She jerks upright in her bed, licking her dry lips as her eyes dart around the dark room. The sun isn’t up yet; her day cannot begin now. But as she glances at her bedside alarm clock, its red numbers flickering in the faint light of the rising sun through the curtains, she knows she can’t go back to sleep now.
She slings her legs over the side of the bed and hops out. She hopes her father hasn’t already left for work; she can’t trust in her mother to even leave a note for her in the kitchen. As she stretches and walks down to the kitchen on shaky legs, she fiddles with her phone. Marcy better not…
The kitchen is empty. The lights are on. There’s a post-it on the food-wrapped bowl of lukewarm oatmeal. She checks it. She doesn’t know why she still feels disappointed when she sees her dad’s firm, sloping handwriting. She reads it anyway.
I’m sorry for the oatmeal. Your mother would cook if she could, but she had a late night call. I’ll be back early today; order some take-out for us!
No happy birthday. Fine. She flicks the note into the waiting trash can. Like anything matters anymore.
As she waits for the oatmeal to heat up in the microwave, she unlocks her phone and scrolls through her nonexistent notifications idly. There’s no one. No one.
She feels her lip start to tremble and the muscle in her forehead begin to tick. That terrible feeling hits her in the chest in waves, and she bites her lip. No. No. She won’t start her day like this, especially not her birthday. Especially if no one remembers it.
The microwave beeps. A split second later, her phone dings. She ignores the microwave and clicks on the banner flashing at the top of her phone screen.
Happy b-day, Mi! You HAVE to be up and ready by 8. I’ll come and pick you up, and you better not be undressed and disgusting like you usually are on a Saturday.
She rolls her eyes and thinks, thanks for the love, Hyatt. But she drops her phone face first on the counter and opens the microwave. She’ll have her breakfast now, even if she’ll be hungry in a couple hours.
In the deserted kitchen, she sits down at the countertop with no placemat, places her bowl down with a click, and fights the tear welling in her left eye as she shakily lifts the spoon to her lips.
At least this is better than last year, when no one fucking left her a note or overly cheerful text, as if she didn’t exist.
Don’t even think about him, Mila.
She hasn’t realized it, but her dad has probably left her something more than a note and a bowl of oatmeal. At least he did on her fifteenth birthday. She sighs as she places her bowl in the empty sink. Now she can only try to find that damned present, if she can. It took her three hours last time.
She opens the fridge to look for the orange juice. Oh my God. The orange juice is waiting in the back of the fridge, but it can wait. Instead, she pulls out a huge box with the words “Tiffany’s Bakery” clearly printed in the signature cursive font that she sees all the time. She holds her breath as she places the box on the counter. And then, with a deep breath, for some reason, she opens it.
Happy 17th, Mila!
Happy seventeenth indeed. For some reason, she still feels sad as she gingerly lifts the cake from the box and places it next to her placemat. She doesn’t want to cut into it. She doesn’t even want to eat it without anyone else to share it with. But she stuffs the box into the trash can under the kitchen sink and takes a knife from the cabinet.
She almost forgets the candle. Her dad has already bought the 1 and 7 candles—very considerate of him. She sticks them in smack dab in the middle. The gas lighter, which she has also pulled from the cabinet along with the knife, is almost unable to ignite, but after she presses and pushes at the buttons so many times that she can’t feel her fingers anymore, a weak little flame appears. She transfers them onto the candles.
She can’t help it; she pulls out her phone to take a picture. Then she turns off the lights. It’s only fitting after all. She’s tempted to sing herself “Happy Birthday”. No, she decides. That’s too dopey of me.
So she closes her eyes, whispers one name fervently under her breath, and blows out the candles.
Happy birthday to me.
As she lounges in her bed, a large piece of cake in one hand and a fork in another, she glances out the window. The sun is rising now. The alarm clock says it’s approaching six. She’ll have to take a shower. And shit, she’s forgotten to put the cake back in the fridge. But whatever, that can wait.
She stuffs a forkful of cake into her mouth. It’s amazing. If only Hyatt could have been here…
No, curse Hyatt and curse that stupid, stupid brother of hers.
She can’t think of them now.
But her mind betrays her, and she literally cannot think of anything else as the icing melts in her mouth like the way the pieces of her life are falling into place so terribly. God, she’s so weak. What is she doing in bed, eating and complaining—uselessly—to herself? She can’t even pick up the phone, call up her father, have a talk with her mother (who’s nonexistent, as far as she’s concerned), or really talk to her best friend about how she feels.
She’d throw her phone across the room if she can, but it has no case. She’d rather not break it and spend two hundred dollars to fix it.
I’m seventeen now, she tells herself. Life can start anew. I’m a rising senior in high school; I’m the queen of the school. What can I be waiting for?
Ah, shit. That’s a trick question.
Maybe, in her deepest, darkest dreams, she’s still waiting for him to finally see her, to finally acknowledge her how she wants him to. Yes, she’s still hung up on stupid, stupid Luke Teasley, her best friend’s twin brother who can’t give a fuck about her other than the fact that he’s practically grown up with her. Yes, she still thinks she has a chance, even if it’s as slim as the width of a piece of paper. Yes, she still hangs on to every single tidbit of information Hyatt has to feed her about him and his social life and his flings and his girlfriends…
She stuffs another piece of cake into her mouth. Mm. She takes a moment to savor it, to forget about her other worries for maybe twenty seconds.
This is such a hopeless cause.
She sits up in her bed and glances sideways at her alarm clock again. Six thirty. She’ll have to really start to get ready soon. So she finishes up the piece of cake, regretting how big it is, and hurries off to the kitchen, where the cake, which is starting to melt, is still waiting for her like a loyal puppy. She mentally apologizes to it as she stuffs it haphazardly into the fridge (without a box, oops) and slams the door of the fridge. She’ll come back to it later, when she picks a better time to feel bad for herself.
“Thanks, Dad,” she says out loud. “I really appreciate it, even if”—she sighs—“you’re not here. Again.”
And she hums “Happy Birthday” as loudly as she can as she skips back upstairs to get ready for a wonderful outing with Hyatt at the oh-so-glorious mall.
Yeah, her life is seriously sad.
But something stops her this time before she steps into the bathroom, something that isn’t self-pity, or self-disgust, or anything like that. She can feel the tears welling up in her eyes again and her hands shaking as they tightly grip her phone. She leans her head back against the wall, closes her eyes, and exhales.
Oh God, she can’t do this. She drops her phone on the nightstand, right on top of her alarm clock, in fact. Her phone slides down onto the ground with a disconcerting thump. She ignores it. There’s a wave of something rising up in her chest, a wave that’s threatening to pull her down with it into the darkness of her chest. She’ll never let her parents, who aren’t even active parents, know. She’ll never let Hyatt know. But most of all, she’ll never let him know because she knows she can never, ever have him.
She loves Luke Teasley so fucking much.
New story, guys! Yes, my main characters seem to have a penchant for feeling bad for themselves (which may or may not reflect me...). But I promise you, this is going to be a little lighter and cheesier than Headlights! Teenagers, yay!
I am sorry for the lack of a cover. One is coming soon, and I"m sure it'll be fantabulous (if that's a word)!
If you liked this quick little installment, please do hang on and keep being awesome! Please let me know by commenting, favoriting, following, or any other lovely gesture :) Thank you, and I shall see y'all tomorrow.