As Cindy meticulously put on her makeup she thought about her day. It was May 5th, her eighteenth birthday. In a couple of months, she would be leaving her home and going to college. She would be meeting new people and expanding her social and educational horizons to lengths unfathomable.
That unfolded an imaginary future chain of events that both exited her and made her nervous. Soon after she would be getting a job-no- a career. May be soon after get married, have a child… her hand dropped momentarily from her face. She though about catching her boyfriend cheating on her. A year of dedication thrown away. “No, this is my day.” Cindy thought to herself and finished applying her makeup.
Before she headed downstairs, she paused. Cindy smiled when she saw the lack of any particular theme in her room. She could not help but reflect on her past. Walking inside was looking at the entirety of her life. She saw a band poster from “I Prevail” she had gotten from her dad when she was fourteen. An Ariana Grande t-shirt laid on the edge of her bed that she used as a night gown. She had Scooby Doo bedsheets and a couple of my little pony figurines on her bookshelf. Now, her life was dedicated to learning. The small personal collection of books on her bookshelf proved testimony to that.
“Cindy, get down here! Your friends are waiting!” Her dad yelled from the living room followed by a violent cough.
Cindy would have normally gone down immediately but she had to resonate on what started her academic conquest. At age 16 her dad shared a quote from Jean-Paul Sartre. “Commitment is an act, not a word.” This quote described Cindy’s father perfectly. Ever since Cindy’s mom passed her dad was her anchor to the world and the beauty still in it.
There were very few joyous occasions in life that were not attached to him. Every school event, every birthday, or Christmas he was there. Not only physically but emotionally attentive. There was one instance where the quote stood true for her father that she would never forget.
She remembered around the age of five years old there was a town event with a giant bounce house. She wanted to bounce in it so bad. She had no understanding that it cost five dollars to get in and her father had no money. She remembered the disappointment and to this day still felt guilt for her reaction. She hung her head and pouted.
He was not going to have her watch the other kids play while she stood outside and watched. He broke down and asked one of the other parents for five dollars so she could get in. This was feat, for her father was an immensely proud man.
There were several nights he went without food within the first couple of years after her mom’s passing. He would go without and just act like he was too busy to eat. She confronted him one night and asked him if they couldn’t afford food. He replied, “I can afford anything, I just choose different places to invest my means.” He nudged her and winked.
Cindy started downstairs and saw five of her friends sitting in the living room. They sat in a circle with a birthday cake sitting as a centerpiece.
Her dad stood against the wall with his arms crossed. He smiled but it was forced. He looked pale and like the wall was literally helping him stay up. She put these facts to the back of her mind and continued.
Her friends waited in earnest, leaning forward in their seats. Cindy felt almost violated by the stares. She was about to say something about it when she took her last step off the staircase. Her friends stood up, lifted their hands and screamed, “happy birthday!” to the top of their lungs. Cindy blushed and turned as if she were about to go back upstairs.
Julie, her best friend since the second grade grabbed her arm. “No, there is no way you’re going back up there. I’ve been waiting here for twenty minutes. My time is precious.”
Cindy’s dad lit the candles. “Ok, birthday girl. Make a wish.”
Cindy sat down on the couch between Julie and another friend Carli.
Cindy closed her eyes and thought of her wish. An odd sensation came over her. Like a huge part of her knew that her birthday wish would come true. She blew out the candles and smiled.
Everybody got a slice of cake and started talking among each other.
Julie pulled Cindy to the side so no one could hear. “So, what did you wish for?”
Cindy was reluctant, “No… you wouldn’t like it.”
Julie’s mouth dropped. “It didn’t have to do with Bland the cheaten man did it?”
“I just wish he was here. I miss him…”
“You CAUGHT him kissing another woman. Carrie Nelson of all people. She had Mono, you know, the kissing disease? More than any three people I know. She’s got the mono-poly, on being the mono monster. I hope he gets mono, and his tongue falls off.”
“Julie…” Cindy chuckled.
“What? He hurt my friend.”
“Yea, but everyone makes mistakes.”
Julie rolled her eyes. “That’s what Bland’s parents said when he came along. Oops, mistake.”
Cindy’s dad announced presents. Now instead of a birthday cake sitting on the table there sat eight presents. As they sat down Julie picked up the one she got Cindy. “Ok, this is from me. After this you won’t need to open anymore.” Cindy meticulously opened the wrapping paper. It was obviously a book but what book could it be? As soon as she could see the title she squealed. It was a book summarizing Plato’s republic.
“I know how you like all that nerd shit.”
Cindy hugged Julie, “Thank you. I do like that nerd shit.”
Julie hugged Cindy back, “You’re very welcome love.”
Cindy reached and picked up another present. It was a small box with no name on it. Julie interjected as Cindy was about to ask who it was from, “Just rip it open girl!”
Cindy glanced at her friend and grinned. She tore into it like a neanderthal. The paper took no time to take off then she opened the box. She screamed to the top of her lungs and dropped the box on the table. She curled up against Julie and started crying.
Julie scooted past Cindy and looked inside the box, then almost simultaneously stood up. “Oh my God.” She bent over heaving about to throw up her slice of the birthday cake.
“What is it?” Carli asked with frantic concern.
“It’s a tongue!” Cindy cried.
Cindy’s father was about to come over and try to console her when they heard a knock at the door. Before the room had time to react Bland busted through. He had blood running down his chin soaking his shirt. It was obvious where the tongue came from.
In tears Bland did his best to talk. “Cindy, I’m so sorry. Please.”
Julie looked up for a moment still holding her stomach, “Please stop talking... I can’t do this Van Gogh shit.”
Bland started to walk closer and began to talk again. “Ci-“
A bang rang out deafening everyone in the room. Cindy watched Bland the entire time. Almost like a magic trick, his eye was there, then a hole where his eye once existed appeared. His body stiffened then fell forward. Eyes still fixated, Cindy saw him twitch once, then his body was lifeless.
The makeup that Cindy worked so hard on was running down her face. She looked around and saw her dad holding his handgun. “Why would he do that?” She asked.
Her dad lowered the pistol. “He didn’t.”
There was only a moment of confusion when it hit her. The reality ran down her throat like she had swallowed steel wool. She barely choked out the word through her tears. “Why?”
“I’m not long for this world Cindy. I just wanted you to know-“ He started to cough again as he cried, “Commitment is an act, not a word, remember? I’ve never seen you cry so much than when he hurt you. I just wanted you to know people can’t do that to you. Not to my baby girl.” He walked to her about to hug her.
Cindy stood up off the couch pushed him backward. With the gun still in his hand he turned and tried to catch himself. A muffled shot went off as he hit the floor. Cindy ran to him and collapsed to her knees. She shook him. “Dad, Dad, Daddy?” She rolled him over and saw a thick stain of blood on his shirt slowly spread.
If anyone could have willed themselves to die, at that moment it would have been Cindy. Once she realized what had happened, she inhaled deeply and paused. Much like she did just before she went downstairs to her birthday party. This pause continued though. The last five minutes of her day played over and over inside her head. Cindy’s friends ran over and shook her, called out her name. This was to no avail. For, Cindy remained catatonic, damned within the mental prison caused by the horror she witnessed.
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