Nixie was awoken by her six thirty am alarm. It should be a sin to be up so early on your birthday but for some reason, school was somewhat important to her. At least that’s what she told herself in order to get out of bed and stalk like a zombie to the bathroom. She secretly hoped her mom would forget it was her “special day” and she made a plan to leave before her mom could apologize for last night’s embarrassing encounter with a plate of chocolate chip pancakes like she was still eight. Actually chocolate chip pancakes sounded so good and she wasn’t too old for a sweet breakfast like that but she would rather starve than talk to her mom about what happened last night. She decided she would stop by the diner on the way to school since Paula always gave her free pastries. the perks of your mom working at a diner. Nixie never turned down free food.
Luckily for her, Serafina was too hungover to get up on time but that only meant she would have to get Tania to school herself. She rushed her little sister out of the house so they could grab their pastries before school started but Paula did her one better. She remembered her birthday and made them sit down for a real breakfast on the house. Nixie was not about to refuse an actual meal so they grabbed a booth and ate fast. At this point, she didn’t even care if she was late to school but she knew if Tania was late on her watch, her teacher would inform their mom and she was trying to avoid Serafina for as long as she possibly could. Somehow though, Tania made it to school on time and Nixie wore a proud smirk at her small accomplishment.
In the school hall, her eyes met with Charlie’s as he stared at her while his friend talked his ear off about something that obviously meant nothing to him. She could tell he was going to try to talk to her before the next bell rang so she quickly shut her locker door and raced to class before he could escape his friend. He rolled his eyes at her elusiveness and walked to class in the opposite direction.
After second period, she stole away across the soccer field to hide behind the trees, her usual spot to smoke between classes. None of her so-called friends even cared she was finally sixteen and she wished she could just disappear like Easton had. If she was going to get through today, she would need a little help. She sparked a joint that she hid in her backpack and breathed deep, releasing the stress with each long exhale. She liked to imagine that the smoke drew out all the bad leaving only good in its place. But she barely got halfway through her therapy before being interrupted. She heaved a sigh of pure annoyance at the realization that she had no privacy anywhere in this bleak world.
Assuming it was Trevor trying to bum a hit of her weed, she didn’t even turn around to tell him off. “Get lost, Trevor. I’m not sharing shit with you on my birthday.”
“Sucks to be Trevor,” the voice replied and she spun around to see his face.
“What are you doing out here, Charlie?”
“Looking for you. Did you say it’s your birthday?”
“Fuck, I feel bad. I didn’t know it was your birthday.” He could kick himself for ending their night so abruptly over her age. If only he knew, maybe they would’ve stayed out all night and skipped school today. He looked at his phone and decided it wasn’t too late. “Let’s get out of here.”
She looked at him with confusion scribbled across her face. “And go where?”
“Wherever you want. Come on, they won’t miss you in third period.”
Anywhere was better than here and she deserved to have fun on her birthday. Besides, he kind of owed her for shutting her down so quickly the night before. It might be nice to watch him attempt to make it up to her. “Ok, let’s go.”
He smiled and didn’t dare to ask to help her finish the blunt between her fingers. He did however, offer to carry her backpack for her.
“It’s ok, I got it.” She lifted it up and swung it around her back.
It looked heavy and he couldn’t let her carry that around, not with him by her side. He was raised better than that. “Give it here.” He pulled it off her shoulders and held it high. “Holy shit. What’s in here? You carry this much stuff around everyday? No wonder you look so miserable all the time.”
“Give it back. I can handle it.”
“No. Fuck that, you’re not carrying this thing at all today. No girl should have to carry anything on her birthday, especially not all this crap.” He carried a backpack on each shoulder and they walked across the soccer field just as the coach was bringing a P.E. class outside.
“Where are you guys headed?”
“Nowhere,” Charlie answered with a sly grin.
“Just be back for practice, Charlie.” Coach Peters could care less if they skipped school just as long as Charlie didn’t miss soccer practice.
“What do you mean we’ll see? We need you out there.”
“I have plans.” He looked at Nixie and then back at the coach.
“So hang out and come back. You got a few hours.”
He turned around and said, “I need the whole day. You never ditch a lady on her birthday.” Then he turned back around and kept walking.
“Damn it!” Coach Peters was angry that he couldn’t threaten to kick him off the team like he could do to all the other players who took it seriously. He knew Charlie didn’t care to play soccer, he only joined the team as a favor to him. Coach really needed him since he was the best player on the team. He could literally use him for any position which made him valuable anytime a player got injured in the field.
“You don’t have to spend the whole day with me.”
“I want to.” He looked at her and suddenly thought that maybe she didn’t want to spend the day with him. “Unless you don’t.”
“You mean I don’t have to leave with you and have fun all day?”
“Get in the car before I change my mind.” He threw their backpacks in the trunk and tried to figure out where he would take her first. Then he remembered how much she loved the beach but hated how crowded they can get so close to summer. It was time to ask Uncle Ben for a big favor.
He dialed the number and spoke quickly while Nixie waited in the car. She saw him leaning against the driver’s side with the phone to his ear. Who was he talking too? She didn’t care, he was getting her out of this hell hole which made him her personal hero. Still, she wondered where he would take her and if he would turn her down if she kissed him again. She didn’t get it. He seemed so into the kiss and then he wasn’t. He couldn’t be that loyal to a friend who would just up and leave without an explanation. Could he be that much of a gentleman that he didn’t want to take advantage of her? He did carry her backpack which doesn’t seem like much but in this day in age with guys far from chivalry, it was hard to ignore such a gesture. Easton never carried her backpack or books for her. If Charlie isn’t careful, he may find himself a slave to her every whim and maybe this time, neither of them will hold back.