Music was suddenly blaring in my ears and I bolted up, eyes wide in horror. When I realized that the music was softer than it had sounded, my heart beat slowed. A quick glance at the clock told me it was five-twenty-three - had I slept that long? Two hours? I shook my head and slowly got off my bed, and followed the music downstairs and was met with a dark living room.
"Mum?" I called out over the music. It was quieter now. "Grams?" I was getting frantic. "What's going on?" My heart started beating faster again. I reached for the living room lights, and flicked them on. As soon as I did, a burst of confetti came right into my face, and I yelped.
"Happy birthday, love!" A voice said - I couldn't tell who with all the colorful confetti still in the air - and I felt familiar arms wrap around me. "It's me." she whispered.
"Mum!" I exclaimed. "What's going on?" There was laughter in the background.
The confetti settled on the ground, and Mum looked at me. "You didn't like our surprise party?"
I looked around at how many people there were. "Mum..." An uneasy feeling settled in my stomach as I looked around at everyone who had come. Ms Spring - Grams' old neighbour and my principal - Maryam, Imogen, Samantha - a classmate who was sort of my friend - and Grams. I wanted to tell Mum that I didn't want any of this. No party. After what I heard today, at school, it almost felt wrong to party like this.
If Ella were here, her heart would have been torn to shreds. Even if I didn't know her true self, she would've thought the same thing - it would've been wrong to party no matter what.
Maryam and Imogen - who both looked a bit uneasy (I knew why) - carried a big cardboard box, decorated as a gift box towards me. I cocked my head at them, and they both grinned. "What is this?" I asked Samantha.
"You'll see." she grinned. "Maryam, Imogen and I chose."
I raised my eyebrows. I heard a soft growl-whine from the box and my jaw dropped, and I twisted a loose strand of hair in my finger nervously. They set the box down, and as they did, it shook violently. “Mum, oh my gosh, what is it?” I whispered, panicking.
Imogen grinned sheepishly at my behaviour and cut open the top of the box. Out jumped a Border Collie puppy.
I shrieked in joy, and in defense, the puppy crouched down low and let out an adorable growl. Soon, it was jumping around, sniffing at everything that it collided with. I kneeled down to pet it.
Everyone was laughing at the puppy’s antics. “Who did all this?”
“Your mom and Grams.” Samantha said and grinned.
“Really?” I looked around at them.
They both smiled down at me.
“...But,” I started. “None of this feels right right now.” I whispered. Ella. It was torture thinking of her again and again.
“Honey, look,” Mum crouched down beside me. “Ella was your friend - at least, you thought she was - and if she never thought of you as a friend, why does it matter anymore? That means your friendship never was a friendship. She was just a person who was around you a lot.” Mum cupped her hand around my cheek, and I leaned into it, absorbing her warmth.
“I guess, but-” I was interrupted by Imogen.
“I know I haven’t known you guys long, and I’m honored to already be celebrating your birthday, but Julia, you can forget her now. If she likes the way she is now, that’s all that should matter, eh?” she said.
“But her parents.” I said quietly.
Maryam sucked in a shard breath. “Like you said before, Jules, you and her both have similar problems. If you got through it, I believe she can as well. Don’t worry.” she smiled. “Now, let’s continue this party!”
The puppy bounced on the couches, making me laugh. “Alright…” I said. “Is it a he or a she?”
“A he.” Samantha answered.
“He’s adorable!” I said, scooping up the puppy in my arms and cuddling with him. “What’s his name?” I asked Samantha again. “Or can I name him?”
“He has no name.” she answered again, plopping down beside me. Wonderful! I can name him!
“I’ll go get the cake.” Grams chirped, shuffling out of the living with Mum and Ms Spring tailing behind her. Maryam and Imogen sat down around me. The puppy licked me again.
“I heard your mom used to have a border collie.” Maryam said, scratching the panting puppy behind his ear.
“Really? I never even knew that.” I raised my eyebrows. No one said anything. The music was still playing, and it started getting quiet. Soon, there was silence. Names, names, so many names to choose from and I can only choose one! I watched as the puppy raced around the living.
“How’s Alfie?” I told my friends.
“That’s adorable!” Imogen squealed.
“Ooh, suits him well.” Samantha winked.
“Hi Alfie!” Maryam waved at the puppy, who was now sprawled across the floor, panting.
I clicked my tongue, and having no idea Alfie would really come to me, he came bounding into my lap. Everyone laughed.
“We’ll need to go shopping soon for his things.” I said, playing with some of Alfie’s fur. “And we might need a leash. Oh, and thank god our backyard is fenced!” I noted.
“Sweet. Wanna go to PetSmart after school tomorrow?” Samantha asked, tickling Alfie.
We all nodded our heads. Tomorrow we’d meet at the school gates, come to my house, grab Alfie, and go out. I’d take money from Mum or Grams. The cake had arrived. I blew out the candles, making a wish, and cut the cake, giving everyone a slice. Soon, I opened the rest of my presents.
The evening came to a close when everyone started leaving. “Maryam! Imogen!” I called out from my front porch. They turned around. They were about to enter Maryam’s car. Imogen was going to be dropped off by Maryam’s mother. I jogged up to them. “Do you want to stay the night?” I asked.
Maryam’s eyes twinkled. Imogen grinned. “Lemme call Mother real quick.” Imogen said, whipping out her phone, and walking away.
“I’ll ask.” Maryam ducked into her car. I heard laughing, and Maryam popped back out, shut the door, and her mother zoomed away. I took that as a yes. Imogen came bouncing on her heels.
“My first night away from home ever since I came here and it’s barely been two months here!” she shrieked. Maryam and I laughed.
“Let’s go inside. It’s getting chilly.” I shivered. We jogged back in. I told Mum and Grams that my friends were staying for the night. Ms Spring had left.
Mum gave us a bowl of popcorn, a stack of DVDs and a bag of chips, chocolate, and candy. Also, after a bit of hunting, she took out extra clothes, sleeping bags, and more blankets, and ordered us to sleep in the living room.
This was going to be the best night ever.