I cringed when I heard my name. But like clockwork I looked towards the voice. “Are you the new volunteer?” A dark haired woman asked me as she approached me with a large cake in her hands.
“I guess,” I said sharply.
She looked taken aback before forcing a smile.
“Do you think you could go put this cake over on the table? I would but I have to go give Winnie her medication.”
I rolled my eye’s
“I guess so,” I said taking the large chiclet cake in my arms.
“Anna I think you need to check your aditude when you work here,” The nurse said quietly in my ear so no one could hear what we were talking about. “You are here to get experiences and learn how to work with the elderly. If you think your going to do well in the work place with that aditude than you better think again. It’s your first day here so I’ll be a little nicer but I never want to see or here that aditude again. If I do than I’ll nicely suggest to the volunteer quardanater that you should be fired. Now, this is a birthday party let’s have some fun.”
My mouth dried. I wasn't expecting someone to call me out. I just didn’t want to be there and I didn’t want to deal with old people especially a lot of them all in one room. But, I would try and act nicer at least in front of her. I didn’t want my parents to send me away. I had one chance and that was it.
I nodded and turned clutching the cake tighter in my hands. The huge purple icing 100 that was splattered on top of the cake mocked me. It reminded me that this was my punishment and man did my parents know how to punish me. Making me volunteer at a retirement home with old people. They knew I would hate this but they also knew that the only thing I would hate more would be to leave home and my friends and go live mwith my aunt Mae…
I set the cake down on the middle of the wooden table just to see to older men walking in. They took a seat on the other side of the table. I internally cringed as I thought about them talking to me or asking me for help. I wouldn’t know what to do in that situation. I would probably just freeze up or make a smart ass remark and I didn’t want to get fired or anything. I hoped that the staff would just decide that there were to many workers and that they didn’t need me today so they would send me home and I could go home and not get into any trouble.
“Ruby is going to be so surprised,” the older looking man said rubbing his hands together.
“I can’t believe that old girl is 100. I just hope this makes her happy,” The other said as he unfolded a napkin and set it on his lap.
I was done with that conversation so I moved quietly away from the table so I could avoid the conversation at hand.
Everyone probably thought I was being so polite when I moved. They probably thought that I was moving so the little old ladies and the weak old men could have a chair to sit in. They were wrong. I just wanted to be in the background. It was better for everyone that way.
“Ruby’s on her way,” someone called. “Sam is gone to get her. She’ll be here any minute.”
I backed up quietly to a wall. I was trying not to be seen. I knew I wasn’t good with people and I also knew I had to stay at this job. It would make my parents happy. They deserved it and I diserved this punishment. I hoped my parents would take pity on me after this party but I doubted it.
My eye’s caught a glance of all the balloons that had huge 100’s all over them. Than my eye’s turned to all the people around the room, young and old as an idea came to me. I would try to only volunteer at special events and parties with more people so I could hide in the background and do nothing but still be getting my hours and making my parents happy.
I smiled as I thought about that idea. I thought it was a good one since I didn’t want to be here and this way I wouldn’t have to interact with anyone much. I was so smart.
The door to the dining room slowly opened to expose a blonde man pushing a tiny rumpled tired woman in a wheel chair. She looked confused as everyone started cheering.
“Happy birthday Ruby,” Everyone chorused.
For whatever reason my eye’s stayed locked on ruby. I wasn’t sure why I couldn’t look away but what I was seeing on her face wasn’t excitement or happiness. It was anger. Pure anger.
The room went quiet as more people registered what was going on. I could barely breathe as I watched Ruby’s face grow more livid… If that was even possable.
“What is this?” She screamed.
“Your 100 today Ruby,” the blonde man who must have been sam said. “It’s your party.”
“You idiots,” Ruby screeched. “You should have asked me. I didn’t want a party… not with you people…”
“well,” sam started.
“No I hate you people and your hugs and your baby talk and your prize for turning 100. You don’t understand what it’s like to turn 100. You don’t understand what it’s like to be me.”
The quiet was as thick as mud as Ruby shakily turned her wheelchair around and zoomed down the hall.
She said something about how they didn’t understand what it was like to b her. I didn’t understand what it was like to be her but I did understand the feeling of being misunderstood.
While that thought rushed through my head I found myself moving through all the old people to the door. I wasn’t sure why but I felt that maybe a misfit could help another misfit.
“Stop,” Sam said grabbing my arm. “I think she needs some time.”
“Screw off,” I said shoving by him and starting after the wheelchair.
After reading three name plates I finally found Ruby Hunter. I knocked lightly on the door before slightly pushing it open.
“Ruby?” I asked cautiously. “My name is Anna…”
I cringed when I said my name out loud but that is what I was in the System as. “I’m a volunteer here… You wanna um talk?”
“Why do you want to talk?” Ruby’s soft voice asked from the corner.
I moved through the room and saw her sitting in her chair facing the wall.
“Because your upset and stuff.”
“I’m not upset,” She said in her previously angry tone. “I’m angry.”
Her voice cracked just before a slight sniffle submerged from her throat.
I laughed a little before unlocking the breaks on her wheelchair and turning her to face me.
My heart sunk when I saw Ruby’s thin face crumpled with tears rushing down her paper cheeks.
“I’m here to listen I don’t understand what your going through but I do understand feeling misunderstood. If you wanna talk you can…”
My words jumbled together and I wasn’t sure if I was making sense. I wasn’t good at talking to people about feelings or anything. But she needed someone and everyone seemed ignorant at the party towards her feelings.
“There’s nothing to say Anna. I’m alone.”
I wasn’t sure what to say so I sat on the cold ground and pressed my hands into my chin and looked up at her hoping she would continue.
“I’m 100 years old and I’m alone and sick. I don’t know what els to say.”
I could understand her pane when she said she was alone. Pane coursed through my vanes when she said that.
“Anna I bet you have lots of friends and maybe even a boyfriend. Your a pretty girl…"
"I don't want to be pretty," I whispered barely loud enough to hear it myself.
"I’m just an old bat who can’t even hold her own spoon anymore.”
My heart sank.
“I bet it’s hard and I’m sorry. Can I ask why you don’t want the party? I think turning 100 is a big achievement that means you have had a healthy life.”
“I have no one to celebrate with. I know that there are many people here but they are not my family. I never had a family.”
Tears trickled down her face even more. My hand reached out for hers and she smiled through the tears as we clutched hands. I never imagined myself ever being the one to help this woman.
“I’m so sorry,” I said quietly.
“I thought that was what I wanted… Never having kids but when I moved here 27 years ago I started seeing everyone’s kids and grandkids showing up to visit. But, I was the youngest of 11 and the last to survive.”
Tears filled my eye’s.
“So I found myself spending every holiday and birthday alone. I didn’t want to do anything for this birthday. I just wanted to watch the news and eat my pudding.”
“I’m so sorry,” I cried.
“Your a pretty girl pleas don’t make mistakes. Love your family. I cut mine off when they were mad that I didn’t want kids. I yelled at them and told them that they were bad people for not letting me be me and own a business and be a single woman. One night I told my mother that I wished she wasn’t my mother than I left. The next time I saw her she was being placed in the ground.”
My heart sank. I would try to love my parents… It was hard though.
“I stole money from my parents for a surgery. Like a lot of money. That’s why I’m volunteering here to make up for that.”
I wasn’t sure why I was telling her this. I couldn’t make myself say more quite yet I just didn’t want to end up like her at 100 years old and no one to love me. I just wanted my parents to love me for me. I would put up with them for my friends, the people who knew me but I wouldn't put up with them if they kept treating me wrong.
“surgery?” She asked but I had started talking before she finished the word.
“I’ll be here for you,” I found myself saying. I wasn’t sure if she would like the real me but I didn’t mind. I just wanted to be here fore her. “I know I’m not your kid or anything but I’ll visit you everyday and I’ll bake for you and read you stories and hold your spoon.”
“Oh Anna.” Ruby whispered as she opened her small arms for a hug.
I pulled myself off my spot on the ground and placed my arms around her and hugged softly. It was the nicest thing I had ever felt because I wasn’t guarded. I felt that me and this woman of a different generation were simmaler. We had different issues but a similar mind set.
“My name’s not Anna,” I whispered. “It’s Andrew.”
She looked at me confusion crossing her face. I didn’t mean to say that. I didn’t want to bi shunned by another person.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m going to be a boy. I’m going to change my gender.”
I wasn’t sure how well she would understand it but I needed to tell her. I wanted to be as open with her as she was with me. It felt good to have it in the open even if she was mad. It felt like a huge brick was lifted from my sholders.
“How?” She asked.
“surgery. It’s hard. Are you mad or disgusted?”
She shook her head and hugged me again.
“I’m not mad at you. I don’t understand how you will become a boy but maybe in your visits to me you can explain it better. Is that the surgery that you were taking the money for?”
I nodded as tears spilled over my cheeks.
“Thank you, uh, sorry for ruining your afternoon. You know, more than it was. I didn't mean to make my problems your problems.”
“You were here for me on probably the worst day of my life. Now no more being mean to your parents or stealing money from them. When ever you're feeling upset or alone, come talk to me because I'm here for you Andrew,” She said hugging my shaking body to hers. I felt connected to this woman and I knew she was the one who could help turn my life around. “One misunderstood soul to another.”
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