Thursday, September 10, 2015
Ten days passed since the first day of school. Olivia woke up to the sound of her phone's alarm clock like it was any other day. After looking at the weather app on her phone to see how warm it was going to be, Olivia pulled on her clothes and opened the door to the hallway. She barely got her two feet onto the ground when she felt herself almost be knocked down by some force that was now squeezing her.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" Toby cried out as he continued his death-gripping hug on his cousin.
"Thanks…" she said as she tried the best she could to reciprocate the loving gesture. Birthdays weren't her thing, but she wasn't about to disappoint the closest thing she had to a younger brother.
She walked into the dining room to be surprised by four adults sitting at the table.
"Bud, we are not moving to Boston. Toby's in a good school here." Olivia's aunt said as she put a plate in front of her husband.
"What good is it when you only see your kid on the weekends?" Bud, Olivia's uncle, replied.
"Who the hell knows with the vacations you're always taking!"
"You know what, you can go fu-…"
"KIDS!" Olivia's mother and father both said in unison. Bud looked up and saw his niece and son (who was once again on the verge of tears in embarrassment of his parents arguing).
"You can go love yourself." Bud said to his wife quietly.
"BIRTHDAY GIRL!" Harlow cried out as he got out of his chair and hugged his little girl. He knew that Olivia didn't like birthdays, but anything was better than his brother and sister-in-law tossing innuendos.
"Fifteen. Wow, you're practically an adult." Bud said as he took a drink of his coffee.
"Can we give her the present?" Harlow asked his wife. She shook her head.
"Please? Pretty please?" He replied as he crossed his arms and pouted just like his daughter liked to do.
"Fine, fine. Here you go, sweetie." Olivia's mom said as she got out an envelope from a cookie jar. Olivia opened it up and just about dropped them in shock.
"Are these… real?" Olivia asked in amazement.
"I ask your aunt that all the time." Bud said as he munched on a bagel. Harlow took a deep breath to remind himself that he does indeed love his brother.
"Yep. Your grandma moved into our old house out west and she wants you to go out there for the holidays. You fly out on the 19th of December and you fly back to us on Christmas."
"Thank you so much!" Olivia said as he almost felt both the tears of happiness and nervousness.
"We know how much you miss your friends." Harlow said as Olivia wrapped her arms around both him and her mother.
Less than an hour later, Olivia quietly filed into her first-period classroom with the rest of her classmates. Just like clockwork, the teacher came into the room and the room quieted down in anticipation of the morning announcements. When the clock struck three past eight, the intercom speakers emitted a chime announcing the start of the class.
"Good morning, my lovely moose!"
The entire classroom rolled their eyes and snickered a bit at the secretary and school counselor's attempts to inject humor into the morning routine.
"Geez, does Mrs. Frasier drink her breakfast?" one teenager said to his friend.
"The whole family is a bunch of freaks. Her son is Dorkson." The other kid replied. Olivia turned her head away from the people talking trash about one of her only friends in the school.
"…And all seniors will be able to fill out applications for the Malama scholarship, please do it promptly. Take it away, Mrs. Frasier." The counselor said to conclude his report.
"Thank you so much, Mr. Delaware. As for birthdays, we only have one for the day."
Olivia sighed and put down her head.
"Olivia Gabriel in the freshman class, happy birthday!"
Several kids in the class turned around to look at her and a couple of them whispered "Happy birthday!" to her, but she was too mortified to notice.
The rest of the day went by as normal with shockingly few people continuing the birthday wishes. When class let out for the day, she found herself walking out of her usual entrance and looking around for the one who was going to the same destination.
"Hey." She said to Orson as he approached from the side.
"Hey. Happy birthday."
The two of them walked off the school grounds and down the road towards the middle school without saying another word.
"So, if you don't mind me asking, how old are you?"
"Ah. So, you're the same age as me for the next three months."
Olivia said nothing and Orson awkwardly looked around in hopes of finding something to continue the conversation.
"So, any big plans?"
Olivia shook her head. Orson found himself scratching his head in confusion as birthdays were typically a moment to be celebrated and not grieved. Olivia sighed and said, "I'm sorry."
"Birthdays aren't my thing. One of my friends died because of a birthday party and I've had a complex about them ever since."
"Oh… I apologize. I was just trying to make conversation." Orson replied as he tried to wrap his mind around the fact that there was an entire mysterious side to his friend's past.
"I tend to screw up when talking to people. I'm anti-social. Wait, that's not what I want to say…"
Olivia giggled a bit at her friend's tendency to trip over his own words.
"You have trouble talking to girls?" she said, trying to give him a hard time.
"Yes… I mean, no. I mean… gah!" Orson said, continuing his vocabularic freefall.
"With those looks, I'm surprised you're still single."
Orson's mind just went blank like an overloaded computer. This was the first time anything about any relationships came up between the two.
"Uh… well… I could say the same for you. You must've been the princess of the west coast!"
"Well… thank you… I guess. I do have a boyfriend who lives back in Oregon."
"…Huh. Never knew that."
"I've never told you about Kenton?"
"Oh, well now you know."
By this point, the two of them arrived at the middle school. Just like expected, a sea of younger kids poured out of the doors. Calvin found himself among the first group and he walked over to his brother.
"You. Happy birthday." He said to Olivia, who found herself with a raised eyebrow at his sudden grumpy behavior.
"Thanks...?" Olivia said as she noticed Toby walking out a way behind while talking to Lucas.
"Yeah." Calvin said as he glared at his approaching friend.
"Later." Lucas said as he changed direction from his friend. Toby smiled and politely waved to him. The four of them continued down the road. Instead of Calvin talking his brother's ear off about his day, the two younger boys found themselves in silence.
"Are you two going to the park?" Orson asked. Calvin shook his head.
"Too much homework. We're just going home."
"Ah, I see. I won't bother you, then."
The two boys ran off without saying a word leaving Orson and Olivia by themselves again.
"So… want to go to the park?" Olivia asked, haven't been there in years. Orson thought about it and nodded.
"So, how long have you been together with…" Orson said to continue his conversation from earlier.
"Kenton. It'll be… well, two years in February."
"Ah, it was a Valentine's Day thing?"
"Yeah, I guess you could say that." Olivia said as she thought about that messy card that ended up in her locker.
"Well, props to you two for making the long-distance relationship thing work." Orson replied trying his best not to trip over his words again.
"Thanks. My parents actually gave me plane tickets to go back to visit on Christmas…" Olivia said as she looked down in doubt.
"That's great! Or is it? You don't look so thrilled."
"I-I just don't know. I almost feel like I must move on with my life. I'll probably never live in Oregon again, so what good would it do to just..."
Orson found himself clenching his fists.
"You're being ridiculous."
"Excuse me?" Olivia said as she wondered how she struck a chord with her friend.
"This is 2015. Everyone is interconnected. The only way friendships die is if you let them!"
Olivia looked down at Orson's harshly said words without missing a beat, he continued.
"When I was little, I had a lot of friends in California. I was young, but I still remember every moment I spent with them! I didn't keep up with them and I'm sure things would be different now as people change. But, if you never let them go to begin with, you'll grow along with them!"
Correct or incorrect, Orson's words resonated in Olivia's mind.
"You make a good point. There's no reason to let a whole country come between us!"
Orson gave a small smile as his friend saw eye-to-eye with him.
Later that night, Olivia laid back on her bed with her eyes on the television and her mind turned off. When the commercial breaks ensued, she found herself thinking about what Orson had said. However, the doubt was starting to build up in her mind. Her circle of friends recovered when they had previously lost one. What if she was replaced?
When the show picked up again, she continued to think about this problem. Maybe she could return the tickets and get something nice? Before she could make another thought about it, her phone started playing a jingle. Her heart raced with nervousness when she saw a familiar name pop up on the caller I.D.
"Hello?" she answered anxiously.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" an excited girl's voice said on the other side.
"Fifteen now? Gonna get your permit?"
"Probably. How have you been, Mia?"
"Missing the hell out of you, but outside of that, I'm fine."
"How's High School?"
"Just as one would expect. It sucks."
"At least you have a new group of teachers you can irritate."
"Funny you should say that. Mr. Baltimore is our new principal."
"Yes. Before you ask, he doesn't write 'Good morning!' on his discipline notices."
"...Mia, you've only been in class a couple weeks."
"...Olivia, you apparently don't know me."
Both girls found themselves laughing. Olivia missed Mia's ability to act like a total goofball.
"Mia, I wanted to tell you something. I'm sorry for not being there for the last month before moving." Olivia said as she wanted to talk to her without spoiling the mood.
"It's okay. I know you were busy getting your crap together to move to Maryland."
"Anyways, I wanted to apologize for not being there for you with the first anniversary of Elias's… uh… passing. I was worried about the three of you."
"I'm fine. Cameron's fine. Kenton's… well…"
"Oh." Olivia said as she let her forehead rest on her palm. She was afraid of this happening.
"He's doing okay. Extremely quiet. He doesn't talk to anyone but his mom or Cameron."
Mia heard a thump and looked around to see the top of a ladder resting against her open window.
"It's the fire brigade! I'm here to rescue you! Wait, I can't because you're the hottest thing up here!" a boy said as he climbed in through the window to Mia's absolute horror.
"Is that..." Olivia said as she heard everything through the phone.
"Cameron! Are you serious?!" Mia said quickly.
"What? The ladder was there, and the window was open. When in Rome..." Cameron replied with an awkwardly cheerful smile.
"And when my dad catches you up here again, he might just carry out that threat of dragging us to the altar with a shotgun. Besides, I'm on the phone with Olivia."
Cameron perked his head up and he wrestled the phone away from Mia's hand.
"Oh my God! Stop being loud!" Mia said as she felt mortified.
"Thank you, Cameron!" Olivia said as she found the situation a bit amusing.
"Anytime! How are you do-" Cameron started to say before Mia wrestled control of the phone back.
"It's getting late, I'm going to let you go. I'm sure you have plans."
"Aww… are you serious?"
"Hey, I'll call you tomorrow after school. How's that sound?"
"Well… okay. It's nice talking to you again. Love you!"
"Love you too!"
Mia hung up the phone and looked up at Cameron with angry fire in her eyes.
The two teenagers found themselves in a moment of panic when a clang informed them that Cameron's only escape device was now laying on the ground.