I’d snuck around school, dropping flyers into bags. I’d even left my name off. Please come to …. birthday party. I didn’t fill it in. I had no wish to. For once I wanted to have a party that everyone went to. A couple of people caught me.
“What’s that?” they said.
I stayed quiet. Looking at the floor. They looked at me and one of them tugged an invitation out of my hand.
“There’s no name on it.”
I looked at the floor and hoped they would just leave.
“Get’s you in free,” one said.
“Yeah, but whose party?”
The last one to speak slammed a fist into my shoulder. I staggered back but kept my feet. You have to in school. I had once read a book by Jack London. It had told of a dog that had ended up in the wild. There if the dogs fought and one went down the others would rip apart the dog on the floor. That’s what the playground is like. Once down you are an easy target. So as I was shoved I had one thought, keep your feet. I did.
“Is it your party?” one said.
I ignored the question wishing my shoulder wouldn’t throb. I’d have another bruise. No one would notice but sometimes I wondered if they were doing more damage than just the surface. Sometimes I wondered if they hurt my soul. I already had come to terms with the fact I was bad, I had to be. What happened to me every day wouldn’t happen to a good person.
“Does it matter whose party?” one asked the other and I sighed with relief. Maybe they would forget me. It was a talent I nurtured. To be forgotten. Mostly it worked.
“If it is, I don’t want to go.” There was a paper noise and the screwed up invitation hit my forehead. Others followed. After the wave of paper there came the sound, laughter. I hate laughter. Some say it is the perfection of happiness, for me it is the depth of despair.
Finally I was alone, surrounded by an obstacle course of hopes.
“Another year,” my Mam had said. “It’ll be different.”
It didn’t look like it.
The day came. My birthday. Mother kissed my head.
“You see, this is a good year,” she said.
I smiled. I don’t talk much.
I went. The music was too loud. I sat in the room. I ate the cake. I left.
No one came. I had no extra bruises. Maybe that was how the year would be different. I would survive intact. I slipped away, no one even noticed I had turned up. In the darkness of the street I walked home. No one bothered me.
I opened the front door and my dog jumped into my arms.
“Was it bad?” her eyes asked.
I didn’t answer, I didn’t have to. She leant into my leg, always there and always comforting.
“How was the party?” Mam called.
“Great,” I said with great cheer. I am the world’s best actress.
“Good,” she said, and the relief I heard hurt me.
I wouldn’t say. This was my pain to bear. Instead I gave my Mam this gift. I took her worry and pocketed it. My present.
My dog looked at me and her eyes told be I was good. I patted her head and smiled. What did she know, she was only a dog.
This is a short story inspired by the daily prompt – Sweet Sixteen. It is a story of fiction.