“Haaapppy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Daaaaadddd… happy birthday to you!”
It was the end of August, and Dad’s birthday. Dad birthdays were always hilarious because he hated his birthdays. He was standing there with his arms folded and a scowl on his face while we all sang. Pa was playing the piano with Villy strumming along on his guitar, and the rest of us were just standing around and trying not to laugh at the sight of Dad’s scowl.
Pa finished with a flourish and then spun around, falling over the bench as he tried to get up. Lumie grabbed my arm and buried her face in my shoulder, snickering quietly. “I’m all right!” Papa promised, getting up and trotting over to Dad to kiss the side of his head. “Happy birthday, hon.”
“Hmph,” Dad grumped.
“Did you want cake or presents first?” Gladdy asked.
We decided to shower him with presents first. He at least seemed to really like the gift Vils and I had gone in together for, a gift certificate for the local tattoo parlor. Every year around his birthday he discussed getting another tattoo but he rarely ever did. He currently only had five, but he seemed happy (well, happy for Dad) to get the card and talked eagerly the idea for a sixth tat.
The conversation over cake turned to the fact tomorrow Lumes and I would be starting high school. Lumie was of course more excited than me since she always loved school a bit more, but I admitted it was gonna be fun to be able to see Clay, Kim, Trinity, and Trysh every day. That of course brought on the hooting.
“Which one you most looking forward to hanging out with?” Villy teased. “Kiiiiim, perhaps? Kimmberrliii?”
“Oooh, he’s bluuussshhing,” Gladdy said, reaching over to poke my cheek.
I smacked her hand away. “Stop it! She’s just a friend! Just like Clay!”
“Which one is Kim?” Papa asked.
“The blonde,” Gladdy said quickly before I could answer. “The one that won first runner-up in the Junior Miss at the fair’s beauty pageant.”
“Yeah but I beat her,” Lumie said, sitting up primly and fluffing out her hair.
“You’re sooooo modest,” I said, shaking my head. Every year for the past like, five years Lumie had entered the stupid beauty thing at Moonlight Falls’ summer fair, and every year she won top in her age group. >It’s like Voldemort winning. A Voldemort-Weasley kid. That’s you.<
>I am gonna stab you in face.<
>That’s your inner Voldemort. Embrace it, Lumie! Get a pet snake, and go forth to destroy the Mug–< My thoughts were cut off as she shoved me off my chair. I hit the ground, laughing so hard it was hard to breathe.
“Zaid is being MEAN!” Lumie said when everyone stared at us in complete confusion.
“I’m your brother, it’s my job!” I said, getting up and looking at the mess on the floor, since my cake had gone flying. “I’ll clean it up… though Lumes should.” She just stuck her tongue out at me and grumbled mentally as I fetched paper towels and began getting the icing up off the floor.
Okay so for the past month Lumie and I had been fighting even more than usual. Because of Saul. She kept calling me a hypocrite, since I knew she was going to be out late that night and I didn’t care until the others found out. I pointed out to her I just assumed they’d be out till ten, not midnight. I also informed her if she stayed out that late again I would tell our dads, and she couldn’t sneak out of the house without me knowing so she was unable to sneak out again. That was a HUGE bonus to the whole psychic-twin thing, even though she hated me for it. We both knew perfectly well that I most likely wouldn’t turn her in, but ugh thank WATCHER I was not put into that position the rest of the summer. She was always home by nine, and she stopped going out at night with Saul except a couple times at the summer fair.
I was unhappy, though, cause she spent four or five of the afternoons in a week with Saul. Movies, ice cream, swimming–I hated it. She knew I hated it. But she didn’t care. She continued going on dates, and I continued complaining about it and… that’s how things had been going.
September whizzed by. High school wasn’t as super fun as I initially thought… but it wasn’t bad. I really enjoyed the fact I had more friend than I did in my previous school. In MF there were several schools. A public school for the lower grades, and public one for high school. Then there was a private-ish school for elementary through middle school, which is where Kim, Trin, and Trysh had all gone to. Then there was a prestigious, super private high school that nobody liked except the snobs who went there.
So there were several new kids I had never really met before, and most of them were weird. Didn’t like them at all. I had my own small group and I was fine with that, although we did get a sixth member towards the end of September. Another boy, who was kinda a dunce but nice enough. He usually paired off with Trysh, while Clay and Trinity were often talking and Kim and I were left to our own devices. Of course that brought on the rumors about dating because apparently girls and guys couldn’t be just friends.
“Just friends!” I snapped when Gladdy asked about it one day after we got home from school. “Why’s it anyone’s business anyway? Why can’t I have female friends?”
“Because school’s a cesspit for gossiping and rumors,” Gladdy answered with a smile. “Speaking of rumors…”
“I’m not dating Kim!”
My sister shook her head. “I was wondering about Lumie. And Saul Underwood? Because I’ve been hearing things about them and I… I just wondered….”
“Ask Lumie, not me.” Not this again. I didn’t want to deal with this, I didn’t want to think about this, I definitely didn’t want to talk about this. Glads was giving me a look and I angrily zipped my backpack up. “I don’t know. She doesn’t tell me–“
“Don’t give me that. You cannot tell me, or even pretend, you two don’t know what the other is up to all the time. Every time one of us acts like you’re not psychic, you both get all uppity about it–hey!” She grabbed my wrist as I tried to make an escape. “Zaid. I’m just concerned about her.”
“Yeah well we all are. Look… if she was… into something she shouldn’t be, I–I’d tell Dad and Pops.” Gladdy raised one eyebrow and I groaned. “I would. Lumie’s smart. Ish. She’s… not got… a boyfriend… as far as I know.” Which was honest since, well, apparently they weren’t ‘official’ whatever that meant but with all the sucking face they did they should be. “I might be the baby of the family, but I’m still her brother and I’ll–y’know–look out for her and everything.” I raised my arms, flexing my muscles. “I’m not a little weakling. And I’ve been thinking about working out annnnd maybe joining a team annnd now you’re laughing at me.”
Gladdy was bending over, hand covering her mouth as she laughed. “A team? You? Reaper, the last team you were on you abandoned last minute.”
I blinked, feeling a bit put out by that. “I can be on a team. I’m–I’m not you know…” I let out a very long sigh and flicked back my hair. “I can be on a team. I will be on a team. And I’ll win something.” I began backing up, pointing at my sister who was still laughing. “Vils and Saya and Lumie and you, you won’t be the only ones with… things to make… Dad and Pops proud. I can make’em proud too.”
“I’m sure they’re proud–“
“I will, I can. You’ll see. You’ll see.” I turned and clattered up the stairs, still hearing her laughter in my head even though she wasn’t laughing anymore. I had that itchy feeling all over again. It had been months since I felt it. I hated it, I hated this feeling even though it ultimately helped me. It felt like my skin was crawling, trying to just crawl away. Like… there was something super wrong with me and well, there was. Obviously.
This isn’t me, I thought darkly as I fell onto my bed. Who was I kidding? It was just… fake. False. Not me. These stupid clothes… my Pa’s shirts and brother’s jeans… why was I even wearing them? I rolled onto my back and undid my jeans, pushing them down as I kicked off my shoes. I tore the shirt off and then curled up in my underwear, hugging myself and trying to figure things out. Nothing in my dresser seemed right, nothing in Villy’s dresser seemed right. Nothing in this house anywhere seemed right. None of it was… me.
Who am I? I wondered, staring at the wall, feeling myself sinking into confusion.
The next few days were awful. I felt miserable, uncomfortable, and a bit angry. I didn’t have any money to get new clothes since my last bit of money had been spent on a present for Papa’s birthday, which we celebrated with gusto since Papa really adored his birthdays. He was also easy to shop for. He loved video games (in faaact my papa was a fairly famous gamer online for his ‘let’s play’ videos) so I bought him a charger thing for the wireless controllers to his newest game system. Next birthday wouldn’t be until December 15th, when Villy would be turning nineteen (apparently when Pa and Dad first adopted him, they celebrated his birthday on like, December 6th or something until he turned five and they discovered his real birthday) so I had some time to save up some money. For clothes. New clothes. Hopefully soon, I felt awful in the ones I was having to wear.
At school I began to look for something to join. A team… just… something. I was pretty stoked to hear that basketball tryouts were coming up and I decided to try out for them.
Tryshya’s older sister used to play basketball so she agreed to let me use the ball so I could practice since I had never really played before. We met up at the small court in a park and she sat back on a bench, filing her nails while she watched me totally fail at drizzling.
“Stop laughing,” I complained when the ball got away from me yet again.
She got up and came over, picking up and the ball and expertly bouncing it. “My sis taught me. I could teach you, if you say please.”
“Reaper no!” I snarled, trying to get the ball away from her. She did a weird spinny thing, moving away from me and causing me to nearly fall. “You joining the team?” I asked, since she had one hand on her hip and was still bouncing the ball.
“Nope,” she answered, grasping the ball and shooting at the hoop. I glowered when the net swished and Trysh squealed, jumping up and down. “She shoots, she scores, booyah!” She swung her hips, sticking her tongue out at me. “Say please.”
I stomped over to the ball and went to where she was, trying to shoot the ball and it flew way past the hoop. Trysh fell over laughing while I went to retrieve the basketball. “It’s easy to shoot,” I said, trying again and failing again.
“Mmm, yes, so easy. Hold on let me record this one,” she said, pulling her phone out.
I pointed. “Don’t you dare! Put that down!”
“I have found zee wild Zaid in hees naaatural habitat,” she whispered in a bad French accent. I ran towards her and she took off, still pointing her phone at me. “Zee wild Zaid ees charging! EEEEK NOOOO!”
I caught up with her right at the edge of the court and we went tumbling to the ground. I pinned her down in the grass, taking her phone and stopping the recording. “Mhm, zee wild photographer has been caught,” I said, mimicking her bad accent.
She stared up at me, face flushed. “I’m going on a date with Steve on Friday.”
I blinked, still pinning her down with one hand. “Uh, what?”
“Steve asked me out, I said yes.”
Steve was the guy who had joined our group, and who was often with Trysh so this really didn’t surprise me at all. “Cool, I guess?”
Trysh sighed and pushed me off of her and I got up, confused at why she had said that out of the blue. “I’m going home,” she stated as she brushed herself off, not looking happy at all. “You can borrow the basketball but don’t lose it, all right? My sis will kill you.”
Her head snapped up and her eyes blazed. “Bye Zaidy.” She turned and left the court, getting on her bicycle and riding off. I scratched my head, not quite getting what happened.
The end of October held two great events. One, I had enough money to buy some new clothing. And two, Lumie and Jerkface were over. Normally I would be comforting her but as in my, er, more joyous state of mind and her in her miserable one, we were having a difficult time maintaining our barriers. So I left the comforting to the girls while Villy took me to the mall to get some new clothes. Good clothes, clothes that I felt good in, clothes that I felt me in, which granted took a while to find but eventually I was all comfortable.
“I look like I play basketball or y’know some kinda of sport, right?” I was home now, showing off my new clothes to my sisters. Minus Lumie, who was upstairs.
Both girls burst into laughter while Vilkas joined in with snickering. “You’re not on the team yet, Zaid,” Presea said, eyes shining with annoying amusement.
Gladdy came over, picking at my jacket. “You really like this sort of thing?” she snorted.
Like buzzards on the kill, I thought unhappily. “I look good. I look… sporty.” I turned as Pa came down the stairs, looking a bit weary. “Papa, I look good right?”
“Yes of course,” he said without even looking at me. “Is Lumie all right? I tried talking to her and she sounded like she’s been crying.” His eyes were big and full of worry. “She won’t talk to me.”
“Boy trouble, I think,” Presea said and Pa narrowed his eyes a bit at that. “I don’t know, she won’t talk to us much about it either.”
Then everyone looked expectantly at me. >I DIDN’T TELL THEM ABOUT SAUL MUCH DON’T SAY ANYTHING PLEASE!< Lumie screamed in my head so hard and fast that I nearly stumbled back as my head began aching.
“Ah, if she wants to talk about it I’m sure she would,” I said, chewing at my bottom lip nervously, hoping for an out. So it was INCREDIBLY good fortune my phone buzzed loudly from a text. “Heh, I should ch-check that.” I backed away from my obviously suspicious family to check my phone, only to find it not as good fortune as I thought.
I stared at my phone screen, completely taken back by this. Kim just asked me out? What? A moment later my phone vibrated again as a text from Clay came in.
“I, um, I’ll–see ya,” I informed my family as I took the stairs two a time, thundering up to my room. I slammed the door shut and fell into my bed, banging my head against the pillow. A date, a date, a group date, me and Kim. Okay Kim was awesome I got along with her like bees and honey. Hmm, not a bad line.
>Stop being mean, put up blockades, I don’t want to hear about your dating, s’not fair, I love Saul and he goes and hurts me, stop being happy about it, he’s not a jerk!<
I rolled my eyes and put up as many barriers as I could to keep my sister out of my brain while I looked at Kim’s texts to me. She hadn’t sent anything else but I could imagine her sitting on the edge of her seat, waiting for my response. Hoping.
I sucked in some air and replied back.
The date went pretty awesome. The six of us sat in the back of the theater and I was sure the other couples would start making out leaving me in an awkward place with Kim but thaaankfully that didn’t happen at the movie, and really Kim was pretty into the horror movie more than I thought she’d be.
“That was sooo gross!” Trinity said after we left the theater.
“No, that was so cool,” Kim said, grinning from ear-to-ear. “When his head exploded and the brains hit the screen oh Watcher, I wish they did that in 3D.”
“They should have it be interactive,” I put in. “Like, throwing buckets of cut up wet sponges over the audience at that part.”
“YES!” Kim shrieked, jumping up and down. “Hah, that’d be hilariously awesome.”
Clay laughed while Trinity shook her head. “You are all gross.”
“We should go to the haunted mansion tomorrow,” Trysh piped up. “The one that’s reported to be actually haunted? Or should we go on Halloween?”
“Ghosts aren’t real, that’s all media hype,” Steve said, elbowing her gently.
I pressed my lips together, jamming my hands in my jacket pockets. I had to bite my tongue to stop from arguing what Steve said. Trysh, however, spoke up. “They’re real, just like the vampires and werewolves.” She pointed at me. “His brother is a werewolf. If werewolves are real, why can’t ghosts be real?”
Steve cast a glance at me and I just smiled, shrugging. “There’s a difference between like, diseases and stuff, and the undead. Like. You know?”
“Werewolfism isn’t a disease,” I said a bit darkly.
“Yeah no yeah totally is man, light-n-thropy,” he said with an eager nod.
I narrowed my eyes. “Lycanthropy?” I inquired and he nodded. “It’s not a disease, it’s just how some people are. And ghosts are real too. I’ve seen some.” Which was totally true.
“Yeah it is a disease,” Steve snapped. “Vampires and werewolves are spread through like, the biting. Like zombies. Like if you’re all normal person one day then get bit by a vampire and turn into a vampire, that’s a disease. My mom’s a doctor. She told me.”
“WHAT?” I shrieked, having not heard this new thing. I knew that Mrs. Hault was a doctor at Moonlight Falls General, but if she was telling her son that–was this really happening?
Steve draped his arm over Trysh’s shoulder. “Totally. Sorry man. I know your bro’s a nice guy and all, s’not his fault he’s sick.”
I wanted to snap at him but Kim took my hand, holding it tightly. “Just ignore him,” she whispered in my ear. “He’s a nimrod.” And she pulled my hand so my arm was wrapped around her waist.
I blushed just slightly, but when she let go of my hand I kept my arm there. She smiled and leaned into me as the six of us headed to the diner to get some foodage. And when Trin’s dad showed up to take the girls home…
Kim pulled me around the corner of the diner so she could give me my first kiss.
“I had fun tonight,” she murmured when she stepped back.
I wasn’t sure if I could talk. “S-so did I,” I managed to squeak out.
She grinned and gave me a sly look. “Maybe see you tomorrow, Zaid.” With that she hurried off to the car, leaving me in a dizzy state of confusion and happiness.
It was a bit late when I got home, since Clay, Steve and I hung out at the park for a while in the cold darkness. I got home at ten, which was fifteen minutes after the absolute latest I was supposed to be home (Lumie and I had a weekend curfew of nine-thirty, with nine-forty-five being the limit). However I had messaged my dads to let them know we were running a bit late, along with a lot of apologies, so when I got home I wasn’t in trouble. Not with them at least.
“You hypocrite,” Lumie said when I got to the top of the stairs. “You get mad at me for staying out late but–“
“I texted our dads about me running late and I apologized,” I responded a bit angrily. “Plus they knew I was out, I didn’t sneak out.” I held my hand up and flicked out all my fingers. “Boom. Maybe if you–you’re back with him?!” I hissed out, as I got a glimpse into her brain. Lumie turned silently away. I grabbed her arm and spun her back to face me. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, I thought he broke your heart?”
“He told me it was a mistake,” she said, not meeting my eyes. “He missed me as soon as we went apart and now he’s asked me to be his girlfriend, and I’ve said yes. Stop looking at me like that, Saul’s a great guy. And you’ve got a girlfriend now.”
“We just kissed and went on a date, she’s not my girlfriend,” I said, though I had the feeling Kim would be assuming we were a couple now. That wasn’t too terrible a thing though. At that thought, Lumie crossed her arms and gave me a ‘see?’ look. “Well you know what, I am not gonna encourage Kim to stay out till midnight and keep secrets from her parents.”
“I’ll tell Dad and Pa,” Lumie said. “It’s not Saul, it’d be the same with any guy. You know how bizarre Dad acted when Presea and Glados started dating, and they were sixteen. But they’ll probably be fine with you, since you’re a guy. Hey! You tell them first you’re seeing someone, and then I’ll tell them about Saul and since they’ll be fine with you dating, they have to be fine with me dating!”
Lumie held onto my arms, looking at me with such shining eyes, her mind begging me to agree that I couldn’t help but cave. “Finnne,” I said. “I need to make sure Kim’s okay with being all officially a couple though.”
“Thank you!” Lumie hugged me tightly. “You’re the best.” I hugged her back, not really feeling like the best for helping her continue to date jerkface.
I plopped down on the park swing, waiting for Kim to show up. It was early the next afternoon, and I had requested her to meet up with me even though we’d all be going on another group outing that night. Even though Halloween wasn’t till tomorrow, we decided to go to the haunted house this night because our curfews would limit us on Halloween night. Buuut I figured I should ask her to be my girlfriend like, apart. From the others.
I began swinging a bit, waiting for her to show up. There were a lot of people out, hurrying from here to there but I was the only one in the park. I swung a bit more, looking up at the sky until I got that creepers feeling down my spine. I stopped and looked around cause it felt like–yep. Someone was watching me. On the other side of the basketball court so there was a lot of space and two chain link fences in between us but he was watching me (she maybe? I couldn’t tell). I began swinging again, sloowwwlly as I kept the figure in the corner of my eye.
They were definitely facing me. Nothing in their hands so they weren’t texting or reading. They were just standing there. Facing m–wait.
I skid to a halt and jumped up. Was that the same person that I saw in Hidden Springs? I think it is. My heart began pounding, my throat became dry, and my palms sweated.
I turned at the sound of Kim’s voice. I turned back to look at the figure but they were gone. “What the…?” I took a few steps but by that point Kim came running over to me, wrapping her arms around one of my arms.
“Hey Zaid,” she said with a big smile. “Whatcha looking at?”
“There’s no one there, right?”
“Um, I don’t see anyone…”
Maybe I was… No. I was NOT imagining it. I didn’t imagine the figure that night at Hidden Springs, I wasn’t imagining it now. “I guess they ran off,” I muttered.
“Oh. Um. So, you needed to see me?”
Ohhhh right, I almost forgot. I looked at Kim and my heart began pounding again, my throat went dry again, and my palms began sweating again. For verrrryy different reasons now. “Er, yeah, um. Yeah. I was wondering if, y’know, you’d uh, like you and me, you know, um, yeah so… uhhh… how about it?”
She tilted her head, her whole face lighting up with excitement. “A–are you asking me… out? As… a…?”
“Um, yeah. G-girlfriend. If you want.”
Her arms went around me, squeezing tightly. “Oh yes! Oh Zaid, oh yes! Thank you! Oh my gawsh and you–you can get on the basketball team and I’ll be a cheerleader!” She began bouncing, clapping her hands. “And we’ll be most popular couple! And oh my gawsh I can’t believe this, I have a boyfriend! Oh Zaid!” Her arms were back around me and she was kissing my cheek over and over.
I put my arms around Kim and tried to give her a kiss on the cheek in return but she turned her head so I kissed her ear instead. But she just giggled and hugged tighter, not bothered by this. I hugged back, realizing maybe I should have asked my dads before asking her… if they said no… uhhh…
Oops. Too late now.