“Evie? Why don’t you look happy?” Someone asked me as I was staring off into space.
Blinking, I glanced around, trying to find who was addressing me. Cam had a worried expression on her face. “Yeah. I was just thinking about homework.” I waved off her concern with a plausible lie.
Cam thought over my answer for a few seconds before believing me and smiling, wiping her worried expression away. “Well, stop thinking about that! You only turn twenty once you know!”
I laughed. “Yeah. I know.”
Cam, Andie, and I were at a restaurant in Cambridge celebrating my twentieth birthday. It was busy for a February night and my mind was elsewhere, thinking about something Ezra had asked me earlier today.
He had called me before I had class today to wish me a happy birthday. After that, we started talking. And eventually we got on the topic of relationships. He posed the question he had asked me about four years ago; whether or not I would be his girlfriend. I hadn’t outright told him no, but I hadn’t said yes. I told him I would think about it. Today of all days he had to ask me.
Cam, Andie, and I were all in our spring term at our perspective colleges. Cam is working on her English and editorial degree. Andie is working on her baking skills—a little bit of culinary. And I’m working on my biochemistry degree with a focus on DNA. Genetics has always fascinated me ever since I could remember.
“So. What’d I miss?” Andie asked, sliding back onto the bench next to Cam. She had been in the bathroom.
“Evie was worrying about homework on her birthday! Can you believe that?!” Cam fumed, annoyed that my focus was on studies instead of having fun.
I had always been like that. That is until senior year when I let my brain turn to mush by a certain someone whose name shall not be spoken of at this moment. I’m trying to forget about them.
“I can definitely believe that.” Andie responded. “She’s always been like that.”
Cam rolled her eyes and sighed. “You’re right.” She looked at all our empty plates. Well, mine still had some fries on it. “Are you two ready to continue the fun?” She smiled brightly.
Snatching one last fry off my plate, I popped it into my mouth before getting up, signaling I was ready to go. Cam and Andie had already covered the tab earlier, we had just wanted to chit chat longer before continuing on with the night.
“So what do you two have planned for the rest of the evening?” I asked as we walked along the sidewalk down a main street.
“Well,” Cam linked her arm with mine.
“We were thinking,” Andie did the same thing.
“What do you want to do?” They asked in unison.
I was surprised that they were allowing me to choose. For years, Cam always picked what we would do to celebrate. I didn’t mind. It gave me more time to focus on my studies.
I gaped like a fish, floundering for an answer to their question. But after thinking about what I wanted to do, I said, “If you two don’t mind doing a Harry Potter Marathon back at Cam and I’s dorm room, I’d be cool with that.” I smiled slightly, somewhat embarrassed by my choice of activity.
“I’m good with that.” Cam smiled brightly again.
“Same.” Andie said, agreeing with her own smile.
My smile widened. “Great!” We continued to walk along the street towards Cam and I’s dorm building.
“You know,” Cam started to say. “Since we don’t have school tomorrow, you should just spend the night with us Andie so you wouldn’t have to worry about going home in the dark.” She pointed out logically.
“What a good idea Cam.” Andie smiled, happy about that idea. “Now I don’t have to bother Kent late in the night.”
“Why would you have to bother him late in the night?” I asked, confused.
“Kent told me that if I was ever walking alone in the dark to call him so he would know if I got home safe or not.”
“Awww. That’s so sweet of him.” Cam said.
Andie blushed in the fading light of the day. “Yeah. Sometimes I find it a bit too sweet.”
“What do you mean by that?” Cam asked.
“Well…” Andie went on to explain while my mind wandered back to my earlier dilemma.
I know I should answer Ezra soon…But I had realized over the years that I only thought of him as a brother. Even if I had a crush on him at some point. But last summer was really when I figured out he was like an older brother to me.
It was the second day of our vacation actually when I realized that. It was when we were back at the beach house after having spent the day at the beach. I had to help put Aloe Vera on Andie’s back and then she passed out on the bed from exhaustion and jet lag. So Ezra and I played Go Fish quietly and talked while she slept.
“So, how was senior year for you?” Ezra asked.
“Do you have any fours?” I asked him, focusing on the game more than a conversation. I take Go Fish very seriously.
“Evie.” Ezra put his hand on my arm and I flinched, unused to the contact by him since I haven’t seen him for a few years. Ezra gave me a weird look. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” I lied, hoping he’d believe me. “I’ve just been tired lately.” Somewhat of a lie.
“Ah.” Was all he said. “That explains a lot.” He smiled cheekily.
“And what is that supposed to mean?” I asked skeptically, raising an eyebrow at him.
“Just that you have been kinda different since I’ve seen you.”
For some reason, that statement irked me. Placing my cards down, I gave Ezra a hard stare. He gulped, knowing what was going to come. “Ezra.” I stated. “You haven’t seen me for a few years. This is the first time you’ve seen me again. Of course I’m different. I’ve changed since I was sixteen. Yes, we’ve talked on the phone and whatnot, but I haven’t seen you since you asked me out those three years ago. And I’ve moved on from that. I’m not who I used to be. Senior year made me different.”
“Oh.” Was all Ezra had to say.
That also bugged me. That after I had given my rant, all he said was, “Oh.” And then the conversation died and we went back to playing Go Fish with very little small talk.
“So, Evie, what do you think about that?” Someone addressed me again, bringing me back to the real world.
“Huh? What happened?” I looked between the both of them confused.
Andie and Cam shared a look.
“You haven’t been thinking about homework actually, have you?” Cam asked me, calling my bluff.
I shook my head no, crestfallen, so confused on what to do with Ezra.
“Girl. When we get to the dorm, you’re telling Andie and I everything that has been going on in that pretty little head of yours.”
“Okay.” I said quietly, looking at the ground as we walked.
I knew I was going to be interrogated soon, and it wasn’t going to be easy.
“Why didn’t you tell us earlier?!” Cam whacked me on my arm, reprimanding me, as we started to watch Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
“Ow!” I rubbed the spot where she had whacked me, giving her a sour look. “It’s because I wanted to figure it out by myself. But now I see that it would be a futile attempt.” I pinched the bridge of my nose, frustrated.
“So he asked you to be his girlfriend again and you said no again?” Andie asked for clarification. I could see the confusion in her light green eyes.
“He asked me to be his girlfriend again and I told him I’d think about it. I’m still not completely over Danny and I really don’t think about Ezra romantically anymore.”
“That’s not what it seemed like last summer!” Cam cried out, distraught. “You were embarrassed by our teasing!”
Thinning my lips, I said, “That was only because I was embarrassed that Ezra would get the wrong idea because of you two!” I threw my hands up in the air, annoyed.
Andie started laughing. Cam and I looked at her oddly.
“Why are you laughing?” I asked her.
She had to calm down before she could speak. “That’s why you were so jittery whenever Anderson was near and we would tease you about him. You were on the lookout, hoping he wouldn’t hear us so we couldn’t fuel his hope that you still liked him.” She giggled.
I shrugged. “More or less. I already knew then that I didn’t like him anymore. He’s like an older brother to me. I like him as a friend, but nothing more.”
“So he basically friend zoned himself asking you out then all those years ago.” Cam pointed out.
I thought over her words for a few seconds. “Somewhat. I did like him then, but I didn’t want to be a rebound, so I told him no. And then awkwardness ensued after that between us and my feelings kind of just died after that.” I explained as best as I could.
“That makes sense.” Cam said. “You had a higher expectation on him and he disappointed you, so you finally saw his true self and wasn’t attracted to him romantically anymore. But you still want to be friends.”
“More or less. There’s—“
“…a troll! In the dungeon!” Blared from Cam and I’s tiny TV, coming to the part where just before Professor Quirell faints.
We all burst into a fit of laughter, thinking it hilarious that that part played just as I was about to say something. Once we all calmed down, I realized I had forgotten what I was about to say. I worried Cam and Andie would want to know, but they also seemed to have forgotten what I was going to say. Because after that, Cam changed the subject to talk about our classes and teachers. I was totally fine with this, not really wanting to discuss Ezra anymore.
That night we didn’t really have a true Harry Potter Marathon. We mainly had the movies on as background noise as we talked throughout the night. It was one of my better birthday parties.
Usually, when I was young, something wrong would happen during my party. Like one year when I turned ten, I had a Hawaiian themed birthday with a volcano cake. And instead of the volcano cake erupting the way it should’ve, it exploded in everyone’s face instead. I was completely horrified and I ended up shutting myself in my room for the rest of the day. What a fun time to be ten.
“Hey, Evie,” Andie said, bringing me out of my past. “You haven’t opened your gifts yet.” She gestured to the pile that was on the floor near my bed.
I laughed awkwardly. “Oh yeah. I forgot I had those…”
Everyone in my family had sent me a gift. Which is around thirty people. I felt bad for whoever had to deliver them to my dorm. Plus Andie and Cam had even gotten me something. Even my parents had balloons and flowers delivered to me while I was in class. It was so embarrassing because then the whole class ended up singing happy birthday to me. Which I was not comfortable with that. They were all strangers to me, so I really did not want to be sung to by strangers. It’s also awkward when you are surrounded by thirty other students singing at you and you never know what to do while you just sit there looking like the awkward human being that you actually are. This will be the last time I give them my schedule.
Sighing, tired, I reached for the closest package. It had a card attached to it with my name on it. Opening the card’s envelope, I pulled out the card and read the inscription out loud on it, in a monochromatic voice. “Happy twentieth, Evie—exclamation mark. We hope you have an awesome day at school on your birthday—exclamation mark. We’re also hoping Andie and Cam are also treating you well—exclamation mark. Lots of Love, Aunt Jackie, Uncle Nathan, Matt, and Addie.”
“Why are you reading it out loud in a dull voice? Add some character and make it fun.” Cam pouted.
I sighed again. “I’d rather not even open all of these.” I looked at the daunting pile of presents.
I was really bad at receiving gifts. Even as a kid. Mainly it was because I would ask for one specific thing, but instead I’d get a whole bunch of other things that I wouldn’t’ve really wanted in the first place. So I just ended up asking for money instead so I could actually buy what I wanted, but I still ended up getting stuff I didn’t really want from all my family members. Now I know I sound like I don’t appreciate the gifts I get, but I actually do. It’s just that I’m awful about accepting them.
Andie and Cam both frowned at me.
“You really need to get over your lack of acceptance with gifts.” Andie pointed out.
“I know. It’s a hard habit to break.”
“Excuses, excuses.” Cam waved my excuse away. “Now I want you to open all these gifts with a semblance of a good attitude.”
“Ugh. Fine.” I opened the gift before me and found a kids chemistry set underneath all the wrapping paper. “What the Fibonacci? I’m not five.” I flipped over the box and found a sticky not attached. Pulling it off, I brought it closer to my face to read. “P.S. Matt wanted to pick your gift out this year. He knew you liked science so he’d thought you’d like to do this in your spare time.”
“Awwww.” Andie and Cam chimed together.
“That’s so sweet.” Andie said.
“I’m still not five.” I grumbled before placing the gift to the side and moving on to the next one.
“Hey. What did I saw about your sourpuss attitude?” Cam caught me.
“To have a semblance of a happy one.” I replied, rolling my eyes and pushing up on my glasses since they were slipping down my face.
“Good.” Cam nodded her head. “Now do the next one with a better attitude. Or else I get to dress you for a whole month.”
I thought over her offer for a few minutes. I didn’t really like it when Cam dressed me. She always took away my science t-shirts and overalls. I never felt comfortable in the outfits she put me in. On the outside, I made myself confident in the outfit, but on the inside, I was totally freaking out and very self-conscious when people would look at me. “Fine. Only because you always take away my t-shirts and overalls.”
“What’s our magic word for deal making?” Cam raised her eyebrow at me.
Rolling my eyes, I said, “Spaghetti.”
Between the three of us, we all had come up with a code word for when we made deals with one another. And it just so happened to be Spaghetti. Since we all like that. This was made when were all between the ages of seven and eight when we were having a family reunion.
“Let’s move on.” Andie said. “Kent also wants to know what you got and he’s getting real impatient.”
I looked over at Andie. “Why are you even telling him what I got?” I noticed she was holding her phone up in a way to let me know she was doing a video. “Are you recording this?”
She blushed, embarrassed that she had been caught. “I’m actually Skyping this with Kent…” She trailed off and then turned the phone around so I could see.
It wasn’t just Kent. The whole band was filling up the screen.
“Andie! Why didn’t you ask me first?!” I was a bit upset that she hadn’t asked me if she could do that. I probably looked like a complete weirdo in front of all of them. I buried my head in my hands, not wanting anyone to see my face. Especially a certain someone. At least he looked disinterested in what was happening. Wait. I actually don’t want that. That just makes it worse.
“Evie.” Someone was saying from the screen. I moved my hands out of the way slightly to see who it was. It was Kent talking. “It’s not all Andie’s fault. When Da—“ Someone whapped him on the head to keep him from talking. You couldn’t really tell who it was since all of them were filling the screen and it was hard to tell where they all started. They were mainly all just heads filling the screen. “Who did that?” Kent asked angrily, giving them all glares. None of the guys spoke up. “When I find out who did—“
“Kent!” Andie interrupted her boyfriend. “Just let it go. It’s not an important issue. The important issue is Evie’s birthday here.” She reprimanded him a bit for getting off topic.
“Ooooo.” All the guys said to Kent. “Someone’s in trouble.” Curt added.
“Shut up.” Kent growled, irritated by Curt.
“Galileo.” I pinched the bride of my nose. “Can I just finish opening these before it turns into the next day?” The six band members were all giving me a headache unintentionally.
“Yes.” Cam said. “Let’s continue.”
I grabbed the next gift and repeated my earlier process, but with a better attitude, not wanting to break Cam and I’s deal. I had too many witnesses to hold it against me.
After another hour and a half, I finally finished opening all the gifts. It only took that long because we’d get sidetracked and then someone would have to get back to what we were doing. By the time I had finished, only Kent and Gideon were left on the screen. The other band members having wished me a happy birthday, watched me open some gifts, and then realize that they all had stuff to do.
Yawning, I shook my head, trying to wake up so I could say goodnight to Kent and Gideon before passing out on the floor. “Goodnight.” I got out before laying down on all the blankets we had laid on the floor to make a nest. Cam was already out, having fallen asleep before all of us. Which usually wasn’t the case.
“Goodnight, Evie.” I heard Kent and Gideon say in unison as I shut my eyes and started to fall asleep.
“Goodnight Evie.” Someone else said right before I fell into a deep sleep, repeating those words in that person’s voice as I did so.