Written by: Leni Sosa; Permanence of Wings
“So. What are we doing for your birthday this year?”
“We are doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. And if you do anything I am going to be really angry. I just want rest. I just want quiet. I just want peace. If you want to gift me something, gift me that.”
The year had been difficult. Monica was tired of complaining and then explaining herself, so she hid most of the time, retreating from everyone around her and coming out on the occassional good day to tell everyone things were fine and that they didn’t need to worry. Selective disclosure, the loophole for liars, she thought. In truth she’d rather hear about what other people were up to – it served as escapism.
She caught herself in the mirror. It had become increasingly difficult to just run out of the house to her hospital treatments. Concealer, check. Foundation for that dewy glow, check. A little lip colour for her pale lips, some pencil for her thinning brows. Check, check. It wasn’t vanity – that hadn’t mattered for some time. She just hated the feeling that people she passed by in a grocery store noticed she looked ‘sick’. At least, it felt that way to her. And there was the possibility that she’d run into some noisy acquaintance just itching to discuss how she wasn’t looking so well. Once she had her whole future right in front of her, and now it was out of reach. Dropping out of school didn’t begin to compare to breaking up with Simon. She had to, she told herself. He deserved to move on.
“That sounds like such a snooze fest.”
“That’s what I want. I’m a snooze fest kind of girl.”
“Okay, okay. At least let me take you out for dinner.”
“Dinner. Come on! You’ve got to eat. You can watch Netflix in your PJs and that tattered housecoat all day, but I’m buying you dinner.”
Her birthday landed on a Friday which meant the restaurants would be packed. It was always so draining for her around people – as if the living, life itself, were trying to suck the very little bit of it she had left. She had gotten dressed up to the best of her abilities. She didn’t know where she was going. Micheline had told her it was a surprise. She cringed a little at hearing the word surprise from Micheline’s lips.
Monica had started losing the energy to be assertive and she caved. Some days she could barely form a sentence. Micheline used to understand that she was not to be messed with, but Micheline started getting her way. Monica needed to save her fighting streak for when it actually mattered.
They were nothing alike. Micheline never missed a party and loved the spotlight as long as it left her drenched in flattery. She, on the other hand, despised it all – from the introductions.
They approached a building that anyone would have believed was scheduled to be torn down, but she knew that living in the city meant finding little gems hidden in the cracks of demolition-worthy properties. She found herself standing in front of some heavy doors, but there were no windows on the ground floor or signage to indicate the place was anything but abandoned.
The confused look she wore made Micheline laugh out loud.
“Where the hell are we? I swear, if it were anyone but you, I’d think I’m being led to my death.”
Micheline laughed so hard she snorted. Her grin made Monica nervous.
“What is your problem.”
“What’s going on?”
“I’m not going in there.”
“Look, if you must know, there’s this place inside that throws intimate dinners. You pay and a chef cooks right in front of you. I just thought it might be something you’d enjoy. I just wanted to do something you could actually be good with but now you had to ruin it.”
“But it looks so sketchy.”
“Come on. She let out a laugh and dragged her sister inside.”
“You know I love you, right.”
“I’d do anything for you.”
“Why is it so dark.”
” I’m sorry I’ve been so selfish and make stuff about me all the time, sis. … In there.”
They stood reached some double doors and pushed them open.
“But this one’s for you! Happy birthday!”
Micheline felt like a goddess. “Let there be light!” And her creation was quick to reveal itself. The rave lightshow, pounding music, the heat of the bodies jumping up and down and the ‘glow in the dark’ makeup made Monica instantly dizzy. She could smell alcohol, cigarettes, weed and sweat as if she had her nose right to it. Monica was standing in her hell.
“Do you love it? The owner rents it out for the night! Isn’t it awesome!”
“Who are these people?”
“Your friends. Some of mine.”
“Where the hell are my friends? I don’t know who the hell these people are!”
She started to turn towards the doors, but Micheline grabbed her arm and pointed to them. They were moving in and some of the panic dissipated.
“Right there! Relax, will you. I go out of my way to throw you a party and you just shit on it.”
“How the hell did you think this was a good idea!”
They stood in front of her with an equal amount of dread.
Monica stood there in shock.
“Mon, I’ve got a hot guy I want you to meet… when I find him. I’ve got to mingle. Have fun, you guys!”
She skipped off and started making the rounds.
Monica knew within minutes her sister would put a few back, pop some ecstasy and have her tongue in some greasy guy’s mouth.
“Let’s get the fuck out of this hellhole.”
The four of them stood on the sidewalk. They could hear the pounding coming from the building, and now anyone on the street would be able to see the ‘lightshow’ through the windows.
“What the hell were you thinking? How could you let me show up?”
“We had no idea. We found out when we got here and stayed only to save you from this freakshow. Sometimes I really hate your sister.”
“She’s all I’ve got.” The thought frightened her.
“That’s not true. You’ve got us.”
Monica looked so frail and lost, and tears ran down her face. She didn’t make a sound.
“Why don’t I get you and Jules back to your place. Dan and I will pick up Mr. Suey and join you.” Monica looked up at him and tried to smile.
On the ride home she wondered how she could be so stupid. How she hadn’t seen it coming. Even as sick as she was, her sister would ignore her wishes. She was fast asleep by the time they arrived. Simon carried her inside. He covered her with a blanket and kissed her forehead.
“Jules, maybe we should go … leave you two alone.”
“No. She’s going to need us to cheer her up and she’d want you here. Besides, I won’t be able to keep her sister from bringjng home stragglers but you will. We’ll order pizza and let her sleep. When she gets up, we’ll be here for her.”
Jules and Dan sat themselves on the couch. Simon grabbed beer from the fridge and handed one to each of them. This was how it had always been. It seemed the four of them had known each other forever.
They sat in silence and pretended to watch the hockey game, but each one of them knew they were trying to shove down the anger they felt for someone they loved and cherished. Micheline had to be dealt with.