Cameron in College

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Terin's 18th Birthday

For Terin’s 18th birthday, I bought him a Bob Ross shirt and mailed it to the Parkers’ house. Mr. Parker texted me a couple days before his birthday to let me know that they had intercepted it and hid the package so that he wouldn’t open it until his birthday.

On the day, I hurried home from work, ate dinner quickly, and then hid in my room to call the Parkers. I caught them cleaning up dinner.

“Hey Cam,” Terin said when he answered the phone.

“Happy birthday,” I said, smiling.

He smiled back. “We had chicken and dumplings for dinner.”

“Nice,” I said.

Terin walked into the kitchen, where his mom was putting the icing on his cake.

“Looks good, Mrs. Parker,” I said.

She looked at the phone and smiled. “Thank you, Cameron.”

“I requested a marbled cake, just for fun,” Terin said. “I think it will be good.”

“Looks good,” I said.

“I’m really hoping that I got some college stuff for my birthday,” he said, walking back to the kitchen table and sitting down. “I was looking to see what most people brought, and I need a lamp and stuff. And a backpack. The last one my mom bought for me is from elementary school.”

I laughed. “I’m going to need to get that stuff too.”

“Have you heard from your insurance yet?”

I sighed. “No, but I’m hoping that I will soon.”

“That would be a nice Christmas present.”

“It would,” I said.

Terin started telling me a story from his work. He had worked at a bookstore for about a month, and he was really enjoying it.

“So when Christmas rolls around you’re going to use that discount of yours to buy me a present, right?”

Terin laughed. “Right. And you’re going to use your discount to get me food.”

“I will mail you some vegetables.”

We both laughed.

“Cake is ready,” Mrs. Parker called.

“I’ll go get everyone,” Terin said. He ran upstairs and knocked on Melodie and Annelies’s door. “Cake time.”

“Jerico and Melodie in there?” I asked as he went back downstairs.

“Yeah,” he said, scrunching up his face. “Their PDA is out of control when Mom and Dad aren’t around.”

“Gross.”

“Yeah.” He opened the basement door. “Annelies, cake time!”

“Is anyone else coming?”

“Roderick and Oliver are trying to spend some time with Roderick’s family, and Gerald and Kira are on a cruise.”

“Too bad,” I said.

“It’s okay,” Terin said. “I’m glad you called. Jed called yesterday because he’s doing something with his aunt and uncle today.”

“Did he get you anything?”

“Not that I know of.” Terin smiled at me knowingly. “You got me something, didn’t you?”

I shrugged. “Guess you’ll find out.”

“I can read you like a book, Cameron Alexander.”

I laughed. “Then what did I get?”

Terin rubbed his chin. “I’ll get back to you on that one.”

“Of course you will,” I said, laughing.

Terin handed the phone over to his dad so that he could sit behind his cake. When everyone was in the kitchen, Mrs. Parker lit the candles and they sang. Terin pretended to conduct them for one phrase before putting his hands in his lap and smiling at the candles. It reminded me of when he was a little kid, how he used to sing happy birthday to himself when everyone else was singing. He blew out the candles, and I made a mental note to ask him what he wished for later.

Mrs. Parker moved the cake aside and put his presents on the table. There were four of them, and I spotted my package among them.

“Four?” Jerico asked. “Dang, I only got three.”

“Go ahead and open them, Terin,” Mr. Parker said.

Terin picked up the closest one first, which he said was from Gerald and Kira. He unwrapped it, and inside was a card, a book, and a sweater.

“That sweater is such a nice color,” Mrs. Parker said.

“Yeah,” Terin agreed. He pulled out the book. “The Art of Happiness,” he read. “Interesting.” He put it down and picked up the card. “Ah, it explains. They said ‘College can be a time of self-discovery and trials. Sometimes it’s hard to stay cheerful and keep your eye on the prize. We thought this book might help.’”

“That’s very nice,” Mrs. Parker said.

“I’ll make sure to thank them,” Terin said. He put the items back in the box and pushed it aside. He then opened the gift from his parents, which was a backpack.

“Yes!” Terin said. He stood up and put it on. “It’s great, thank you.”

Mr. Parker moved the camera to show Mrs. Parker’s smile, and I couldn’t help but smile.

The present from Roderick and Oliver was a few notebooks, some pens, and mechanical pencils. Terin put them in his backpack. “Now I just have to get accepted somewhere.”

“I think you have to turn in your application first,” Mr. Parker said, and Terin rolled his eyes. “I’ll get to it.”

Last, he opened my present. I bit my lip, hoping he would like it. I had a moment of regret for not getting him something he could actually use for college, but then he pulled out the shirt and laughed.

“Cam, this is great,” he said. He turned it around to show his parents, and I sighed in relief. Mr. and Mrs. Parker chuckled when they saw it, and then Jerico and Melodie grabbed for it so they could look at it.

“Thanks,” Terin said to the camera.

“You’re welcome,” I said. “I’m glad you like it.”

“I’ll definitely be wearing it a lot,” Terin said. “Most of my other shirts are boring, anyway.”

They decided to let me go while they ate cake, so I read for a bit until my phone rang. I answered, and it was Terin, alone in his room.

“What do you say we make a pact to send in our applications by the New Year.”

“I still have to write my essay,” I said.

“Me too,” Terin said. “It’s not supposed to be that long though, so I bet we can do it.”

“Yeah,” I said. Then I remembered. “What did you wish for?”

“To be able to pay for whatever school I got into.”

“Good one,” I said. “I think I’m just going to be asking for money for Christmas.”

“Yeah, I should too.”

“Don’t let your parents get me anything, okay?”

“They may have already gotten you something. I think they went Christmas shopping a little bit already.”

“If they haven’t, tell them not to, okay?”

“You know they’re going to get you something.”

I sighed. “I just want them to spend the money on you instead.”

“I’ll be fine, Cam,” Terin said. “I’m working a lot, and I’ve decided to work part-time during college.”

“I’m going to have to, too,” I said. “You don’t happen to be applying anywhere in Missouri?”

Terin shook his head. “Sorry, I’m only applying to good art schools. Ones that have made a name for themselves.”

“I hope you get into the best one.”

“Me too,” Terin said. “Do we have a deal? About the New Years thing?”

“Yeah,” I said, smiling. “I need to stop putting it off.”

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