Friendship Holiday Contemporary

Lord Almighty, what have I gotten myself into? Greg thought as he looked around his living room.

Chickens were running loose around the house and pecked anyone who tried to grab them and put them back in their cages. Smoke was coming from the kitchen where he could only assume that some kind of food was burning. Gemma, Vicky, Taylor, and Damian were fighting over which form of entertainment would be used at Aurora's party as each of them brought their own.

And then there was the giant puddle in the middle of the room where, just three hours ago, an ice sculpture of Aurora's head stood.

Everything was falling apart. His plan was turning out to be an absolute disaster. Aurora was coming in two hours. And he had no idea how to fix the mess he had created.

Now I'll never get Aurora to smile before New Years' Day, Greg thought forlornly.

Aurora Hardinger was Greg's best friend, and he loved her so very much. She was always this wacky crackpot that managed to make him smile without effort. Well, this year, he decided to make his final goal to return the favor.

2020 had not been a good year for Aurora. First, Taal Volcano erupted in the Philippines, leaving her old home in Tanauan, the home that she grew up in, the home that held so many precious memories, buried underneath a mountain of black ash. Her family had been spared, but her favorite dog, Paula Jean, was suffocated by ash. Then, her dad had accumulated lung cancer (he had weak lungs and being exposed to volcano ash was probably the last proverbial straw for them) and has been in a critical state all year. Her mom, who was the one who often went out for food or other basic needs, caught the COVID-19 virus and died three months after her diagnosis. To top it all off, Aurora couldn't be there for any of these events because she was stuck in the United States until traveling would be safe again. All she could do was try to reassure her woeful siblings while crying herself when they couldn't see her.

Greg had not been able to see her smile once this year, which is why he decided to throw a New Years' Eve surprise party for her in an attempt to make her smile. Unfortunately, nothing went as planned.

First, Greg ordered a bunch of lovebirds, Aurora's favorite bird, for the party and instead got three cages, filled to the brim, with chickens. The moment that his little brother, Max, opened all three cages, all hell broke loose. The chickens wreaked havoc around his house and pecked their chasers, Greg's two older brothers. Then, Addison, his little sister who swore she could cook a decent meal, burned half the food she made and was in the process of burning more. Then, his four friends, who were responsible for picking only one form of entertainment for Aurora's party, ended up bringing four acts that they couldn't afford. Finally, the ice sculpture that he bought off the internet was made of such cheap, thin ice that it only took three hours without air conditioning for it to melt into one giant puddle. Now, everyone was fighting about who's to blame for the situation.

"You're the one who opened the cages!"

"Well, you're the wannabe chef who burned all the food!"

"Well, I'm not the one who booked four acts that are way beyond our budget!"

"It's not my fault that these miscreants didn't want a clown act!"

"Who in their right minds would enjoy clown acts?"

"I do!"

"Well, Aurora doesn't! She likes rock music!"

"She likes good rock music!"

"How dare you! My band is good!"

"Keep dreaming!"

They went back and forth like this until Greg couldn't handle it anymore.

"THAT'S ENOUGH!" he boomed.

Everyone went dead silent.

"All of you, get out of my house," he said as calmly as he possibly could with his anger on the rise.

Apparently, nobody liked to argue with angry Greg, so a silent and shamed procession made its way to the door. Only Greg's siblings remained stubborn.

"This is our house too, you know," Addison said, crossing her arms.

Greg glared and pointed to the door. His siblings practically trampled each other to get out first. When they were all gone, he slumped to the floor and put his head between his knees. He stayed like that until his mom came home, took one look at the house, shrieked, and fainted dead away.

Greg sighed and rose to get the smelling salt in the upstairs bathroom. When he came back, Aurora was comforting his mom.

The smelling salt slipped out of his hands.

Aurora was looking around the house's chaotic state. Her eyes popped open wider when she saw a chicken pass by and cluck at her before leaving the room. Then, she found Greg, eyes as wide as hers, frozen as though her dark-brown eyes held him under some kind of spell.

"Greg..." Aurora started cautiously.

"Hello Aurora," he said rigidly.

"Hello," she said, her eyes analyzing the crazy scenario before finding Greg again. "Is there anything you'd like to tell me?"

She cocked an eyebrow. Greg knew this meant that she was suspicious, so like any calm, composed friend, he started explaining everything really quickly in a really squeaky voice that made him really embarrassed.

"Aurora, I knew that you'd been sad all year, and I hadn't seen you smile once ever since you heard the news about your childhood home, so I decided that the final goal I wanted to accomplish before New Years' Day is to make you smile. So, I planned this surprise party for you. But then, the lovebirds I ordered came as chickens, and Max let them out, so now, they're running around the house, pecking anyone who tries to get close to them. Then, Addison burned all our food, our friends brought four acts that we couldn't afford, your ice sculpture melted, so now..." he gestured frantically around the house, "...everything's a mess."

He stood there, shoulders slumped, cheeks flooded red, expecting Aurora to berate him for his dumb plan and even dumber ideas. But she just stood as still as a statue, her face an unreadable iron mask.

They stood in silence for a long time (Greg's mom left the room to avoid eavesdropping). Then, Aurora started laughing.

Greg gaped at her open-mouthed. He couldn't believe that Aurora was laughing. She was actually laughing. Actually, it wasn't even just laughing; she was shaking and tearing up with so much laughter that she had to hold her stomach.

When she was done letting all her laughs out, she stood as still as she could possibly get and wiped tears from her eyes.

"No wonder Max and Addison tried so hard to keep me out of the house," she snickered, her face red from laughing.

Greg was still dumb-founded.

"Y-y-you nah m-mad?" he stuttered dumbly before realizing what he just said and covering his mouth in embarrassment.

Aurora laughed harder.

"Mad?" she cackled. "Why in the world would I be mad?"

"B-because e-everything's a-a-a m-m-mess now," he stuttered again.

"Greg," she said, clearly making an effort to somber up, "you worked so hard to make me happy. You even ordered an ice sculpture for me!" She gestured to the puddle. Greg snickered a little.

Aurora went over to him and picked a feather out of his curly brown hair.

"You had an amazing idea. No matter how badly it was executed. It was such a sweet and well-meaning idea. Just as expected from a guy as sweet as you. I love it," she said sincerely before hugging him tightly.

Greg couldn't believe it. He made Aurora smile. He really made her smile. He checked his watch. It read 11:58pm. He smiled widely and hugged Aurora back.

Looks like he was able to achieve his goal after all.

January 02, 2021 03:45

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Rayhan Hidayat
14:17 Jan 08, 2021

Oh this is great! You captured the chaos of a surprise party gone wrong perfectly, and the message of “it’s the thought that counts” is awesome—the sort of thing you’d expect from a cartoon episode. Good stuff! 😙


Megara Jackson
01:42 Jan 09, 2021

Thanks! I'm glad you like it! I loved your story too!!! Heart to Beat was like reading an awesome manga without pictures!


Rayhan Hidayat
01:53 Jan 09, 2021

No worries! Yep, I definitely did try to capture the vibe of a manga/anime, so I’m glad that came through!


Megara Jackson
10:37 Jan 09, 2021

It really did! Good luck with your story!


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Joy Andersen
11:10 Jan 09, 2021

This is so sweet! Made me smile so widely. Thanks for posting it!


Megara Jackson
02:48 Jan 13, 2021

You're welcome! Glad you liked it :)))


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