Teens & Young Adult Contemporary Fiction

In my dream my alarm blares, over and over until my eyes spring open, my fingers lazily search for the snooze button, poking and batting until finally peace and quiet. It’s 7:30 a.m. and it's April 1st, or should I say April Fools’ Day. I groan, rolling over and hiding beneath my blankets. The thought of the day ahead squeezes my stomach into knots. I contemplate faking a sickness, but that's almost impossible to pull off when your mom is a nurse. ‘My throat hurts - But it's not red. I think I have a fever - But you're not warm…’ It never works. 

I strain my ears for sounds of life, I can hear the soft chatter of my family downstairs. I was hoping to get down there before them to avoid an April Fools breakfast special. I wonder what traps await me this morning, will it be plastic wrap covering the toilet, shaving cream for toothpaste? Or maybe, my sister will get clever and replace the sugar with salt. It feels like the entire world plots against me on this day and I blame my parents, I am almost positive they’ve cursed me, naming their daughter who was born in April, on April 1st, ‘April.’

Yes, that’s me, April Audrey Adams, it's a mouthful I know and today is my eighteenth birthday. Audrey after my grandmother, and April because my mom said it’s just what made sense. I’ve complained to my parents several times about how embarrassing my name really is, and their response is always the same,“You came three weeks early, we thought it was a joke! It only seemed fitting” Such a nice comforting story from the day I was born, that while I was making my grand entrance into the world my parents believed they were being pranked. And so became the theme of my life. What they failed to think of was that it became the thing about me, April born on April Fools’, it gave everyone permission to make it their life's mission to pull the biggest prank on me every. single. year. and it was exhausting.

For once I’d love the day to just be about my birthday, and nothing to do with April Fools.

“Good morning! There’s our birthday girl.” My Dad says as I cautiously enter the kitchen, he walks up enveloping me in a big hug, I pause waiting for the April Fools joke to follow but it doesn’t.

“Morning,” I say sheepishly.

I grab the box of Cheerios pouring it slowly almost certain it won’t be Cheerios that come out, but it is. My sister sits at the island eating her toast, while my mom makes her coffee. Nobody has addressed the elephant in the room, the April Fools’ portion of the day and it’s suspicious.

“Morning' sweetie,” my Mom says walking over and kissing me on the cheek “How does it feel to be eighteen? Legally an adult now!” 

“Feels the same as it did yesterday, and the day before and..”

“Oh don’t be silly! I remember my eighteenth birthday, it was like I woke up a new woman” 

“Right, okay Mom,” I say rolling my eyes.

I glance at the clock, only 15 more minutes until it's time to leave, only 15 more minutes of opportunity for pranks, although if they were going to prank me it usually would have already happened. Somehow last year they managed to transport me while I was sleeping. I woke up on my birthday to find myself in my sister’s bed, with whipped cream covering my face. My hands immediately flew to my eyes, ever had whipped cream stuck in your eye? Well it isn’t pretty and I ended up with a raging infection that lasted a week. Maybe, just maybe they’ve learnt their lesson, maybe they’ve realized I’m too old now, or maybe they’ve finally clued in that I hate every second of it.

“Ready April? I don’t want to be late” my sister Avery shuffles impatiently in the doorway, she’s in grade nine, and for her high school is still fun and exciting but then again she’s popular and has more friends than I’ve managed to acquire in the four years I’ve attended.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” I say sarcastically

“Don’t forget, dinner at 6 for the birthday girl” my mom says after us.

Avery and I coexist because we have to, but we don’t really have anything in common, it's obvious she pretends to be nice to me so I will drive her to school otherwise she has to catch a ride with mom or dad which apparently isn’t cool. I'm sure the minute she gets her licence that will change. She’s unusually quiet during the drive and it makes me nervous, it's unlike her to not blabber on about herself or her friends, or her boyfriend. “Happy Birthday by the way” she says seemingly uninterested

“Oh, thanks” 

“Any big plans for the night? Other than dinner with the fam?” she chuckles

“Uh, not really...probably just watch a good movie, you know it is a school night” I say and instantly regret that last part, I’m such a dork and I know it.

“God your so lame,” she laughs “Your eighteen, when I’m your age I definitely won't’ be spending my birthday alone” she says pulling down the visor to fix her hair, “I mean, mom and dad made me promise no April Fools pranks this year” her tone annoyed.

“What? They did?” I ask surprised

“Yeah because you're such a baby, you went all psycho on me last year, and then you had that gross eye infection, so now I’m not allowed to have any fun,” She pouts.

My heart begins to speed up and a cold sweat gathers under my arms, I mean a part of me is happy my parents finally heard me and realized that it wasn’t funny to me anymore, but at the same time I’m embarrassed, not that I really care what Avery thinks, she’s an immature brat, but something about her words just sting. I don’t want pranks, but I also don’t want everyone tiptoeing around me, I just want to be like everyone else and have a normal birthday. This causes the small swirling of anxiety in my chest to go full blown cyclone, as I pull into the parking lot I make my first real adult decision, I’m skipping school. I’m skipping the embarrassment of either being pranked by fellow classmates which is the norm, or the embarrassment of my sister telling everyone mommy and daddy said no.

“You're not coming?” Avery hesitates when I pull up to the side of the school rather than into a parking spot.

“Oh no, I forgot something,” I lie, rolling my eyes for accuracy, “Do you mind telling the office I will be late?”

“Uh, sure I guess,” she says jumping out and scurrying towards her posse of friends waiting.

I drive around for what feels like hours, but really it's only been twenty minutes, I’m at the other end of town and I don’t really know how I ended up here, I haven’t been paying attention, instead my thoughts have been on what my sister said, and I’m frustrated. Why should I feel bad? It's my birthday the one day a year when you're supposed to be able to do what makes you happy, so I’m going to try and do just that.

I grab my favorite Mocha Peppermint Latte from Starbucks, when they ask me for my name the barista laughs “April, oh that’s cute.” 

I smile back, it’s a fake smile but they can’t tell. There’s a mom behind me with her toddler, he’s crying and pulling on her pant leg, and I feel bad for her. She looks stressed, maybe embarrassed.

I glance over my shoulder at her and smile lightly. Letting her know I am unbothered by his relentless whining.

“I’m sorry, he’s in a mood today,” she laughs uncomfortably. “Only thing that will make this stop is the promise for a confetti sugar cookie.”

“Oh those are my favorite,” I say, grinning at the little boy who now hides behind his mother’s body for protection.

With the overwhelming urge to turn this day into something better, I whisper to the barista, she smiles and runs off for a moment before returning with a bag full of confetti cookies. I hand them to the little boy, kneeling down to his level. “These always make me feel better, here, from one confetti cookie lover to another!”

He grabs them immediately and smiles digging in before I’ve even had a chance to stand back up.

“Wow, thank you, here let me give you some money” the woman says fumbling for her wallet.

“Oh no, it's one me!” 

 “How sweet, say thank you, Carter.”

“Thank you,” he says, mouth full but it comes out sounding like fank you and it makes me giggle.

“You’ve just made his day, honestly. And probably mine too” she smiles.

When I leave, latte in hand and good deed accomplished I feel invigorated, I feel empowered that maybe today doesn’t have to be about pranks and jokes and tricks, maybe today can be about doing something nice for someone else, brightening someone's day even if just the tiniest bit.

Instead of going back to my car I cross the street and walk towards the park, the sun shines and the wind blows warm and gentle, a perfect day for skipping school. I really wish I had planned this earlier so I could have brought a blanket and a book. There’s an older man sitting under a tree with what looks like his life belongings, a tattered garbage bag with holes, his skin smudged with dirt. I tell myself to keep walking, I’ve been taught to never talk to strangers but there is something kind in his eyes and something needy that tugs at my heart. I pull out a twenty-dollar bill and hand it to him, his face registers the green bill with shock and then delight. He reaches for it but hesitates “Is this some kind of prank? Like an April Fools joke?” 

Of course, he would think that, “No, not at all, it’s actually my birthday, and I’m feeling generous,” I say, pushing the twenty-dollar bill closer.

He reaches for it and I notice a tiny dewiness at the corner of his eye, has my kindness brought tears to his eyes? 

“Thank you, dear,” he says sniffling “You are too kind, oh and Happy Birthday” 

“Thanks, and you're welcome,” I beam and continue on my way.

 I don’t have a plan but I know I want to do more, the euphoric feeling coursing through my veins has replaced the frustration and anxiety I felt earlier. My body takes over and I am now just a passenger, I end up in a flower shop buying half a dozen Roses, the florist has hair the colour of auburn leaves and I tell her it's pretty, it brightens her face and I can see my small complement made her feel good. I’m nearly floating now as I walk along the sidewalk filled with so much positive energy. I stop in front of a seniors home pausing to watch a few of the residents enjoying the newly spring day, some playing a game of chess, a few visiting with family or friends, but there's one woman sitting alone by the fence, she’s watching everyone. Each time someone walks outside her head perks up, a hopeful yearning crosses her face, then disappears falling back into the sad frown that was there before. I wonder who she is waiting for, I walk closer only a few feet from her, her eyes slowly rise from beneath her grey sparse lashes. For a moment we stare, a hint of recognition bounces around in her golden irises. “Violet, is that you dear?” she says softly.

I glance over my shoulder, no one else is around, it’s just me and her. She must think I am someone else. 

I don’t speak for a moment, but she waits eagerly for me to respond “Yes, it’s me.” The words tumble out of my mouth before I have a chance to stop them, with her small kind face I find myself unable to break her heart, unable to tell her that I was in fact not this person she calls Violet.

“My love, I’ve been waiting for you, all day” she glances at the roses I hold in my hands

“Oh,” I hesitate, “These are for you,” I say, handing them to her over the small gated fence.

“My favorite,” she cries out with weak excitement, the gesture almost too much for her small frame to bear.

“Oh good, I am glad you like them,” I know I should probably leave, but I’m rooted in place, unable to walk away from her.

“Mabel,” a nurse calls over to her, “It’s time for cake”

“Oh just in time my daughter is here,” she says motioning towards me “She brought me flowers, for my birthday.”

I’m sorry did she just say it was her birthday? And oh crap she thinks I’m her daughter. I clear my throat as the nurse looks at me strangely, panic sets in. I've been caught in a lie, one that was meant to be good, but what are the odds that I would find this particular woman on her birthday, on my birthday?

The nurse walks over with a heavy stare, her name tag reads Patricia, “This is no place for pranks, okay, you’d better leave.”

I am taken aback, she thinks I am pulling a prank, handing flowers to an old woman is considered a prank? What kind of awful person does she think I am.

“No, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to, this isn’t a prank I swear.”

She whispers softly so Mabel can’t hear, “Violet died three years ago, what are you trying to pull? How do you know Mabel?”

“Died, what?” I gasp, “I don’t know Mabel at all,” I say stumbling backwards, “I just wanted to do something nice, she must think I am Violet.” I say shakily, “I would never prank her, never, its my birthday too, and I hate pranks, I hate April Fools Day!” The words all rush out in a flustered mess.

Nurse Patricia's eyes widen with confusion, and almost amusement, she's looking at me like I’m crazy “Okay, calm down honey,” she scuffs “She does have a bit of dementia, did you say it was your birthday too?”

“It is yes,” I say sighing “And honestly I was just trying to do something nice for someone instead of all these dumb pranks all the time.”

“Well why don’t you join us for cake, we're about to sing happy birthday.”

“Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Mabel… and?” Patricia looks at me, and I look at Mabel who is smiling ear to ear, and whisper, “April.”  

A flicker of understanding crosses her face and she continues “Mabel and April, Happy Birthday to you.”

“Come on love, help me blow out the candles,” Mabel grabs my hand pulling me alongside side her, we blow out the two candles numbered eight and three. And everyone cheers, Mabel claps and I feel close to tears. I’ve somehow managed to get everything I wanted for my birthday, in a strange turn of events, this is the first time in years I’m happy to be blowing out candles, happy to be celebrating April 1st, my birthday and only my birthday. 

After the cake is cut and served, Mabel hugs me before retiring to her room for the night. “Do come back again Violet, promise?”

I look to Patricia who nods with approval, “Yes I will, of course.”

I help clean up and just before I leave Patricia walks over to me, “That was a real nice thing you did today, for Mabel”

“I’m just really glad it worked out.”

“You know, she probably won't remember a thing tomorrow but for today, she was happy, today she saw her daughter again, and tonight she will go to bed peaceful and content.”

I smile, speechless.

“You did that for her April, she waits every day for Violet, even after we tell her that she’s gone, she waits, and then she cries herself to sleep”

“Its heartbreaking.”

“Yeah it is, Mabel used to be the life of the party around here, you know having a birthday on April Fools’ day and all, she was quite the prankster,” Patrica laughs.

“Mabel pranked people?” I say surprised.

“Oh gosh yeah! She was a hoot, one year she put her dentures in Geoffrey's morning coffee,” she tilts her head back with a cackle, “Poor soul hasn’t drank coffee ever since.”

“I’m surprised she was the one doing the pranking, ever since I can remember people have been pranking me, because it was my birthday,” I pause “It never occurred to me maybe I should be the one doing it to everyone else.”

“Yes honey, if it were me I would be pulling out all the stops, as Mabel always said it was her duty being born on that day.”

I laugh, completely surprised. I’ve been going about this all wrong, I’ve been feeling sorry for myself for having to share my birthday with this dreaded day, for having to endlessly listen to people's jokes and comments about my name and its relevance, when instead I should be the one pulling the greatest pranks of all time, I should be the one swapping the sugar for salt, and putting plastic wrap on the toilet, the possibilities are endless. I now have 365 days to come up with the best, craziest and most surprising pranks ever, and the best part is no one is going to see it coming.

Alana Avellino

April 02, 2021 20:27

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