I wake up to the sun shining through the crack in my windows, and the faint singing of happy birthday. Opening my eyes, I see the door creak open, and my parents walk in with a nicely decorated cake.
"...Happy Birthday to you!" They end the singing, sitting down on the end of my bed.
"Thanks Mum, thanks Dad." I play my best smile on my face, although I still feel exhausted from the last few days.
"You're officially an adult!" They cry.
I look at the clock. It reads nine. Actually, it's fifteen minutes till I'm actually eighteen but I decide not to point it out.
"Thanks for the cake," I say, digging my pinky into the icing and licking my finger, "Ooh, this is good."
"Hey!" Dad cries, pulling the cake away, "Save it for later!"
They disappear out the door a few minutes later, telling me to take my time getting up. I eventually slip out of bed, wrapping a dressing gown around me. When I get downstairs, nobody is there. Perhaps they thought I'd take longer, so went out.
Rummaging around in the cupboards, I find a small box of cereal - the kind little kids have in a variety pack. Opening it, I shove it in my mouth, thankful to have some food after not eating my dinner last night. I'm just about to sit down at the table to read the newspaper, when the doorbell rings.
I trudge over to the door in my slippers. "Hello?"
"Hey." Kyle leans against the doorframe.
I slam the door in his face. What the hell is he doing here ON my Birthday? Does he want to ruin this day for me too?
"C'mon, let me in!" He calls out.
"Not happening!" I shout back.
Sighing, I open the door again, hands on hips. "What the hell do you want? I told you to stay away from me."
"And what can I say? I'm glued to you."
"Give it a break," I hiss.
His face suddenly turns really serious, and he stares at the floor. I think for a moment he's about to beg for me, perhaps thinking about charging into the house, but instead I see tears begin to slide down his crimson cheeks.
"I don't know what else I can do to make you believe me," He cries, looking back up at me, "I've tried everything to prove to you I'm different now. I'm not here to hurt you again."
I sigh, toughening myself up. I can't give in this easily.
"I know you must have read the letter," he continues, biting his lip, "so you know what I'm trying to say. But I understand. I understand there is no way we can possibly be together."
"Then what do you want?" I regret it as soon as I say it. Am I being too harsh?
"I just want us to be okay, you know? I don't want anything to lie between us."
I look back inside, just so I don't have to watch his pain. I know it's not just me who feels it, but I don't know if I want to be let into his. His opal eyes redden, his cheeks burning hot. He's sorry. Hurt is written all over his face, and I know it. Perhaps people can change.
"Okay." At first, I can't believe what I'm saying. Why am I letting him go so easily, after everything he caused me?
But then I remember that this is the day I'm turning into an adult. This is the day I'm leaving my childhood behind and becoming a woman. Kyle is the reason I'm being dragged down, so why carry his weight another year of my life? Why carry it when I can start new and move on?
"So we're okay?" I process the shock on his face, his mouth a perfect 'o' and his eyes spread wide.
"Yes." And saying the word suddenly makes me feel better, as if the burden has just fallen off my shoulders. I know I'm stupid to not have told anybody at the time about what he did, but this is four years later. There's nothing I can do now, except live with the pain or let it free.
"Let's shake it out." I reach out my hand to his and a smile widens across his face. Don't you feel happier knowing you've made someone smile than made them cry?
He takes my hand, shaking it. And I know that maybe he does love me. Maybe he does want more than for us to just be friends. But he's let it go. He's let it go for me to be safe, to be happy, just like I've let it go for him to be the same. And now we're better off, because despite our tainted hearts we're willing to let go, we're willing to carry on.
As I shut the door on Kyle I look up at the clock. It strikes nine fifteen and suddenly I'm eighteen. But it's not the number or the fact that I'm now an adult that puts a smile on my face; it's the fact that now I can start new, repairing my tainted heart.
For this is only really the beginning.