Blog created for the WDC 21st Birthday Blog Bash
|Ryan quickly spun the dial to the coded numbers, releasing the latch on his locker. Would it be there, slipped through the slit vents in the door? His heart was thumping wildly, the fear every bit as great as the anticipation. He flung the locker door open, his eyes darting from the top to the bottom of the dark cavern. It smelled like the dirty gym socks he forgot to take home over the weekend. His books and jacket were stuffed into the usual pile on the bottom of the locker. Ryan reached for his Biology textbook, disrupting the haphazard layers and a small, pink square of paper tumbled out onto the floor by his feet.
Ryan snatched the paper and eagerly read the message it contained. The words “You’re Invited” and “Party” filled him with a joy so intense it immobilized him. He stood outside his still-open locker, rapt in the promise of those words and the signature “Julie” written in purple with a heart dotting the “i” until the bell rang, reminding him he was late to Biology.
Ryan walked on air the rest of the afternoon and all the way home. But the universe has some natural law regarding middle schoolers and happiness, so he should have expected his world to come crashing down. Still, the shock to his system was so great when his mother told him her news, his reaction was so emotionally charged, even he was taken aback. His mother simply stared at him with a resolute jaw.
“I’m sorry, Ryan,” she said without a shred of regret in her voice. “Flora’s birthday has to take precedence over a party at your friend’s house. There will be lots of parties for you in eighth grade, but Flora only has one birthday and we’re going to make it special! We’re going to go to the amusement park Saturday and I need you to help show her around the rides, make sure she has enough fun to keep her mind off things. Then we’ll have cake back here at the house.”
Ryan’s protestations were wasted breath. Besides, how could he tell his mother that Julie’s party was special because Julie was special? She’d just hug him and say something like “I can’t believe you’re growing up so fast!” and then she’d cry. Worse, she would ask him about it constantly if she knew that he liked a girl. His mother had no filter and would have no problem humiliating him in front of the guys.
Ryan mumbled and grumbled his discontent all the way upstairs to his room. If his mom wanted to take in stray foster children for whatever reason, he couldn’t stop her. Flora was just the latest one in a string of unwanted or displaced kids she took in. Flora had a mother, but she’d got in trouble with some bad checks and had a short jail sentence to serve. It wasn’t Flora’s fault that her birthday just happened to inconveniently occur on the same day as the most important social event of his entire life…
“But it would be nice if Mom ever put me first. I am her real kid, for crying out loud!” he shouted.
Just at that moment, Ryan realized that Flora had been outside his open bedroom door. He didn’t know for how long or what she had heard, but at the moment he shouted, she ran off down the stairs. He thought about going after her, but he didn’t know what he would say or how much she understood. She was only seven years old. He wondered if she would go tell his mother and if he was going to get into trouble.
Minutes passed, then an hour, then another. Ryan stayed in his room, pretending to do homework but he was too unhappy to concentrate. His phone was blowing up with texts from friends, but he ignored them all. He wasn’t ready to tell anyone that he was going to miss the party of the year just so he could watch over a seven-year-old as she rode the merry-go-round.
His misery was too deep for mere words and like most adolescents, he was sure that his parents had never experienced the kind of heartache he was now suffering.
The rest of the week at school was torture. Ryan had decided not to tell anyone about what his mother was making him do on Saturday. Rather, he had formulated a plan to save his teen reputation. He would simply get sick on Saturday and be unable to go to the party. Everyone who mattered would be attending the party and no one would be at the amusement park to see him there. No one would have to know what a lame family he had or the lame way he was spending his Saturday.
But when Saturday came, Ryan was surprised to find that Flora had taken to her bed and was complaining of various and vague feelings of illness. His mother was instantly transformed from birthday planner to nurturing Florence Nightingale, running back and forth from the kitchen to Flora’s room with soda crackers and ginger ale to settle the little girl’s mysterious stomach ailment. Ryan didn’t dare think that this fortuitous illness might set him free to go to Julie’s party, Flora was sure to recover in time to get sick on one of those carousel horses after eating too much cotton candy.
He was still too angry to ask how she was feeling, but when he appeared at her doorway, she beckoned him to come in. She kept urging him closer with her hand gestures until he was close enough to hear her whisper.
“Your Mom said that if I am better tomorrow, we can go to the park then. I know I will not be better until after your party, but I am sure I will be by tomorrow,” and with that she winked.
Maybe Flora wasn’t such an inconvenience after all, Ryan thought.
Word Count - 1000 words