“Happy birthday,” M nudged me awake by bumping me with his head. I stirred, curled up into his arms, then sighed.
“Thanks,” I said as I nudged him back, burying my face against his neck. I mumbled my words into his skin. “Happy birthday.”
“... How could I forget?” I tried to suppress a laugh. “We have the same birthday!”
“I know! I just thought… Well, I don’t know. I thought you wouldn’t remember. Anyway, what’s my birthday boy want to do today?” M pried me from his side so he could stretch. He tossed the blankets aside.
I hadn’t planned anything. I never had anything planned for my birthday, especially not since I ran away. There was no one to plan it with. When I was little we’d go to whatever my favorite restaurant was at the time, but I didn’t have one of those anymore.
Birthdays are a thing for children. Once you stop being a child, they stop being fun. People don’t show up. There’s no hype. People don’t care how old you are anymore, as long as you can fuck or smoke or drink. And sometimes you could just lie and you’d get to smoke and drink anyway.
“Sleep,” I said, pulling the blankets back over me. “What do you want to do? Are you 24 now? I forget…”
“Close. 25,” he prodded me with one foot, then grabbed the pack of cigarettes that slept on his nightstand. “I want to do something nice for you. That’s all.”
“Mhm,” I confirmed. “So you’re going to let me get super drunk, even though I’m underage. Right?”
“Yeah, barely. But I let you do that anyway!” he slotted a cigarette in his mouth, then fumbled around for his lighter.
“Mm… So you do,” I sighed. “I’m not going to have anything fun left to try when I turn 21…”
“And yet you don’t sound sad about it.”
I cracked a smile, looked up at him. He grinned down at me, pulled the cigarette from his lips, then ruffled my hair. He slipped a finger under my chin and drew me up for a kiss.
“Hey. I love you,” he whispered against my lips. “Let me do something nice for you today, okay? Gonna spoil you rotten.”
“I can’t say no to that face…”
M kissed me again. I could feel him smiling against me. He tossed the unlit cigarette aside so he could run his hands over me. He pulled me close, our bodies now flush against each other, and nibbled my bottom lip. When we broke apart, he was struggling to catch his breath.
“Hmm… Your surgery is a month away… Are you excited?”
“Of course!” I grinned. “I can’t stop thinking about it. Ugh, I love you.”
“I’m glad. Love you, too. Anxious at all?”
“No… Not really. I’m just… ready, I think.”
“That’s good. Let me know if you need anything, alright? Now tell me what you want to do today that isn’t getting trashed.”
I rolled my eyes. “Takeout. I guess. And a movie. I want to watch Scream.”
“We literally watched Scream two days ago, but OK. Sure. Whatever you want!” M laughed.
We got takeout. I don’t remember what kind we chose in the end. It wasn’t that important. We watched the movie. He shivered against me at any scary part, and I laughed because I thought it wasn’t scary at all. The moment was warm, tender, and I missed it. I missed the way he clung to me, as if I could save him from Ghostface.
It was just over a year since we met and M made me feel like he’d been waiting for me all his life. Like he couldn’t imagine a future without me in it. I couldn’t, either. I thought maybe someday we’d move out of the city and get a house. Not too far, though, because he had a lot of friends here. Or maybe just an apartment that at least had two bathrooms because I liked to hoard it all the time.
But I didn’t get to be with him much longer.
Last time I counted, he had 23 years left in prison.
That kind of puts a damper on things. Life prospects. Goals.
We could have figured things out, I know, but I ran away, and he didn’t stop me. He couldn’t stop me. I wished he could have grabbed my hand and pulled me back, wrapped his arms around me, clung to me. Told me he loved me, that I should wait for him, that he’d always be there. It was all wishful thinking. The last time–the only time–I visited him, when I said I didn’t have anywhere left to live, but I’d try my best for him, he said goodbye.
“Thanks for everything. I’m sorry I fucked it all up.”
I get it. I wouldn’t have waited for me either. I would have told myself to fuck off if I were him, too. It’s a long time to hold out hope that nothing would change. That he’d feel the same. I’m sure he thought I’d run on back home or something, live with my family again. That I’d figure something out.
I hooked up with my future husband at a party and forgot all about him.