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Unforgettable Birthday Breakfast


By Barb DukemanPublished 3 years ago 6 min read

“I can’t believe we’re doing this!” Michele shouted as we ran across the abandoned airfield, her teal scarf flying behind her. “It’s so cold!”

“You’re the one who wanted to watch the sun rise on your birthday,” I replied, trying to keep up with her.

“Yeah, but from the top of a train?

We knew it was technically trespassing, but it was her seventeenth birthday and we loved adventures. She was still a minor, and as her 20-year old best friend I was the one who would have gotten in trouble. Jackets zipped up and gloves on, we stopped in front of the steel behemoth. The abandoned train still sitting on the tracks from years ago beckoned. We approached it from the west side where the steps to the top were visible. Graffiti covered the sides where closed doors hid unknown secrets.

I looked around and reassured myself no one saw us. “Ok. You first.”

“But I can’t see where I’m going.”

“And that’s why I have a flashlight.” I shined the light in front of her. “There’s the bottom rung. Go ahead. The sun rises in about half an hour.”

“Oh my god. What if we get caught?” she asked, climbing up the side of the train car.

“We can explain it. Remember that Halloween when my car got stuck in the cemetery at county line and those three guys came out of the woods?”

“I thought we were gonna die that night.”

“We got out of that, didn’t we?”

“Only because I knew one of them from school,” she laughed.

“Same difference. Can you see the top yet?”

Michele peered over the top. “It’s rusty and trashed, but yeah.”

“Here’s a towel.” I pulled a towel out of my bag and tossed it on top of the train car. “I’m half way there. Use the towel to sit on.”

“Throw me the bag.”

“Be careful; I’ve got breakfast in there.”

“Seriously, Barb, when did you have time to get that? It’s not even 6.”

“It’s your birthday,” I reminded her. “I plan ahead.”

She caught the bag in one hand. “Got it.” I scrambled on top of the car and retrieved a towel for myself.

“Ok. Now we can eat.” I sat down and pulled out the familiar white paper bag – not quite the breakfast of champions, but the breakfast of teens everywhere. “Have some McBreakfast.”

“You’re such a dork. That’s why you’re my best friend.” She smiled and took her sandwich. Do you ever wonder what we’ll be doing ten years from now?”

“After graduating from USF, I’m going to be a teacher somewhere, probably here in Land O’ Lakes. At least I’ll always be able to get a job.” I took my sandwich and unwrapped it. “Are you still planning on moving to Orlando?”

She shook her head and said something I’d never forget. “I’ve changed my mind. I’m moving to Oregon.”

“Come again?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “I thought you wanted to stay nearby here in Florida. I could find a job in Orlando.”

She looked off toward the creamsicle orange beginning to show in the east. “I don’t want to be part of the Disney machine, or anywhere near it. I just saw a news conference on Channel 28 about another theme park being built in Orlando, Universal. It’s supposed to open in about four years. I want to get a degree in foreign relations, but I don’t want to work in entertainment. When I graduate in June, I’m heading out to Portland.”

I felt as if I had been punched in the gut. “Do you even know anyone there? Where will you stay? What college?” I was looking at my best friend as if I’d never seen her before.

“I’ll be getting an apartment with Robin. Her aunt lives in the area.” She finished her sandwich and fished around for the half pint of milk in the bag. “I’ve always wanted to get away from here. I’ve been picked on my whole life, and I just want a new start. I think I can do this.”

“I…I don’t know what to say,” I stopped eating. The thought of losing my best friend was numbing. I’d known her for almost ten years, and we were going to accomplish great things together and save the world.

“Say you’re happy for me,” she replied. “I know this is a surprise, but I’ve been thinking about this for a while. When I turn 18 next year, I’ll be able to start off in a new direction and make my own decisions.” She paused for a moment, looking up, “Look – the sun’s coming up.”

And it was. Barely visible over the horizon someone in the middle of Tampa, the sun was making its presence known. The colors of the sunrise formed stripes in the early morning, and a new day was being born, and along with it, new hopes, new dreams being formed in the view from on top of a train.

“There’s no way I can convince you to stay? What about your parents?

She laughed. “I’m a military brat. I’m used to moving around, and so are they. They want to come visit already, and I’m not even gone yet.” The top of the train car became more visible in the light of dawn, and so did we. “We should start heading back soon. I don’t want to explain to my parents why we got arrested.”

“We? I don’t know you,” I smirked. “Happy birthday, Brat.”

“Thank you, Dork. Let’s get going.” She put our trash back into the bag. “We still have to get back to the car without getting caught.”

“We’ve done that before, too. Remember the night we stole a Bob’s Barricade? I never ran so fast in my life.” I let her go down the side of the train car first, and then followed her. “At least you’ll remember your seventeenth birthday.” We got to the bottom of the train and followed the track back across the field to the parked car. “You’ll still be in my wedding one day, right?

“Of course. They have this thing called a plane now, and it flies.” She looked down at the ground and toward the west. “Don’t worry. I’m not leaving you. Just the state.”

I half smiled. “I know.”

But things wouldn’t be the same. She’d live by the brilliant Pacific, and I’d still have the murky Gulf. We wouldn’t go on adventures at the spur of the moment or show up to the Saturday night showing of Rocky Horror at University Square Mall. No more cruising Mission Bell Plaza or going to concerts at Bayfront Center. Softly I said, “Maybe I’ll come out there, too.” I knew I wouldn’t, but in that awkward silence, I felt our friendship begin to wobble, and turned back to finish watching the sun rise. “Maybe,” I said.


About the Creator

Barb Dukeman

After 32 years of teaching high school English, I've started writing again and loving every minute of it. I enjoy bringing ideas to life and the concept of leaving behind a legacy.

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