It was a Thursday night, October 13th and Terry felt more than a little lame for being so excited that it was his birthday. But this was the first time he’d had an actual girlfriend during his b-day and it was pretty cool. They sat on Cerise’s bed and she presented him with four packages. It was convenient that his birthday came first because he could gauge what to get her based on what she got him. He hadn’t been expecting so much, especially after she’d told him she was having trouble thinking of what to get him.
The first gift was a tee-shirt with a tree silhouette on it. She said that he could exchange it if he didn’t like it but he liked it fine and told her he loved it. He put it on immediately. It was pretty form fitting.
“Mmm, you look hot,” Cerise grinned.
Terry didn’t usually wear his shirts so tight ‘cause he was worried it might make him look gay or douchey but if Cerise liked it then he had no objections. They kissed and Terry secretly wondered if tonight would be the night. Cerise would probably never do anything as gross as giving sex as a gift but there was no harm in hoping.
Cerise excitedly pushed the second gift in his hands and he ripped it open. It was a stuffed animal, a duck or something. Weird.
“It’s a chicken!” she announced. “Get it?”
Terry laughed. He did get it, and it was hilarious, which he told her. “I’ll name him Stir-Fry!”
“Well technically it’s a her, ‘cause it’s a hen. ‘Cause male chickens are roosters.”
“Trust you to like, think of something like that.”
They made out some more and then he opened his third gift, which was a pair of boxers with cherries all over them and the words “wild cherry” printed all over the place.
“I can’t believe you’re finally getting a sense of humour about your name!” he laughed.
“It’s so you’ll always think of me when you’re putting them on,” she giggled.
“Like I don’t already think of you when I’m putting on underwear, or taking it off,” he grinned, kissing her again.
The last gift was a cookie tin holding a bunch of home-made cookies, individually wrapped in saran wrap.
“Did you make these?” he asked. “I didn’t know you could bake.”
“Well I don’t do it often. And it’s pretty much the only thing I can make. It’s my great-grandmother’s recipe.”
“Raspberry jam?” he laughed, seeing that each cookie had a glob of jam in the center.
“It’s just a coincidence ‘cause the recipe is from my maternal side but it’s totally become like, the signature cookie for me and my sisters.”
He unwrapped a cookie and a little piece of paper fell out of the wrapping. He read it aloud. “I like you because you’re tall.” He laughed. “What? That’s why you like me?”
“One of the reasons,” she smiled. “See, each cookie has a different reason.”
He picked up a few cookies and sure enough at the bottom of each little package was a folded up note, spotted with grease stains. Awesome. “Fuck me! There must be like a dozen cookies in here!”
“Eighteen, you know, one for each year. But yeah, I had a little trouble thinking of eighteen reasons I like you so…”
She grinned mischievously and he laughed sarcastically, grabbing her and tickling her until she begged him to stop. Then he ate a cookie and it was totally good.
“This is awesome!” he enthused. “I can’t believe you went to so much trouble!”
“I’m glad you like it,” she smiled shyly, even blushing a little.
She was so awesome. Terry couldn’t even think of a time he’d ever been happier. He ate a couple more cookies and read that she liked him because of the way he made her feel and because of his generosity. Awesome. So totally awesome. He wanted to unwrap all the cookies and see what they all said but Cerise insisted they get to the bar ‘cause they were gonna be late. Terry didn’t even want to go out anymore; he just wanted to stay in with his awesome girlfriend.
But she dragged him downstairs and before they left, her little sister accosted them at the front door. Even she had a gift for him! She handed him a little package of tissue paper and he unfolded it to find a friendship bracelet inside.
“I made it myself!” Jules squealed.
“Thanks,” he smiled. “It’s awesome.” And it really was. Well, the bracelet was nothing special but how cool to have your girlfriend’s sister give you a gift?
“You really like it? You’re not just saying that?” Jules pouted.
He insisted that he loved it and held out his wrist while she tied it for him. Cerise stood by patiently and cocked her eyebrow, either in annoyance or amusement, he couldn’t quite tell. It was no secret that Jules had a crush on him and he wasn’t really sure how Cerise felt about that but he kind of loved it, even though he would never admit it. It was just kind of cool to be in a house where everyone liked him. Not that having chicks all over him was a new thing but in Cerise’s house it was different. It all seemed genuine and based on more than just him being popular or whatever. Ok, with Jules it was probably just because he was a hockey player or something but with Cerise he knew it was more. And even Cerise’s mom was cool, always inviting him over for dinner and actually being nice to him and Simone was cool too, treating him like a friend, joking around with him like he was part of the family. He seriously couldn’t have asked for a better situation to come into. Cerise was the best girlfriend ever!
Jules giggled like a school-girl, which he supposed she was as he thanked her again. He and Cerise put on their coats and went out to his car and Cerise sort of semi apologized for Jules being so nuts.
“I don’t mind,” he said neutrally, trying not to let on that he was about to explode with happiness.
“You don’t have to be so nice to her,” Cerise insisted.
“Hey, she’s got good taste,” Terry smarmed. “It’s good to know I’ve got another Raspberry waiting in the wings for the next time you break up with me.”
“Loser!” she laughed, pounding her tiny little fist on his arm.
They laughed and climbed into his car and drove off to Cunningham’s where they were gonna meet up with everyone. Best birthday EVER!
Cerise was ecstatic that Terry had liked all his gifts. She’d picked out the shirt and boxers with the help of Karine and Sarah and walking past a toy store gave her the chicken idea. The cookies were a last minute inspiration and she’d been up all night on Wednesday baking and writing the notes. She was extremely relieved that she’d actually been able to come up with something original and heartfelt because it meant she wasn’t the worst girlfriend in the world after all.
When they got to Cunningham’s the entire world was there. Cerise wasn’t sure if Terry had invited all these people or if they were regulars here but either way he introduced her to so many people that she had no hope of remembering all their names. He’d talked about a few guys from hockey before so she was able to put a face to Morgan, Townsend and Somethingorother.
Then there were a bunch of people that she supposed he knew from various classes but she didn’t even try to register their identities. Finally they joined the gang at a few tables that were haphazardly pushed together. Along with the usual suspects were Jojo, Cassie and Janice. Cerise could tell that Terry was a little taken aback to see them there but he didn’t protest or anything.
As soon as they joined the gang Karine gave Terry a big hug and teased him for being late to his own party. She also handed him a bottle of some sort of alcohol, with a ribbon tied to it. He thanked her and joked that it was just what he’d always wanted, which Cerise supposed wasn’t really that much of a joke.
“Now that you’re legal,” Karine smiled.
“Yeah, it’ll make such a big difference in my life,” Terry laughed. “I don’t think I’ve been carded since I was fifteen!”
Sarah also gave Terry a gift and he opened it to find a miniature pool table, complete with tiny little cues and balls. They all laughed and immediately started fighting over who would get to play the first round.
“So what, like we were supposed to give gifts?” said Vani in a panic. “How come I didn’t get the memo?”
“Gimme a break,” scoffed Karl. “Celebrating the passage of time is like celebrating decay. Hooray for entropy!”
“You’re so bitter and joyless,” said Sarah without a trace of amusement in her voice.
“It’s stupid! It’d be like celebrating the turnover to a new year.”
Sarah rolled her eyes and Cassie started to point out that they do in fact celebrate the New Year but Jojo stopped her before she could finish embarrassing herself.
Karl went on. “People will celebrate anything! Next thing you know they’re gonna be celebrating the birth of Jesus for Christ’s sake!”
Everyone laughed at that one as a waitress came over with two pitchers of beer and a bunch of glasses. Terry’s hockey friends, who had more or less joined the group by that point, sort of hovering near their tables, grabbed at one of the pitchers rather rudely. No one protested though and Cerise had no idea who’d actually purchased the drinks, not that she even cared, so long as she wasn’t expected to pitch in.
The waitress came back holding a Joe Louis with a candle stuck in it. They all started singing Happy Birthday and Terry blew out the candle, grinning from ear to ear.
Sarah, Karine and Janice all grabbed on to Terry and hugged him and Vani made another crack about not getting the memo detailing when one is supposed to hug Terry. Cerise also wondered if there was some sort of social understanding she wasn’t aware of whereby people were meant to hug her boyfriend at all opportunities. Janice even went so far as to grab Terry’s butt and comment about its firmness. Terry laughed but pushed her away as his hockey friends cracked wise about the awesomeness of having a bunch of chicks feeling him up.
Cerise finally recognized one of the hockey guys as Nick Morgan, the guy Terry had set up with Melanie or Stephanie on grad night. She felt a little bad that it had taken her so long to make the connection and even worse that she couldn’t remember which Green Girl had been his date. She hadn’t even thought about Mel or Steph in months, how bitchy of her. Did Sarah still hang out with them? She hadn’t mentioned it if she did. Cerise seemed to recall that they had both said they’d be attending John Abbott so it was odd that they hadn’t run into them, although it was a huge school so randomly running into people from their small graduating class would probably more unlikely than she’d initially believed.
Oh well, whatever. It wasn’t as though Cerise missed them but it was interesting to muse on how relationships were often contextual. How many of the people at these tables tonight would Cerise be friends with if she weren’t physically near them on a regular basis? How many would she make an effort to keep in touch with if she or they suddenly went away? Probably none. Even her relationship with Terry was up for debate. When she’d gone to
in the summer she hadn’t had any contact with him save for a few facebook updates. And Jay could barely be bothered to maintain contact with her even when they were neighbours! And though Sarah seemed to be a good friend, she’d apparently abandoned her BFFs from high school so maybe she wasn’t as loyal as Cerise had always imagined. In truth, Cerise didn’t really have any friends with whom she was so tight she could count on them no matter what. It was a sad thing to realize but Cerise knew she had no one but herself to blame. Terry was probably right about her, about how she kept herself guarded from others. No matter how many people were around her, she would always be alone, for the rest of her life. How utterly depressing. Quebec City
“Seriously, you’re just gonna stay in bed all night?” Stan growled, clearly annoyed. “I have people coming over.”
“Exactly,” sighed Shauna.
Sometimes when Stan had his friends over it was too much for Shauna to handle. They weren’t so bad she supposed, but all she really wanted was to be alone. She just wished they would all go away, even Stan. She just wanted to lie in bed and sleep. If she could sleep forever and just dream for eternity, that would be the best. Even if all she dreamt were nightmares because even her worst dreams were still better than reality. Because in the real world she could never watch the shows she wanted and always had to sit there while Stan and his stupid friends played boring video games she wasn’t any good at and they never even let her play anyway.
“Fuck Shauna!” Stan screamed, startling her. “You are so fucking, goddamned useless! I swear to fucking god! All you ever do is lie in this fucking bed! Get the fuck up!”
Shauna was genuinely scared now but she couldn’t back down. Giving in would set a precedent and she couldn’t let Stan win. She stayed in bed and tried to meet his gaze but it was too scary. Just as she was formulating her next move, a sudden pain shot through her arm. Quicker than she’d thought possible, he’d grabbed her and was yanking her out of bed. He flung her to the floor like she was a rag doll and she landed in a heap.
She stayed there, on the floor, crouched down, cradling her arm. It didn’t really hurt so bad, not really that big of a deal. Nothing much compared to what she’d gone through back home but still, was she gonna have to endure this shit here too? What was the point of staying with Stan if he was going to be just as much of an asshole as her father?
“I hate you!” she hollered, standing up and weakly shoving Stan.
He grabbed her hand but then slowly released it, gently even. “Shauna, fuck. Don’t say that! I love you so much, but it scares me sometimes how you are. How you just lie around all the time like you don’t even care. Like you don’t even wanna live.”
It almost seemed that he was on the verge of tears. Really? Had she made him cry? That was new.
“It’s just, I’m so scared for you,” he went on. “I want you to be happy. I want you to be happy here with me. I want us to have a life together but sometimes it seems like you don’t want that too and it sucks. I love you so much. Why don’t you love me?” He looked down at her, all anger gone from his voice, replaced with sadness.
“I do love you,” she said, pretty sure it was a lie but whatever, it’s not like she knew what love was anyway.
“Then can you please try?” he pleaded. “Try to be with me? Like I mean, not just being here like here,” he pointed to the ground. “Be here like here,” he pressed his fingers into her temples.
She nodded until he lowered his hands. He smiled, smothering her with a hug.