In which a girl gets all her birthday wishes.


2. 8:12 a.m.

8:12 a.m.

She is up and ready with her purse in hand and phone pressed between her shoulder and ear. Hyatt is still going on and on about the same topic—Mila’s still not sure what that topic is exactly—and she’s excited. Overly excited.

“We need to get there to catch the sales. I mean, Mi, it’s fifty percent off. We can’t miss it. Tell me you’re not still lounging in your bed and watching Netflix like some sort of loser.”

Mila sighs playfully and rolls her eyes. “You wish you were me, Hy. Anyway, I’m all ready. You’re the one that’s late.”

“Don’t even talk about it.” Mila can picture Hyatt rolling her eyes on the line. In the background, she can hear the wind whipping by, as if Hyatt is racing down the highway. She hopes Hyatt isn’t too overwhelmed; Hyatt can crash her car any time and Mila cannot have that. “Luke—that fucking asshole, he is so annoying—was trying to fight me for the car. He didn’t even bother to tell you happy birthday when I mentioned I was seeing you today.”

Mila takes in a breath and releases it through her nose slowly. Heart, stop pounding, she tells herself. It’s only Luke Teasley. Big deal. She’s really terrible at lying to herself because not even a split second later, she retorts inwardly, Yeah. Luke Teasley. Only my totally oblivious crush even though I’ve been stuck with him for sixteen years.

Yeah, it really helps matters that he’s Hyatt’s brother, out of all people.

“Hey, you there?” Hyatt’s voice says with that obnoxious tone under her words. “Did you get stuck on the Luke part of my story?”

“Absolutely not,” Mila says. She can’t even do any better? She can’t sound any more unconvincing. “Where are you? I mean, right now, you’re fifteen minutes late. I thought I fixed your watch last week.”

“Ah, well,” Hyatt drawls, static crackling at the edge of her words, “my watch might have come unfixed.”

“What the hell?” Mila walks to the front door and peeks out the window. Her street is quietly empty the way a suburban road always is at eight in the morning on a summer Friday. She’ll trust Hyatt to break that peace pretty soon with her blaring music and half dysfunctional car from the ‘90s.

“My brother dropped it in the pool. Or so he says. I think he was fiddling with it to show off to some new female lifeguard on duty. He probably gave it to her or whatever.”

Mila’s chest stings when she hears of that new female lifeguard, but she keeps the strings of envy tangling in her chest from rising up, as usual. “Hyatt, your watch is waterproof.”

“Yeah, that’s what I told him. He probably ignored me like he always does. It’s so annoying to have a sibling. You’re so lucky.”

Mila would rather not have the sibling conversation right now. “Where the hell are you?”

“Shut up, I’m turning the corner to your block. Ugh, I wonder why I didn’t just tell you to drive yourself to the mall and meet me there.”

“Because you love me. Anyway, I’ll be right there.”

Mila walks out the front door, making sure to lock it, and slings her purse over her shoulder. Outside, a nice little breeze is blowing. The sky is a cloudless cerulean, and everything is silent except for the occasional chirp of a bird or rumble of passing cars. It’s a typical day—too typical—in metropolitan Washington D.C., and no one sees her except for her best friend. She’s not sure whether she should feel neglected or relieved that she does have a social life after all, even if it’s extremely limited.

True to her word, Hyatt pulls up into the driveway, her car engine sputtering and grumbling as she makes the turn. “Get in, bitch,” she calls over the racket. “I’m wasting gas here and my parents still complain about it even though gas is, like, super cheap nowadays.”

Mila rolls her eyes as she jogs down her driveway and bends down to open the passenger door. “I don’t know why your parents are worried. If anything, they should probably get a car that has a better engine. You wouldn’t waste any gas with a more efficient car.”

“Mmhm. I tell them that all the time, but they ignore me.” Hyatt pulls out before Mila can properly close the door. Mila sends her a look. “What? You’re in and safe, and by the way, put on that seatbelt, you rebel. I got a ticket last time you didn’t.”

“In my defense, you weren’t wearing a seatbelt too.”

“Luke was driving, whatever. He got the tickets, but you know how twins are lumped together for everything. It’s stupid.”

“I mean, I can pay you back if you want.” Mila peeks out her window. It’s way too normal to be her birthday today. And to think she’ll leave this place next year. She can’t wait…even if she won’t be able to see his face.

“No, no. Don’t worry about it. It’s fine. My parents love you more than they love Luke and me combined. I wonder what you did to deserve that…”

“Ugh, shut up.”

The rest of the trip to the mall is silent. With the radio playing lowly in the background, the two don’t need to talk. Maybe Hyatt senses something off about Mila that she isn’t mentioning. Mila won’t speculate. She doesn’t really need to know. God, she wishes she hasn’t told Hyatt so many times about Luke and her dreams and the impossible. She’s turning into a walking cliché.

Yeah, she knows she’s delusional.

They arrive, and Hyatt smoothly pulls through the parking lot and claims a parking spot right next to the mall entrance. Mila glances over the top of the open car and pauses. Her breath catches in her throat, and she holds onto Hyatt’s shoulder, her fingers trembling. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Really, Luke? Stupid idiot” is the only thing Hyatt can say before she succumbs to her signature eye roll. She turns to Mila, sighing. “Sorry. I would have told you if I knew.” She continues to mutter the rest of her comment under her breath even though Mila can still hear her very distinctly. “Blockhead just has to ruin my BFF’s birthday. Ugh.”

Mila remains in her seat as Hyatt climbs out and marches over to the silver car a couple of spaces over. Mila’s mouth is still dry, and she licks them numbly. Luke. He’s leaning on the side of the car casually, his arms crossed as he coolly listens to his sister vent to him. And those guys, and that girl, standing next to him…Why are they laughing that way? Mila sinks down in her seat as the entire group’s gaze moves to her. Oh no. Hyatt must have dropped the birthday bomb.

Why can’t her best friend see?

She pretends to fiddle with something in her lap even though she still feels eyes on her. Hyatt knows that Mila likes to fade in the background when it comes to Luke. She’s a bumbling, stuttering mess around him anyway; what can she do in conversation? Mila bites her lip before she looks up.

And she squarely meets Luke’s eyes.

Even from here, they look startlingly blue. And Luke himself…how can he make everything look so effortless? He’s wearing that polo shirt that she got him as a last minute present for his birthday and shorts that Hyatt jokingly bought from the thrift shop after the popularity of the song of that same title. His hair, dark and glinting with highlights in the morning sun, is tousled and wind-crumpled from his ride down the highway, probably. And he’s smiling at her…

She musters a weak smile back and looks back down. She’s sure she’s completely embarrassed herself now. How long was she staring? She probably looks like a freak, sitting in the car all alone. Her lips tighten as she glances at the car door. She can probably hop out of the convertible without opening the door.

And of course, once she’s gotten over the process of slinging her legs awkwardly over the door and placing her behind precariously on top of the door, she tumbles down with a thump. Her cheeks cannot feel any hotter. She can only thank God that he wasn’t on this side of the car to witness her literal fall from grace.

Mila takes her time making her way to the group as well. She acknowledges his friends with a nod even though she doesn’t even want to glance at the girl. God, Luke has his arm over her bare shoulders. Mila has no chance now, does she?

Hyatt whispers in her ear as soon as she arrives, “What’s up with you today, birthday girl?”

Tais-toi, mon amie,” Mila mutters back. “I already made enough of a fool of myself.”

“Secrets, secrets,” Luke interjects. “Anyway, we’ll see you around? It’s a small world.”

“Shut up, idiot,” Hyatt retorts. “This is Tyson’s. I doubt we’ll stumble into you again.”

Luke makes a big show of shrugging and rolling his eyes to his friends, who all have smirks on their faces. “Yeah, whatever you say.” His eyes move to Mila. “Don’t listen to her. She’ll lead you off a cliff and convince you that you’re making the best decision of your life the entire time.”

Mila laughs. “Yeah, yeah.”

“Don’t listen to him,” Hyatt stage-whispers. “I’m the older twin; therefore, I’m more legit.”

“Yeah, I’m losing brain cells from listening to you guys argue,” one of Luke’s friends says. “Let’s go.” He pauses. “Happy birthday, by the way.”

“Thanks,” she mumbles half-heartedly as the four walk off.

But Luke lingers, and bending down to her ear, he whispers just for the two of them, “Don’t injure that pretty ass of yours again, will you?”

She is speechless even after Hyatt raises an eyebrow at her.

It’s all meaningless, she tells herself.

Whoop whoop, meet Hyatt! She's gonna be really important soon... Please do comment and favorite this if you like this! Love y'all :)

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