Mila wasn't entirely sure what was happening around her. People she usually only saw on her birthday or when it came time for Santa to visit were all cluttered together in a small room with ugly green walls. Her older brother Mason was holding her hand as her mother rushed all around the room taping up streamers and balloons. Her father was whispering in the corner with Auntie Elly. She didn't know what they were saying, but she could tell her papa was mad because he scrunched his eyebrows together and pursed his lips like he did when he scolded her for throwing a fit.
"Ugh, can we just get this thing over with already." Her cousin Cody groaned, "I wanna go hang out with Max, he just got his new Xbox hooked up." He plopped down onto the bed in the center of the room with little grace and flung his arms up in the air.
Mila hadn't even realized there was a bed in the room. She took a moment to scan the entirety of where she was. There was a small sofa, the same green color as the walls, with a matching chair and a coffee table on one side of the room. The other had the bed with a quilt lying on it and a connecting bathroom with a super wide doorway. When she looked even closer, she could make out some pictures on the far wall of the room. Some had a young girl and boy in them, while others where of all adults together. But then she spotted the one in the bright pink frame. Why, that was her and Mason!
"Shut up, Cody." Mason growled and punched him in the arm with his free hand before leading Mila over to sit on the bed beside her cousin. "Don't make things difficult, idiot." Cody simply rolled his eyes and picked up his Nintendo Switch, turning it back on.
Still unsure of exactly what she was doing here, Mila turned around to ask her papa what was going on, he worked as a college teacher so obviously he had to be the smartest person alive. Before she could get the words out, he started glaring at his sister.
"How could you possibly say that? You know it's not true." He crossed his arms over his chest and began tapping his foot. Uh-oh, this couldn't be good, Mila knew.
Auntie Elly glared back and clenched her teeth together, "Yes, it is, Ryan! She's not gonna know the difference so who gives a damn if we celebrate or not, she certainly doesn't."
Mila watched as her papa rolled his eyes, shook his head and lowered is voice, "Why can't you just pretend for five fucking seconds that all of this might actually do some good and if you could just cooperate for one hour, that she might be left better off. Huh, is that so hard, Elaine, after everything she's done for us?"
"Don't give me that crap-" Mila stopped looking once Auntie Elly started pointing her finger at her papa. She didn't want to get yelled at for interrupting.
"Masy." Mila whispered, tugging on her brother's hand.
Mason turned his head from where he was incessantly watching the door to sit down on the floor in front of her. He softly smiled, "Yes, Mimi, what's up?"
"What are we doing here?" Her expression turned confused as she pointed to the photo on the wall, "and why am I on the wall?" Mason looked behind her at the photo and chuckled.
"You probably don't remember because the last time you were here you were this big," Mason held up his hand about a foot and half off the ground, causing Mila to giggle, "but this is Granny's retirement home."
"What is ret...ener...ment?" Mila attempted to form the new word in her mouth.
Mason chuckled, "It doesn't need to matter to you yet, kid. But this is where Granny lives."
Mila instantly perked up, a wide smile appearing on her face, "Granny's here!" She all but screamed. "Masy, I wanna see Granny!" She squealed and clapped her hands, causing all the adults to look her way, some with affection and others with irritation. It was pretty easy to guess who was which.
"She'll be here soon, honey." Her mommy called from across the room as she stuck another balloon on the wall, this one was a baby blue. Mila loved that kind of blue, even her room was that color! "Today is her birthday."
"Granny's birthday!" Her jaw dropped open. "How many is she?" Mila's mother walked over to her and scooped her up into her lap. Mila noticed her eyelids were gold and shimmery. How did she make them do that? I wanna do that! Mila wondered.
"Why don't you guess?" Her mommy said to her while holding her tight she wouldn't tumble on to the floor.
"Hmm," Mila tapped her pointer finger on her chin, "Forty?" She finally decided on.
Her mommy laughed quietly, "Nope, one more guess."
"Fifty?" Mila was unsure now, she had thought forty was pretty spot on. How could someone be much older?
"Mason, why is your sister so dumb?" Cody called out to Mason over on the couch. Mila whimpered and bit her lip, she didn't want to cry in front of Cody the meanie.
"Cody, don't say that!" Auntie Elly scolded him, abruptly ending her conversation with Mila's papa.
"What!" Cody defended himself, "She thought Grandma was turning 40!" He rolled his eyes picked up his Switch, which Auntie Elly yanked out his hand and put in her purse.
"Hey!" He shouted.
Mila whimpered again, "Mommy." She said weakly, burying her face in her mom's shoulder.
"It's okay, sweetie, Cody is just in a bad mood. You're not dumb." She ran her fingers through Mila's hair, trying to calm her down.
"Shut your stupid mouth, Cody. If anyone here is dumb, it's most definitely you! She's only five years old!" Mason shouted from the couch.
Mila opened her eyes over her mommy's shoulder and saw Cody's eyes widen with fear. He wanted to be just like Mason and certainly did not want to be on his bad side, though he was soon realizing he already was. His shoulders sank down and he looked away from Mason.
Mila wiped the tear that trickled down her cheek onto her mommy's sweater. She slowly placed herself back onto her lap and looked at her mommy with wide eyes, "S-so how many is Granny turning?"
Her mommy smiled down at her little girl, "She's turning 100 years old." Mila's mouth popped open and her mother giggled, "I know! Can you believe it?"
Mila absolutely could not believe it. She didn't even know a person could be that old, let alone her own Granny. "When is Granny gonna be here?" Her excitement was building every single second and she was ready for the party to start already.
"Should be any minute now, love." Her papa called out from behind her. "Her caretaker Nick will be bringing her along after lunch." He sighed, "And we're all going to be very nice and loving to her, right?"
"Of course, Papa!" Mila shouted, not seeming to notice that the question wasn't exactly meant for her.
"Of course." Aunt Elly murmured and proceeded to scrunch her face up in distaste. "Are you done with the decorations, Colleen?"
Mila's mommy set her down on the floor, "Go sit on the sofa with your brother while we wait." She ruffled Mila's dark hair, a small laugh emitting from the girl.
"C'mere, kid." Mason whispered as Mila climbed onto him.
Her mommy put on a smile, "Yes, Elaine, is there a problem?"
She didn't sound as happy as Mila is used to her being. "Is mommy okay?" Mila whispered to her brother.
"Don't worry, she's just saving her excitement until Granny gets here." Mason explained, "We don't want to use it all up now, do we?"
Mila nodded quickly, "Okay, I'll do it too! No more excitement until Granny gets here." She made a zipper motion over her lips and crossed her arms. Mason smiled down at the innocent little girl and kissed the top of her head.
"No, no problems." Auntie Elly looked around the room at the rainbow balloons and streamers hanging all around, "I guess I was just assuming you would make it look more, I don't know-"
"I think it looks perfect, hun, thank you." Mila's papa interrupted her.
"Thanks, Ryan." Her mommy whispered as she pecked him on the cheek.
Auntie Elly put on a huge fake smile, "I guess you're right. Besides, it's not like it really matters."
"Elaine." Her daddy warned, but that didn't stop her.
"Mom wouldn't even remember it was her birthday if we smashed a cake in her face." She hummed and crossed her arms. Both of Mila's paren't rolled their eyes at the comment.
Even Mila could feel the tension in the room, she just had no clue what it was. "What are they talking about?"
Before her brother could respond, the door swung open and a middle aged man walked in pushing a wheelchair with an elderly woman. "Birthday girl is here!" He shouted and shut the door behind him.
"Granny!" Mila shouted, startling the old woman.
Her mommy gasped and quickly apologized to everyone for the outburst. Mason held her tight on his lap and whispered, "Mila, you can't be so loud with Granny."
"Why not?" She whispered back as Granny's friend locked her wheelchair in place.
"Well, because... when you get really old like Granny, you get superpowers. Granny's superpower is extra strong hearing so she can hear the bad guys coming. But if you're too loud so close, it can hurt her ears." Mason told his sister as she gasped. "But don't mention the superpowers to anyone, they're supposed to be a secret. I can trust you with a secret right, Mimi?"
"Yeah, yeah!" Mila's eyes widened as her head bobbed up and down, "Don't worry, Masy, I'll keep Granny safe."
His smile grew, "I knew I could count on you, kid"
All the adults were slowly coming towards Granny as she sat in the wheelchair, looking perplexed. "Hi Arlene, it's good to see you again. Happy birthday." Mila's mommy said so softly Mila almost missed it altogether.
"Birthday?" Granny whispered.
"Yes, mom. Today is your 100th birthday." Auntie Elly said.
Mila's papa was sat closest to Granny, resting on the edge of the bed by the wheelchair. Nick walked over and sat down beside him.
"Good to see y'all again, Ryan." He reached out to shake her papa's hand.
"You too, Nick." He hesitated before asking lowly, "How do you think today is going to go?"
Nick's eyes filled with sadness and he shrugged, "I try to be optimistic for Arlene's sake, but... it ain't been the best lately. Sudden gaps that were just there the day before... poof! Gone."
"What's wrong, papa?" Mila asked when he dropped his head into his hand.
"Nothing, love, I'm just a little tired." She tried to get up to go to him but Mason held her in place. He knew what his job would be before coming here today.
Across the room, Cody was carefully making his way towards Auntie's purse in an attempt to steal back his Switch. He was almost there when Granny called to him, "Ryan? Is that you?"
Everybody turned and looked at Cody. He dropped the purse back on the floor, earning him a glare from his mother, "Hi Granny." He mumbled, unsure of how to react. "Happy birthday."
Granny looked at all the people in the room before turning to Nick, "That can't be Ryan, he's much too old. Must be at least 11, my little Ryan is only seven." A small smile swept across her face at the memory of her little boy.
"You're right, Arlene, that ain't Ryan. Ryan's a big boy now." Nick tried to tell her, but it was almost as if the words never even hit her ears.
"And where has Elaine run off to?" Granny chuckled, "Crazy little thing, always getting into to trouble."
Mila turned to Mason, "What's happening? Why does she call Cody, Ryan?"
Mason sighed, "Well, Mimi, you see... Granny is-"
"Oh there you are Elaine!" Granny called. Mason stopped talking and looked between Mila and Granny.
"What, Masy?" Mila turned around only to find that Granny was talking to her, and calling her Elaine!
Mila's papa tried to help, "Mom, maybe we should-"
Granny raised her hands as high as she could, only a few inches, and gestured for Mila to come to her. "What are you doing so far away, little miss? And with a strange boy, no less." Granny laughed quietly again, "Am I going to have to put a leash on you, silly thing?"
Mason reluctantly let Mila go and she happily skipped towards Granny, "He's not strange, he's Mason! Silly Granny!" Mila chuckled as she stood next to Granny's wheelchair.
"Oh no." Elaine mumbled under her breath. Nick began to shake his head and rub his hand over his cheeks.
Granny's smile faltered, "Mason?" She stared at him, bewildered of his identity. Mason shrunk back, not wanting to face his grandma not recognizing him. He choked down the sob that wanted to boil over.
"My brother!" Mila exclaimed, clapping her hands together, clueless to Granny's discomfort and confusion. "He's the best-est brother in the world, too."
"For the love of God, will somebody get this child away from her!" Auntie Elly cried out, tasing her hands up in the air.
Mila's face fell. What had she done wrong? "Elaine!" Her papa barked at his sister. "She's only a little girl."
"Elaine?" Granny looked at the adult woman in front of her. Her lips began to shake, "No, Elaine is only 4!" She gasped.
MIla's papa walked over and picked up Mila. She wrapped her tiny arms around his neck and laid her head in the crook of his neck. "I don't understand." She whimpered.
Her papa sighed and stroked her back, "I know, love, it's okay."
Auntie Elly kneeled in front of Granny, "Mom, it's me. It's Elaine." She rested a hand gently on her mother's knee.
"Elaine?" Granny repeated.
"Yes, mom." Auntie Elly's lips quirked into a half smile, "And Ryan is there." She pointed over to Mila and her papa. Granny looked at them with disorientation clear in her eyes.
"No, it can't-" Granny began shaking all over and rapidly shaking her head.
Elaine placed a hand on Granny's shoulder, "It's okay, mom, I forget things sometimes too." She tried to hide the tears in her eyes, "We're all here because we love you and we wanted to celebrate with you."
Granny paused, "Celebrate?"
"Yes, it's your birthday." Mila's mommy said from behind Auntie Elly.
"Oh no," Granny's lips cracked another small smile, "You must be mixing me up with Margaret again, mother. Her birthday is this week, mine is next week." Auntie Elly nearly collapsed into Granny's lap, her weeping echoing throughout the room. Mason sighed and closed his eyes tightly.
"Has anybody seen Charles? We're going on a date to the diner tonight." Granny asked.
Mila looked around at everybody in such distress. Her eyes welled up and she began crying, "Papa, I don't understand. What's happening?" Her papa squeezed her close and ran his fingers through her hair like her mommy had done moment ago.
"I'm going to take her to sit in the car for a minute." Her papa sounded exhausted.
"Ryan, I can-"
"No, Colleen." He released a breath, "I need a break too." He quickly exited the door into the main lobby and hurried outside towards the car.
"Everything is okay, Mila." He hummed as he opened the passenger side door of their beige minivan and sat down with her in his lap. "Granny just forgets things is all. She gets some things mixed up."
Mila looked at her papa, tear tracks staining her face, "But why?"
"When people get older, sometimes things happen to them." Her papa began.
Mila nodded, "The superpowers."
"Hm?" He arched his brow.
Mila gasped and slapped her hands over her mouth, "Don't tell Masy I said that!"
He eyed her suspiciously for a second and 100% planned on asking Mason what the hell she was going on about. But he said, "Okay, love. Anyway, sometimes people get sick. Granny got sick with the forgetting disease."
"What's it called?"
He smiled sadly, "Alzheimer's."
She furrowed her brow, "All...za...him...ers?"
"Close enough." He chuckled at his daughter.
"Will she be like this forever?" Mila grew sad. She missed Granny already and she barely knew her.
"Don't worry, the memories are still in there somewhere, even if we don't see them. She may see them in her dreams. And whatever she forgets, we remember." Her papa held her tiny hands in his big ones.
"I don't remember." Mila pouted.
He kissed her forehead, "That's okay. I remember and I'll spend my life telling you stories that you will someday tell your own kids."
"Promise?" Mila held out her pinky.
Her papa interlocked his own small finger and shook on it, "I promise. The most important thing is to just hope that sun shines through the darkness soon."
"What does that mean, papa?"
Her papa reached over to the car radio and flicked it on, pressing play on the CD that was already in the car player. "I think maybe this can help explain it better than I can." The soft melody started up. "Listen closely, love."
Mila and her papa hugged each other close, tears in both of their eyes. But they won't be sad for long because...
Here comes the sun, and I say