I always liked to walk to his house right after school. He offered to drive me on his motorcycle, but I preferred to watch the scenery on the way. He lived on the edge of a cul-de-sac in a two-story house with a garage attached on the side. Every day after school, he would sit on his concrete drive-way, watching the tree-shaded street for me.
As he does now, headphones in and listening to Green Day. I see him stand when he realizes I am almost out of the tunnel of trees, and he starts to walk towards me. Normally, he never gets up until I am standing in front of him. I notice his expression is similar to when he is concentrating on a difficult test. He has definitely been thinking.
"I need to talk to you." His words are quick as he takes hold of my hand and runs into the sound-proofed garage. I dodge a guitar amp and a drum set before being pulled down onto a couch beside him.
"What's wrong Michael?" I question as he rests his elbows on his knees, with his hands folded over one another in front of his mouth. He looks at me from the corners of his eyes, before fully turning his head and looking up at me.
"It's your birthday, and I don't have a present." He finally says and messes up his black and green hair with one of his hands. He re-dyed it to be how it was when we met, and I had only just noticed.
"You dyed you hair." I comment, and gently touch a piece of his hair. He slightly moves away from my hand as I do so- he usually doesn't let people touch his hair. This is the first time I've done it. It's soft between my fingers, but my hand doesn't linger. I have it on my lap again before speaking. "You don't need to get me one. Just letting me chill here is good enough. In fact, I'm surprised you remembered. Nobody remembers my birthday." I absent-mindedly tap my chin.
Michael twiddles his thumbs. He knows that my parents are never home because of work. He sighs, then picks up a white helmet with a black stripe of studs from the front to the back. He turns it over in his hands a couple times before placing it in my lap.
"Yeah, well, you're the kind of person that deserves to be remembered." He replies in a hushed tone and gets to his feet. "Come on, we're going somewhere." I follow him out of the garage, and notice that on the way out, he takes a blue and black helmet off of a shelf. When we are in the full sunlight, he fits the helmet to his head and straps it on.
The black helmet makes his already pale skin seem impossibly whiter, and to most people it would be ugly. But to me, he shouldn't be any different. If he were tan, now that would be ugly.
He brushes my hair away from my face and puts my helmet on for me. As he tightens it around my chin, I feel his breath on my neck and wiggle my fingers. He lifts my chin with a finger to make sure my head protection is secure, then gets onto his Harley-Davidson.
How he afforded it with only a part time job at the cafe four blocks away is a mystery to me, but I suppose it will forever be that way.
I climb onto the leather seat behind him and listen to the rumbling as he starts it up. Michael revs the engine a few times before leaning back so that his back touches my chest and smirks.
"You'd better hold on Erika." He tells me, and waits for me to scoot forward and wrap my arms around his waist. Frankly, this has been quite the day of surprises. First he remembers my birthday, then he lets me touch his hair, and now here I am, wearing a helmet he bought for me, gripping his leather jacket on the back of his Harley.
After around an hour of driving, he stops in front of what seems to be one of those old fashioned trailer diners. He helps me off before leading me inside. As soon as I'm inside, I forget to breathe. It's a record cafe. The counter is to the side, behind countless tables full of vinyl records and cds, sorted by genre and artist. I turn to Michael with wide eyes and grab his shoulders.
Before I know what I'm doing, I'm hugging him harder than I knew was possible, and then I run off to browse.
Michael sits beside me and hands me a cup of hot chocolate as I stare in disbelief at the amount of vinyls. As I take a sip, I see his victorious expression. He thought of the perfect place to take me for my birthday, and he knew it. He plays with his eyebrow piercing as I lean against the display behind me and take a long sniff of the air.
It smells like citrus cleaner, coffee and freshly baked pastries. I raise an eyebrow and look at Michael. "How did you find this place?" I inquire, staring at the flickering fluorescent lights above me. He sighs, and messes up his hair.
"I work here." Is his reply, just as his phone chimes. He wrestles with the pocket of his skinny jeans to retrieve it, then checks his texts. He looks up at me and frowns. "My mum wants me back home. Are your parents going to be back this weekend?" He holds his phone on his lap and looks at my entire face as a whole.
"Uh...no. They're coming back Monday though." I say. "Why?" A small smile tugs at the corner of his lips.
"Because Mum says she has a surprise." He takes my hand and we step into the cooling air. I have to shield my eyes against the harsh orange sun as we drive. I realize I spent hours in there, looking at every record and playing it on the machine at the back. I'm surprised they didn't kick me out, honestly.
"Erik, you must be tired. We only drove for an hour and you've already fallen asleep." I awake to Michael's deep voice, and his hands overlapping mine on his stomach. My ear is on his leather-clad shoulder, with my face to his neck.
Slowly I lift my head and blink to try and clear up my vision. When I move my hands from his stomach to my eyes, they immediately become cold.
"Jesus it's cold out." I mumble and climb off of the motorcycle after Michael. He takes his helmet off at the door of his house and waits for me to do the same before going inside. We put the helmets on a shelf above a coat rack, and take off our jackets and shoes.
We walk to the kitchen, where the unmistakable aroma of red velvet cake wafts around my nostrils. Michael's mum calls to us from the table.
"Hello Erika! Nice to see you again! Come here, I have something for you." She says, and Michael grins at me. He leads me to the table and I sit down beside him, across from his mum. She pulls a red envelope and places it on the table in front of me. I slowly open it at the top with my finger (opening it normally takes way too long), and pull out a card.
It isn't much, just a red card with 'Happy Birthday Erik' in fancy black handwriting written on the front. I open it and a fifty pound note falls to the ground.
"Fifty pounds!?" I exclaim, but as more of a question. Mrs. Clifford nods her head.
"Yes, dear. You deserve it."
"But- I don't work or anything! I mean I ha-" I'm cut off by Michael's finger pressed against my lips.
"Shush." He removes his finger and raises an eyebrow at me. I silently nod 'okay', and Mrs. Clifford lifts a small red velvet cake from the empty chair next to her. I grab it and look for a fork. Michael devilishly grins at me. "You don't need utensils. Just do this."
He says as he takes a scoop of it with his hand and shoves it in his mouth. I shrug, then do the same. The cake tastes like literal heaven with cream cheese icing. I moan when there's still cake in my mouth. Michael looks at me weirdly, before I reply with "Food-gasm."
"Are your parents okay with you staying over?" His mum asks when we're done shoveling cake into our mouths. I look at Michael.
"I'm staying over?" I question, totally confused. Michael nods, then looks at his mum.
"Her parents get back Monday. She'll be fine staying here." He tells her, then stands up. "Well, thanks for the cake, Mum." He pulls me to the door that links the garage to the house. He has to hip check it to get it closed properly when we go through.
"So...do you want to write a song?" Michael suggests as we sit down at a table by his guitars.
"Is that a recording studio?" I point towards a plexiglass area in the far corner. He bites his lip and nods. "Wait.....do you have.....a band? That's so cool." I excitedly look around the room at all of the instruments.
"Well...yeah. But no. I mean....we've played a few songs, but we haven't got together to play in a while." Michael scratches the back of his head and leans back in his chair. "Do you want to go to bed?"
I raise an eyebrow at him, before nodding. "Fine." I let him guide me through the door and into the house, then up the stairs to his room. He flicks the light on and looks at me unsure of what to do.
"So..um. Where do you want to sleep? Like do you want my bed or is the floor fine, or...." He looks around his room, waiting for my answer.
"Well...er. I um....I kind of have a habit of sleepwalking
, and I um....can I sleep next to you? Just so that, you know. You can wake me up if I start acting weirdly in my sleep?" I mumble awkwardly, shuffling my feet.
Michael makes a noise in his throat. "Um....I mean of course! If that's what'll make you feel better. Is it? Is there anything specific you do before bed?"
I smile and press my finger to his lips, the same way he did to me before. "It doesn't matter. I'll just sleep in my clothes and shower in the morning." I tell him and crawl under his checkered blankets. He takes his shirt and pants off and lays beside me, but not so close so that we touch. I lay on my side to face him and a small smile appears on my face. " I'm so glad we're best friends."
He turns his head to face me. "Did you have fun today?" He asks, searching my face for an expression.
"Today? It was definitely a birthday to remember." I reply as my eyelids close on me and I fall asleep.