly. I felt a sense of relief finally finding out his name. I knew it was one of those names only white frat boys have. I smiled at them and quickly excused myself from the conversation.
I pulled out my phone as I walked back into my room and saw a text from Zoe, the closest thing I have to a friend.
"We're on our way. Ten minutes tops," Zoe had texted me two minutes ago. That meant I had around eight minutes to get mentally ready for this party. I didn't consider any of the people coming today my friends; they were more like acquaintances that I talked to at school and school only. I wasn't ready to see them all outside of the school, like what the hell do you talk about with these people you really have nothing in common with?
I reached my room and looked at myself in the mirror and gave myself a mental pep talk while making sure I still looked presentable. I could still hear the talking and laughing happening in the living room, and sure, I felt left out; but at the same time, I didn't really want to be there, so did it matter? I walked back to the living room and told my mother that my "friends" were going to be arriving soon. She distanced herself from my sister's conversation and went back to the kitchen to ensure that she had done her best work.
I sat down on the sofa next to Ryder and Brit and watched my phone for any other text messages of people arriving soon. Three minutes passed and we heard Zoe's car parking on our driveway. I decided to not stand up right away in order to not seem eager for her arrival, because let's face it, I wasn't. Soon, the chattering of Zoe, Lia, and Jaxon outside was easily heard through the door. Before they could ring the doorbell, I stood up and opened the door.
"Hey!" yelled Zoe as she pulled me into a hug. I was reluctant on doing so back, but I did since she really wasn't letting go.
"Hey, thanks for coming," I said softly as I pulled away from the hug and welcomed them into my house. Jaxon gave me a curt nod as he walked in and tightly clutched himself to Zoe's arm since he was an outsider to all of us. Lia quickly patted me on the back as she moved on to greet the rest of my family. We dealt with the formalities of introducing one another slowly and settling into the uncomfortable small talk. I kept checking my phone to see if anyone else would be arriving soon and saw texts from a few people.
The hours passed and more people bustled in, making the house feel full. On one hand, I was happy that so many people felt close to me and so many had shown up, but on the other, my societal anxiety was telling me to run away and close myself up. But I wasn't going to let it get to me, so I plastered on my best fake smile and continued to greet people and engage in small talk.
"Okay now, I think it's cake time," my mother said joyfully. She had the cake in her hands and moved slowly towards the kitchen table, making sure not to drop the cake or to smudge her intricate frosting designs.
I sat down at the table and my mother placed the cake in front of me. She grabbed the candles my sister had brought and placed and lit them quickly. My friends and theirs gathered around me and the "Happy Birthday" singing quickly began.
Through the clapping and singing, I kept up a smile as I passed the time watching the flames sway with the wind.
"Make a wish," someone screamed, and others quickly joined the chant. I quickly gazed through the crowd and closed my eyes. I silently made my wish and blew. As I opened my eyes back up, I saw the flames disappear and be replaced by the smoke as it flowed the way the wind took it.
The cake was cut, and a piece was given to everyone. I walked around, listening in to all the conversations. I soon sat back down at the dinner table where Zoe, Lia, Michael, and Jaxon were sat.
"Hey Georgie, Jaxon's parents are out of town, so want to go back with us there?" Lia asked me.
"Sure," I quickly replied, but my reluctance showed in my tone. I didn't want to go, but I also didn't want to be one wall apart from Ryder and Britney all night since I knew they were going to be banging like crazy.
"Spread the word. Let's make it a fucking party," Zoe said in a whisper. She was the resident party girl, so this was on-brand for her.
The five of us quickly made the rounds to our closest friends and spread the word of the party and everyone joined in. The only thing left to do was to tell my parents.
"Hey," I said coyly to my mother, "Zoe invited me to her house right now with the rest of the group, so I was wondering if I could go?"
She collected her thoughts for a couple seconds before saying, "Sure. And are you going to stay there, too?" She went back to cleaning and I was glad that she could no longer see me as I was not the best at hiding the fact that I had just lied to her.
"Yeah, I think so. I mean, it's easier that way since it's already so late."
"Be safe," she replied monotonously. And with that, I turned around and went back to the collection of people that were traveling back to Jaxon's.
Before heading out, we waited for anyone who wasn't coming to leave in their own volition, so that they didn't feel forced to leave. Little by little, people began to leave the party while I, along with the others, helped my family clean up the mess that had been left.
After the last invitee made their exit, Britney and Ryder went up to their room, my parents continued their deep cleaning of the living room and kitchen, and my friends and I gathered our belongings before heading out.
"Hey, we're leaving," I shouted to my parents as I neared the front door. They jointly yelled their goodbyes back, and I left the house.
Lia, Zoe, Jaxon, and I left together while the others followed closely by in their own cars. The ride was weird, to say the least. Jaxon blasted his rap music on the car speakers, making the car vibrate whenever the bass hit. Zoe and Lia danced along to the song while I devoted my attention to my phone as I aimlessly scrolled through it.
"We're getting close, ladies," yelled Jaxon so he could be heard over the speaker. The girls started to prepare for their wild night of drinking while Jaxon continued to drive to his house.
My mind was filled with instant regret of agreeing to come to this party.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.