16. Write abut a confrontation at a birthday party.
I’m sitting in my closet with the door closed, knees to my chest. Well, not quite. I’m a bit chubby and have a growing set of boobs, so my knees don’t actually reach my chest, but you get the point. The tears on my face are dry now, no doubt staining my face. Why do tears stain your face? Salt I guess. Answering my own questions. It’s dark in here. Warm. Comfortable. Safe. The safest. This closet has always been my refuge. I used to hide in here when another kid said something mean to me, or when I’d had a bad day at school or when I missed my old friends, or when I had a bad dream. I keep a special teddy in here, my little soldier. My uncle gave him to me, said soldiers protect everybody and my little soldier would protect me. I think he has done a pretty good job so far. Middle School isn’t as fun as I thought it would be, so I spend more time in here than I did in Elementary. People at school would laugh at me if they could see this. That makes me sad too, that I even still need this safety closet. Aren’t I supposed to be a big girl now? Usually I come in here to hide from the outside things, the scary things. But today the scary things are the inside things. The things that are supposed to make me feel safe and loved and respected. And today of all the days. I can hear them still, yelling at each other. My grandpa brought his new girlfriend to my birthday party. I don’t even know why old people still want girlfriends and boyfriends, but I met her before and she was nice so it didn’t bother me. Grandma felt differently, even though she brought her new husband. She used the word “disrespectful” a lot. She also used other words I’m not supposed to repeat, but it was kind of funny. At first. Mom tried to calm everybody down, but Grandma called her a “hussy” and Nana didn’t like that so she stood up and started yelling too. Dad tried to get between them, but Pops told him not to “get between pecking hens” which made the yelling go up a pitch higher. Even I know not to call women hens, chicks, heifers, or any other kind of farm animal, and I haven’t even gotten to high school yet. Nonetheless…. I learned that word from my dad and I think it’s fun to say. Nonetheless. Nonetheless. Nonetheless…. Nonetheless, Pops made it all worse. Grandma and Nana started yelling at him, and then I guess Grandpa’s girlfriend breathed wrong because then Grandma turned on her. I just sat there with my fork in my hand watching the entire world unravel. Then it happened. Grandma picked up my cake…. My cake was beautiful. It was two small tiers, the bottom one dark dark purple, and the top dark dark red. Covered in glitter. On top it had three little rows of library book shelves, and on one side it had a little chair with a little girl sitting in it reading a book. That little girl was supposed to be me. She was wearing my favorite yellow polka dot dress, and no shoes. You couldn’t see any expression on her face really because she was so tiny, but I knew it was me because that’s what I asked for. I didn’t want any gifts from my parents. Just some new fantasy books—didn’t even care which ones—Chinese takeout, and that cake. That perfect, beautiful cake. That perfect, beautiful cake that my Grandma ruined along with all my hopes and dreams. You know how people say something dramatic or romantic happened in slow motion? I always thought that was garbage. Until I saw my Grandmother pick up my cake. It really was like slow motion the way everyone’s heads moved in her direction, that weirdly baritone “Nooooooooooooo!” that came out of Nana’s mouth, my mom covering her face, grandpa reaching his arm across his girlfriend’s chest, and all my tiny little library books being smashed into his arm and her dress with so much force that it tipped her chair and sent her on a free-fall towards the floor that seemed to take minutes rather than seconds. As soon as she hit the floor everything went back to normal speed. And you’d think everybody would go quiet and most would rush to help her up, but nope. The yelling got even louder as girlfriend joined in, and nobody, and I mean NO BODY even looked in my direction. I ran straight to my room and into my safe space and let the tears that started with “why the hell did you bring her here David” continue to fall down my face until the water stores were empty. My little soldier absorbed most of them. I can still hear them fussing. Not yelling anymore. And not as many voices. Nana. Mom. Then I hear my name. Somebody asking where I am, referring to me as “that poor child”. I hear my mom groan about my cake, and that brings a fresh new stream of tears. I really wanted that cake. And I didn’t even get to cut it. Or taste it. I don’t even know if mom got a picture of it between setting the table and trying to keep Grandma and Grandpa apart. I’ll remember it, though. I’ll see it in my dreams. My grandparents will remember it too, I’ll make sure of that…when I decide to start talking to them again. Maybe by the time I graduate from college, they’ll both be mature enough to not ruin my special day. I’m sure Nana will be the first to find me. Dad and Pops are probably outside pretending to take out the trash, and I’m sure mom is still cleaning my tiny polka dot dress off the floor. Nana is like my spirit animal. She always knows were I’m hiding. I mean, I’m always hiding in here, so if you know once then you know, but my parents tend to look everywhere else first. Nana—and here she comes—doesn’t just find me, she sits with me in my little closet and waits for me to talk to her, and doesn’t make me turn on the light.