A piece of fiction created for the Summer Fiction Series!
The light in the entryway flickers. I take a deeper breath in than the one before, but it still doesn't feel like enough. On my exhale, the light steadies. I close my eyes. By the time I open them, the light begins to flicker again. I take an even deeper breath in and hold it as I stand up; I walk across the room and flip the switch. I exhale as the darkness surrounds me.
After ignoring it for so long, I walk into the kitchen. The only lights around me are a streetlight peeking in through the window and the time on the microwave. I open the plastic, white box surrounding the cake. I realize I forgot to pick up one of those disposable cake cutters at the store. Sam would have remembered. She always remembered the small details, especially when I forgot them and especially today. This was her favorite day.
On our 9th birthday, even, she was more prepared than any of us. Our parents forgot to pick up candles and were dreading telling us; they felt like they'd ruined our birthday. After they spent nearly 20 minutes whispering and bickering in the backyard away from the party, Sam walked out to ask if it was time for cake yet. Prepped for disappointment, our parents were surprised when she sprung with excitement.
She left the sliding glass door open before bouncing from the kitchen, down the hallway, and into our room. She had hidden a box of birthday candles under her bed. Later that day, our parents also found $72, two granola bars, and a Swiss Army Knife. "Just in case," she said when our parents asked her about them. Then, she carried on with her day. And that's how she lived her entire life: joyfully and over prepared.
I glance at the microwave and realize how early it still is. The day feels like it has gone on forever. I glance down and realize I still haven't updated the time on the oven. The power went out a few months back and it went blank. It still can tell time, I assume. I just haven't fixed it yet. Sam would have fixed it within five minutes of the power coming back on.
When I touch the freezing metal handle on the silverware drawer, I snap back into the present moment. I flinch at first when I feel the cold but immediately grab it again. This shock feels like nothing. I grab a fork and knife from the drawer — they're both from the matching set our parents got us when we moved out of the house and into our first apartment together. They feel heavier than I remember; but then again, everything does now.
The fork and knife clink against each other when I put them on the counter. I grab a small plate from the cabinet above me and sit it next to the silverware. I pick the knife back up, grasping it in my hand like I need full control. I look at the cake. The chocolate buttercream frosting is decorated with round, multi-colored sprinkles. Those were Sam's favorite; I told her they were mine, too, but just because she loved them so much.
I slice off a small piece and put it on the plate. I know I have to have some; it's bad luck not to. It looks delicious, moist, like a cake I'd be happy to dig into any other time. Instead, I watch the sprinkles fall around the sides of the cake. Slowly, I pick up a single pink sprinkle and eat it; Sam always swore the pink ones tasted better than the others.
I place my plate on the coffee table. The coffee table Sam bought for me for Christmas a couple of years ago after I'd spent six months talking myself out of it because of how expensive it was. Everything reminds me of her.
Normally, we'd gather around the table, our faces glowing from all the candles we would have piled onto the cake. We'd all be singing and it would sound terrible. But now, it's just me. For an entire year, it has been just me; it feels like every day from here on out, it will be just me.
I walk back into the living room and take the same seat on the couch. The cake makes it feel real. A sprinkle falls off the side of the cake. A whole year. I pick up my fork.
In the silence, I stare at a slice of our birthday cake and try to talk myself into eating it.
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed it.
If you liked this piece, I suggest checking out some of my other work. Some of my favorites right now are Cheers and Lights in Seattle.
If you'd like to follow along, you can find me at @JaciSchreckengost and @JaciReads, if you only want book content.
Make sure to check back soon for notes on my thesis process over the next months, some more fiction thanks to the Vocal fiction challenges, and books I've read (spoiler: I only review books I love).
About the Creator
Hey there, I'm Jaci Schreckengost.
Here are some pieces of my writing. They're all drafts; some on revision one, some on revision ninety.
You can see more of my work at jacischreckengost.com. I'm also on Instagram @JaciSchreckengost.
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