Shana nearly jumped a foot in the air when a group of her closest friends shouted surprise as she came into the living room, having only paused a moment to set her bag by the door where she saw her grandfather’s bag was sitting.
Everyone laughed when Shana put a hand over her heart, which was pounding like a bird trying to get out of a cage, but then she smiled and smacked her boyfriend who came over to give her a kiss, and he whispered into her ear as he pulled her into a hug. “You didn’t think that I wouldn’t say good-bye one last time before you left. Did you?”
Shana had said her good-byes at school, having explained the situation about a week before to her closest friends, which was all the time she herself had been given in regards to notice. So, she had thought that was it once school had ended today. She hadn’t expected to ever see her friends again. So, this certainly was a happy, though bittersweet surprise. Bittersweet, because she would have to go through the same pain again, if not more, knowing that this truly would be the last good-bye after her friends left. Still, she was happy to have gotten this one extra last chance to see them.
Shana put her arms around her boyfriend and broke down into ragged sobs. “I don’t want to leave you. Any of you…” She added as she pulled out of the hug and looked at everyone else.
Her best friend came over with some tissue for her to wipe her eyes and then hugged her herself. “I baked a cake.” She announced proudly with a smile.
Shana widened her eyes. “You baked something?” Rachel laughed. “Yeah, but I won’t be held responsible for how it tastes. I just wanted to do something special for you.” Shana laughed at that, then said, “I don’t care how it tastes. The fact that you baked for me when I know how much you hate cooking, overrides any fear of what your cake may taste like. Besides, you might have surprised yourself with how good it is.” Rachel shrugged. “Maybe, but past endeavors have not turned out well. No one died, but…”
Everyone laughed at that. Archimedes then excused himself to allow Shana some time to visit before they had to leave. “I’m going to shower and change now,” he announced before heading upstairs.
Shana nodded to her grandfather, “Okay, grandpa,” and she had a brief crazy notion of taking advantage of him being in the shower to run away with her boyfriend. Of course, it was just a fleeting fantasy, because she knew that she’d miss her grandfather to pieces. Besides, she didn’t know why they were moving. So, she might be putting herself and her friends in danger if she tried to stay.
Shana suddenly sighed a sad sigh, realizing that this truly was it. This was the last time she would see her friends. Ever. Rachel seeing the look on her face and her eyes tearing up again pulled her into another hug. “We are all going to miss you so much, but we want you to be happy wherever you’re going. And we have a gift for you so that you won’t ever forget us.”
Shana shook her head. “I already won’t ever forget any of you.” Rachel shrugged. “Still, sometimes over the course of time faces and voices become foggy memories, even if you remember our names and the relationships we had with one another. So, we recorded a short video of all of us where you can play it any time you are missing us.”
Shana said in a sad voice. “That’s going to be all the time.”
Steven shook his head. “You’re going to make new friends, and even find a new boyfriend, and I already told you that I want that for you. You are my first real love, and I’ll never forget you or stop loving you, and I know you feel the same about me because we already talked about that. So, we all want you to make a lot of friends, not to replace us in your heart, but simply to be happy. That’s what we all want for you.” Everyone nodded in agreement.
Shana took a moment to get her laptop out of her school backpack to play the video from the flash drive that it was on. Her grandfather had told her that she wouldn’t be allowed to bring her laptop or cellphone, but her backpack was still in the living room where she had left it.
More tears came to her eyes as she viewed the video, as each of her friends had said what they loved the most about her, shared something funny which had happened during their friendship together, and how much they were going to miss her. And at the end was a brief video clip of the entire group together, including her, which they had done after school after asking one of the teachers to film it for them. So, by the time she finished viewing the video, she was smiling and crying at the same time.
Rachel came over to her and gently wiped her tears with new tissue. “Good thing you’re not wearing any makeup. Let’s dry those tears and try the cake I baked for you. That way I’ll know if any tears are from you feeling sad or from how awful my cake tastes.” That made everyone laugh, including Shana.
The group then migrated to the dining room and Shana was again surprised to see that it had been decorated. They must have been like bees zipping and zooming around to get all these decorations up before she came down. Granted, she had taken about an hour, but still…
“It’s beautiful, and so is your, uh cake…” Shana said trying not to laugh when she saw that it was lopsided. Rachel and the others all laughed though. “It’s supposed to be that way.” Rachel tried in an effort to explain the tragedy that was her cake.” Shana tilted her head. “If you look at it from this angle, it’s just right.”
Rachel laughed. “Okay everyone, tilt your heads. I knew that the problem was with you, not my cake. You all just weren’t looking at it right.” That drew more laughter, but when they finally all stopped laughing, Steven lit the thirteen candles on it, and everyone sang Happy “Early” Birthday to her because she wouldn’t turn thirteen until the next day. Shana then took a deep breath, tilted her head again and blew out all the candles after making a wish. Of course, she knew her wish wouldn’t likely come true because she had wished that she could stay with her friends.
“Okay, you get the first piece, Shana. We’ll then give it a few moments and if you don’t collapse onto the floor with seizures, or go into anaphylactic shock, then the rest of us will try it.” Rachel announced, and that drew more laughter. “Thanks a lot!” Shana said with mock concern. She then teasingly closed her eyes and held her nose after Rachel cut her a piece of cake and fed her a forkful, making everyone laugh again.
Shana then went into an act of gagging, choking, falling to the fall and going into seizures, which made everyone laugh, but then Rachel bend down when it looked like Shana had stopped moving. “Are you alive. Blink if you can.” Shana spoke in a gagging tone, as if difficult to speak. “I can’t my eyes are fixated in shock.” Rachel laughed and smacked her friend. “It wasn’t that bad. Was it?”
Shana finally got up, laughing, but then turned serious. “Actually, despite the tilt, it tastes pretty good. I deem it safe for human consumption.” She then picked up the small plate with her piece of cake on it and took another forkful. “Nom-nom-nom-worthy.” But when Rachel turned away to cut more pieces of cake Shana did a finger-down-the-throat gesture, though she was just teasing. Everyone laughed, making Rachel turn around. “What?” She then narrowed eyes as the laughing increased and said, “You people are evil!” which created even more laughter.
After a good laugh, however, they all sat down to eat the cake that Rachel had made, and everyone agreed that it wasn’t half bad. In fact, Steven had a second piece.