Fiction Drama Holiday

I stacked the last box of donations in the cargo space of my SUV and shut the door. Months of preparation, and my therapist's suggestion to celebrate my thirtieth, was about to begin. Before leaving, I opened closets, looked under the beds and checked locks on the windows and doors. To my knowledge, the family didn't know my address. 

Born April 1st, came with drawbacks. Although drawback is putting it mild.

Mom would recite the story. "Lily Rose, you were due on April 4th. I thought what a lovely date 4/4. But on March 30th, I felt sick. Not the cramps I had with your clunk head brother, but nausea."

I will skip the rest, because it is gross. March 31st the sickness progressed, Dad took her to the hospital, they sent her home because there were no signs of labor. In the morning, the contractions started. Mom said she tried to hold me in until after midnight, but the Doctor threatened a cesarean if she didn't push. Eight hours later, her little girl was born. She called me her April Fools.

So since starting adult life, I hid myself on this day, haunted by the story and pranks waged against me in my youth. My seventh birthday party, the earliest prank memory. Family and friends gathered in the backyard, I stood at the head of the table, my finger tracing the multi-color Happy Birthday lettering on the plastic tablecloth. Rocks from Dad's collection held down the matching napkins and plates.

My parents exited the back door carrying a white round cake, seven lit candles, and their flames twitching in the wind. After the final chorus of Happy Birthday, I blew and blew, but the flames would not go out. If they didn't go out, my wish wouldn't come true. Tears filled my eyes and my cheeks ached. I heard voices cheering me on, but when I looked around, exhausted from my effort, everyone laughed and pointed at me. Some congratulated Mom and Dad on the trick. The beginning of my tortured birthdays.

The next year, Ned, my eldest brother, said since it was my special day he would make breakfast. I thanked and hugged him. I should have suspected something when Kyle woke up early. He sat across from me babbling while Ned prepared my Frosted Flakes.

He presented the bowl topped with sliced banana and bowed. I picked up the spoon and dug in; it clinked against something hard, I tried again; flipped the bowl, bananas, a small amount of milk and cereal spilled on the table. Frozen milk remained in the bowl, the jerks were bent over cackling, and my parents filmed the event from the vantage point of the living room. I wailed.

The pranks continued over the years, gift bag filled with rags, cake that tasted like dirt and the TV changing channels. I threatened to run away if they continued to make a mockery of my birthday. So the antics moved to school. Ned would enlist his friends and even my best friend took part in one of the worse.

Today I let the hurt go to focus on others. I drove out the community waving at the early morning walkers and joggers.

I pulled up to the speaker box, ordered egg whites with pepper jack cheese on a multigrain bun and decaf coffee. The young lady frowned when I gave her a large bill and asked her to apply the change to pay for the cars behind me until it ran out.

She raised an eyebrow. "Is this an April fool?"

"It's an April assist." I said and chuckled at my corny joke.

I parked in the corner spot, facing the cashier window. Eating my sandwich, I watched and caught snippets of reactions when she wouldn't accept their payment. One woman got out of her car, trying to give the cashier a hug.

I sang and bobbed to the song on the radio, on my way to the second stop. Scheduled a few weeks ago. The Senior Center, in a low income neighborhood, survived off donations. I unloaded the box of board games, playing cards and jigsaw puzzles, handing them to the exuberant Coordinator.

Besides those items, I purchased three and five-pound dumbbells, resistant bands, and scheduled a brief tutorial at 11:00 on how to use the equipment. At first I didn't think anyone would show. April fool! But 10 minutes after 11:00, several women entered wearing sweat suits and headbands.

They chatted with me about how they used to do the Jane Fonda and Jack La Lane workouts. We practiced arm curls, overhead presses and front rows with the dumbbells and a few movements with the bands. A few men stood against the rear wall, watching. I promised to return to see how they were progressing.

Energized, though, I slept poorly, because of Mom's call asking if I considered celebrating with the family. I said No and told her I had things to do. Before I could hang up Ned, the prank mastermind, got on the line, begging me to return. He apologized over and over for hurting me.

I still would not forgive him. Even after he asked to name his first child after me.

Leaving home at 18 and experiencing life with others didn't change the feelings about my family in fact I think it hindered my relationships. The trail of exes who reminded me of Ned was long. The most recent may have been the one, but I screwed it up, convinced he planned a prank instead of a nice evening. He got so annoyed with my paranoid accusations he broke up with me, insisting I get help.

It took months before I accepted his advice. My first session, I revealed it all, especially the prank which changed my life.

Senior year I worked hard on a paper for English class. That morning I placed it in my locker so nothing would happen to it during my other classes. After lunch I open the locker and out tumbled funky jock straps, filthy socks, footballs, cleats and a helment.

When the shock wore off, I peered behind the door. 757 was on the label and the combination worked. Concerned about the report, I forgot to stay alert.

Laughter bounced off the walls. Ned, who graduated the previous year, stood in the mist of his football cronies giggling.

"Where's my paper!" My body shook, and I thought my head would explode. I charged at him, smacking his head. He laughed harder.

The bell rang, and I rushed to class. My teacher refused to hear my explanation. She told me I would get a zero in front of the entire class on my 18th birthday.

Later I found out he solicited the help of my friend, the custodian, football coach and players. My friend's help hurt more than Ned's, she knew the effort I put in. After school, the contents of my locker were on the hood of my car getting soak by the sudden downpour.

When I told my mother what happened. "Harmless fun" she said. But my quivering voice and tense body caused her to react. She contacted the teacher and begged her to give me another chance.

Middle of July, I was on a train traveling across the country for early admission. At University when I revealed my birthdate, a silly comment followed. I started telling people it was 4/4, like it should have been.

My next and longest stop, a food pantry, where I volunteered one shift every other Saturday since January. I signed up for two, keeping me occupied at 4:27 pm, the time I came into the world.

The distribution line, longer than normal, surprised me. So much had happened in society, the reason my therapist suggested I should concentrate on others. Parents with children, single men and women no older than me, and ones my mothers' and fathers' age filtered through the doors.

I struggled to keep from staring or guessing what brought them their as they accepted the bag of food. For the children, I handed them a tote I filled with coloring books, crayons, flash cards, small toys and tootsie pops.

My last stop, a surprise even for myself. Although I speak to her once a week, seeing her took many therapy sessions. Years I lived in another state, having returned, I had no excuse.

I arrived around 7:00. The falling sun made the house look smaller and the street narrower. I checked my heart rate on my smart watch. Normal.

She opened the door and her expression changed from curious to joy. I presented her with a bouquet of lilies, similar to the ones she gave on my birthdays. I remembered the upsets, the good I failed to recollect. Like the love my family showed me in their own way.

April 02, 2021 19:36

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