The second I got in the door, I knew something wasn’t right. The living room was suspiciously clean, and someone had put flowers on the table. It definitely wasn’t me, because why would I spend money on crap like that, and Becca could barely cover her expenses as is. And who leaves a whole cake out?
It dawned on me a few moments later. I’m a stupid idiot. It was obvious It’s not like people don’t make a big deal out of other peoples’ twenty-first birthdays.
But why the hell did Becca have to do that to me? She’s trying to be nice, but it’s unnecessary. Inconvenient. And pointless. She didn’t have to, not for me.
“Surprise!” Becca popped up from behind the couch, smiling and waving wildly. “Happy Birthday! Guys, get up here!”
Three more people appeared from behind the counters.
There was Bryan, the guy I’d brought back for a few quickies in the past week. He really showed up…I recoiled at the thought. Just what the fuck did he think he was doing here? And then there were my cousins, Dianne and Michael. I didn’t hang out with them but it never stopped them posting messages on my Facebook wall and texting about the dumbest shit…how had Becca tracked them down?
Becca smiled. “Hey…Sarai. Hard day? It sucks you had to work extra on your birthday.” It was Saturday; normally I had the whole afternoon off, unless I had a modelling job.
I didn’t tell her I volunteered to cover for Philippe, on purpose, and went with, “Meh.”
“Well…” Dianne’s eyes widened and she beamed. “It’s fine now, right?”
“Party time!” Michael raised a fist and laughed. I rolled my eyes a little, and Becca frowned. Fuck. She was annoyed. Great job, Sarai…
“I brought this over.” Bryan indicated the cake and winked at me. “It’s…sugar-free and has carob or something? I know you like that stuff.”
I felt just a little uneasy. Was he really paying so much attention to me, all those times we met up? And why did he care at all? “Why?” I questioned.
“I thought you’d like it? I dunno.” Bryan shrugged and gave me an awkward stare.
They didn’t look very happy anymore. I guess I just killed the mood. Congratulations, Sarai.
”Are you OK?” Becca questioned, leaning towards me. “Hey, Sarai, relax.”
I took a deep breath and tried to relax. I was really tense but I couldn’t just ‘relax’. And they were all staring at me like I just stepped on a puppy or something.
“Aren’t we gonna break this out?” Dianne indicated the bottle of champagne. “C’mon, let’s celebrate! You’re legal, finally-”
Wincing, I shook my head. It’s unhealthy, and my mum got hit by a drunk driver. I’m pretty against it. “I don’t want to do that.” I moved towards the door. It was so tempting to flee and just leave them all there. I didn’t want a party, or Dianne’s champagne, or Ben’s cake. Even if it would taste pretty fucking good.
Dianne slammed her hand onto the table and glowered. “So what the hell do you want?”
Fuck, why – they need to leave. “For you to get out.” I said, coolly and easily. But something twisted inside me.
Michael grimaced. “C’mon, cuz-”
“What’s your problem?” Dianne demanded.
Bryan avoided looking at me, and stared at the wall. “I really don’t get what’s up with you…”
“Shut up!” I screamed. “Just shut up! Get out! All four – three of you!” Too bad Becca fucking lived here.
“We got you a stupid shirt.” Michael threw a brightly coloured box towards me and started to head out. Dianne snatched up the champagne bottles and stormed after him.
“I’ll call you-” Bryan began nervously.
“Well – well – ” He sounded so helpless and threw his hands out as he spoke. “You can keep the cake.”
I turned around and rested my head on the wall. I’d wanted them gone since the second they popped up like that. Bryan had shown himself to be one of the clingers, like Khalil and Samir and Shawn. How could I face him again, after this? Plus Uncle Miles’ kids didn’t need to bother with me. Still, I didn’t feel any fucking better; it was like there was some pit in my stomach, and I didn’t know why.
Becca cleared her throat. Great, so now I had to face her, because I fucking ruined something again and kicked a bunch of people out of my surprise party, that someone who I was sorta close to did for me, for some reason. And most likely my life. Who could blame them?
If she hadn’t been my roommate…but who could afford rent alone in this goddamn city?
“What the hell?” Becca hissed. “I went through all that – OK, so maybe it wasn’t that hard – but I set something up for you! I know you’re weird about friendship,” Was I? I’d always had a couple friends, how bad could I be? “But I wanted to just be damn nice!”
The pit grew. Becca was doing a fine job of making me feel like a right piece of shit. She was the one who set up a party and invited the worst people possible.
But goddamn it, she tried, she really tried, and I was…a piece of shit. To her. And in general.
“It’s fine. I’m sorry…I’ll leave.” I said, suddenly. It fell right out of my mouth but it was kind of inevitable. She was my fourth roommate in two years and I never seemed to leave them on good terms.
“You don’t have to-” Becca started. “And – how can I – if you want to leave you have to give me time to find someone else to cover your half. You’re not going to screw me over, Sarai. But fine. You can leave.”
So, I was going. I probably wouldn’t talk to her again, not after this… but it hadn’t been all bad, living with Becca. I was her workout buddy and we swapped recipes and liked similar movies. I knew all about her office’s drama and she knew about my clients over at Skye Fitness, and Solstice.
You’ve already fucked up this one. Just get it over with and find somewhere else. You’ll ruin that too but you’ve got to live…
“I will leave. Soon.” I folded my arms. “I’m going out.”
“Can’t we discuss-?”
I started hacking at the cake, wrapped up a chunk, and shoved it into a bag. Making sure to remember my yoga mat, I bolted away from a silent, pissed-off Becca and took the bus down to Breeze City Common, looking like a right weirdo carrying a whole bunch of cake with me.
Yes, I was going to do one birthday thing correctly. I imagined my aunt’s sneering voice, her grabbing my shoulder and barking right into my ear.
“We all know one’s got to eat but it really doesn’t have to be that!” and “Stand up! Suck in! Always look your best.”
Yeah, Clarissa had it right most of the time. Half my job is about aesthetics. For just one tiny night, though, I could forget about my meal plans. At least disregard them a little. After all, it was my birthday.
And you’re here, alone. Doing yoga and eating cake. Happy birthday to me.
I was alone, but it was OK. Better than the alternative. I didn’t have to deal with anybody. Sometimes that was a lot easier than socialising…
I kind of knew I’d look for more people, soon enough.
A/N: Mad respect for anyone who screenshots large groups. This was a pain in the ass and it was only 5 people.
Also, have a mildly horrifying blooper: