But why am I Jessica? @lalaland972
Chapter 10


But Why am I Jessica?

Chapter 10

I avoided them both after Monday. Bella's ability to slip back into being dependent on Edward was not something I could easily swallow after I thought we had made so much progress on her ability to identify her self-worth before his return. Angela played ignorant or just accepted this was who Bella was again. Angela didn't seem to mind and still tried to plan a "girl's day" on Saturday. I had to remind her I was grounded, and Bella seemed all too pleased to have the same excuse when I overheard Angela asked her as well. To combat Angela's disappointment, I informed her she could visit me at the movie theatre while I was on shift. She had not made up her mind when we parted if she would stop by or not.

There was a commotion in the parking lot when I exited Forks High School after my last class of the day. When I drew closer to the center of it, I observed tan skin, not enough clothes for winter time, and dark hair belonging to a Jacob Black. Jacob was leaning next to his motorcycle, trying to pull off some sort of 'badass' vibe. It wasn't working for me. Maybe it did with the other girls at the school though. Looking around the school parking lot, I was able to confirm I was the only girl not impressed with the aura around Jacob Black and his motorcycle. Teenage girls. Cue my eye roll. Edward and Bella were standing a few feet away from him. I knew I shouldn't have been nosy, but I couldn't help myself from wanting to observe if Jacob intended on taking my advice or not. I also hadn't seen or heard from him since he made a guest appearance in my bedroom Tuesday night.

I walked within listening range but not close enough for them to notice me. My stupidity was realized too late when Jacob looked at me and waved. He can smell you, you idiot.

I waved awkwardly from my indiscreet hiding place. Bella and Edward turned to look at me for a second and then resumed their conversation with Jacob.

"Like I said Bells, I am sorry. It was really immature of me to pull that kind of stunt. You can understand why I did it though, right?" Jacob's voice implored her to be understanding.

"Just because I understand why you did it, doesn't mean you had the right to do it. Edward's not going to hurt me, Jake. I trust you; don't you trust me?" Bella's voice dropped at the end of her question. She seemed to be struggling with having this particular conversation in front of Edward.

"I know better now. Can you please just come with me? There is some stuff I want to talk to you about and he doesn't need to be a part of it." Jacob's gaze explicitly avoided acknowledging Edward's presence. Not the worse way to go about it, but not the best way either. I suppose he is too young though to expect him to take all the advice I gave him to heart. Still, I should take what he has said as 'a win'.

Bella looked to Edward. Edward's mouth made a thin line. If he was opposed to the request, he didn't show it.

"Go. I trust you and he's your friend." Edward's calm and out of character encouragement blew my mind. I was secretly anticipating a psycho reaction and for him to be up in arms against the very notion she left with Jacob.

"Oh, okay. Thanks." Bella pursed her lips, silently asking Edward to put up at least some sort of fight about it. He instead offered her a peck on the cheek and turned away from her and Jacob, politely giving them some space.

Jacob was grinning like an idiot as he offered a stunned Bella a helmet before she hopped on the back of his bike. Bella and Jacob left, and all was not right in the Twilight World.

I looked at the watch face on my wrist, 9:55 pm. I was five minutes away from my work shift being over with. For some reason, I was not scheduled on a shift that closed even though I marked I was available to work one. It worked to my advantage. While I was still grounded, I was allowed to leave the house to go to work. I had admittedly not told Jessica's parents I was not scheduled to close for the night. But that was only because I discovered this information with an updated scheduled posted in the break room upon my arrival for my work shift. It meant I had two and a half more hours before I was required to be at the house. I contemplated if I should go straight home or use the free time while the last few minutes of my shift ticked away.

I had just exited the theatre and was walking to the parking lot when I heard my name being called, "Jessica." The figure drew closer to the lamp light ahead of me. Light refracted off of copper hair, pale skin, a brooding face and an all too casual demeanor for Edward Cullen. It was the first time we had truly been in each other's presence since we parted ways over the weekend.

"Hi Edward. Are you coming to see a late-night movie with Bella?" I was friendly. We said we would "grow our friendship" back in Helena but that seemed unlikely due to the nature of his and Bella's relationship. I re-reviewed the area around me, and it finally sunk in that Bella was not with him after I already asked my question. Too late to take it back now.

"No. She is still spending time with Jacob," Edward admitted nonchalantly to me.

"I see. Are you seeing a movie by yourself then?"

"I actually came here to see you. I overheard Angela mentioning you worked tonight. I thought it would be a good opportunity seeing as you are grounded."

"Good timing." Or purposefully. "I just got off my shift. Have you been waiting long?" I sounded more accusing in my tone than I should have. I was praying he hadn't been waiting here to talk to me for hours. It put a bad taste in my mouth just imagining it.

"No. I gambled with catching you around this time still working. I didn't think you would be getting off work yet though to be honest." He sounded so convincing; I was unsure if I should believe him or not.

"Okay. So...how's life back in Forks? I see you and Bella reunited. That's good. She really missed you."

Edward leaned his back to rest on the light pole, looked away from my face and lightly whispered, "I missed her too." Edward sounded hollow. As if there was no feeling behind his words. "I heard about you saving Bella from Laurent." I didn't see that coming; I am surprised he brought that up.

"To say the least, I never have a dull moment with Bella." Edward bit his lip against the temptation to smile.

"I think one could say the same of you," Edward spoke cautiously. His golden eyes danced with hidden meaning.

"Maybe we're two peas in a pod?" I joked. That was far from the truth. Bella and I were on opposite ends of the spectrum of what we wanted out of life.

Edward shook his head at me. "I highly doubt that," he declared as he looked directly into my eyes. My chest tightened in response. I hadn't felt eyes on me like that for a long time. I was reading too much into it. Making up something that was not there to myself. "Do you have to go home, or can I offer to take you for a ride? I'll even drive you one mile outside of Forks if you demand it as a condition to accept my offer." He was good. I caved in and decided to see what he wanted. It could be our last conversation before I withdrew from the Twilight Life after all. I at least owed him that much.

"Make it two miles and you've got a deal." Edward's smile glistened in the street light. It was dazzling.

I went to open the backseat door of his Volvo and Edward shot me a look that said "Really?". I waved my hand at him in response and told him I was just kidding.

"Just get in," he remarked between his laughter. His happiness was slightly contagious. He hadn't seemed this happy at any point when we crossed paths during the school hallways in the last week. Once again, this semester we did not share a class together.

Edward drove around with no real purpose of a destination. The only thing we diligently watched was the time for my curfew. The first part of the ride, we shared in a comfortable silence aside from Mozart's Symphony Number 40 playing in the background. Edward was surprised when I recognized it. I played it off innocently, but in reality, I took a Music Theory class in college my freshman year that always stuck with me.

I decided to break the long silence first. "How do you feel about Bella still being with Jacob? Am I in your company because you need a distraction from it?"

Edward was surprised I opened our conversation to be with this question. "Not really. Jacob is Bella's friend. She can see who she wants. I am appreciative of Jacob's help for Bella while I was away. It would be wrong of me to intervene with their friendship for my own selfish purposes and insecurity," Edward said all too casually.

"Impressive. Very mature, Cullen." I meant what I said. Why was he acting this way though? I commended it, but it was not in his character's nature to be so unprotective of Bella and trusting of Jacob.

"Why do you call me Cullen sometimes instead of Edward?" His question caught me off guard. I hadn't realized I was even doing that.

"I don't know. Maybe to sound impersonal when I address you?" I admitted a truth that I was not aware of until the words left my lips.

"Why would you desire that?" he asked curiously.

"To feel less guilty I suppose," I answered honestly.

"Less guilty about..." Edward was prompting me to continue.

"Talking with you. Bella's your girlfriend and I don't want her getting the wrong idea. So maybe when I get concerned with us talking one on one, I address you as Cullen," I articulated to the sweating palms clasped together in my lap. I peered over to get a glimpse of Edward's face with my admission. Edward was shaking his head, lost at the implication of my words. When he stopped, he was composed.

"I am sorry if I am putting you in an uncomfortable position." I detected a hint of sadness in his voice.

"Don't worry. I can handle myself, if Bella ever gets upset. We are only friends after all. You're allowed to have platonic friends. She can trust us as friends just like you trust her with Jacob," I reasoned to relieve his burden.

"And you and Jacob...?" Edward was insinuating something but did not dare to call it by a name.

"We are just friends, too." Edward eyed me suspiciously as if he didn't believe me. Did he see something in Jacob's thoughts earlier about when he was over at my place Tuesday night?! Or why is he acting so peculiar about this?

"I am sure you are also aware of Jacob's feelings towards Bella. Unlike Jacob, I wouldn't waste my time on one sided love." Edward looked...relieved? But I think it was because he just noticed the clock was ten minutes from my expected time to be home. His once aimless driving shifted into a mission to get me home in time.

"I forgot to mention this, but I think we are going to have a class together this semester." I looked at him confused. "I felt like shifting my schedule to take the "typing" elective would be beneficial to achieve faster essay writing." Bullshit. Like he needed to take any of the classes he already has on his class schedule. I decided to play ball though.

"No upperclassmen in their right mind would take that freshman elective class. I only signed up for it as a blow off class despite warnings from Angela and Eric that it wouldn't be worth it," I remarked dryly. I was calling him out. He needed to give me a real reason for the class switch.

"I wanted to see if it would be worth it as well," Edward remarked playfully.

"Fine. Join me in that class. But it's going to be all your fault when all the freshman girls are up in a tizzy that you are gracing their presence every other weekday for 50 minutes!" I exclaimed to him in frustration.

"In a tizzy? Gracing their presence? I knew it. You still think so highly of me." Edward's smug voice was irritating.

"In your dreams, Cullen. It's what on the inside that counts after all. Beauty fades." Well, except for you. Edward chuckled. I knew he was thinking the same thing. His face shifted to a serious expression and his eyes narrowed. "You're right though."

We finally arrived at the Stanley house. I smiled at him and opened the passenger door. "Thanks for the ride and chat. I'll see you at school-". My car! I was so swept up in the car ride, I forgot I needed to get my car from work before I headed home. Well f*** me!

The house's porch lights turned on after I internally cussed up a storm at myself for my stupidity. Jessica's mom walked out the front door and forward to the porch stairs. "Jessica?" she asked in a stern voice. Before I could explain, Edward interjected.

"Hi Mrs. Stanley. Jessica was having car troubles when she got off work, so I offered to take her home since I happened to get out of a movie around the same time." Mrs. Stanley bought the excuse easily due to Edward's convincing nature. I was relieved in that moment I admitted to Edward at the beginning of the car ride about the strict grounding rules I had to abide by.

"Thank you, Edward. Jessica seems to be in your debt a lot this past year," Jessica's mom said coolly as her cold blue eyes fixated on me. I was still on thin ice with her.

"It's my pleasure to help." Edward's smoothness actually cracked a smile on Jessica's mom's face. I mouthed Edward a thank you before I walked to the house. The smile that played on his face seemed just for me. It was a heart breaker's smile. I left my encounter with Edward with something to hold on to. Hope. It lasted for a millisecond. But it blipped on my radar and I was not sure why.

Once inside, I marched up to my room before Jessica's mom could bring anything up. I was not late, so I should have been able to avoid another "I am disappointed in you" themed talk. It was the worst. I had never been a disappointment to anyone in my previous life. Not to my parents, but because they died when I was too young to mess up. Not my grandparents, who always felt guilty they were raising Jenna and I instead of their son and daughter-in-law. I still was always a good kid. But not here, not as Jessica. The reputation I was building with her family crumbled in one day by a stupid mistake to act like the adult I knew I was. The guilt of my actions ate me alive inside.

A month into the last semester of senior year and my 'Stay out of Twilight' mantra was constantly failing. Bella was mostly ignoring me, but her actions still had rippling effects for my existence. When she was with Jacob, Edward seemed to appear 'coincidentally' where I happened to be. When she was with Edward, Jacob was popping up at my bedroom's window seal for moral support and asking 'A-game' Jessica for further advice. Furthermore, I had to put up with Edward in 'typing' class. I was not being given a god damn break!

Over the course of that month, Jessica's parents slowly began to trust me again. I proved my reliability as a good daughter through my actions and not just words. I pretty much stayed on the same routine after school I had developed before, but I had to throw in the 'Above and Beyond' factor. I picked up extra chores around the house without being asked to and took a bigger role in helping Jessica's parent's out with Daniel. It was not asked of me, but I hoped with extra effort I would be back in their good graces eventually. I missed Jessica's dad inviting me to watch Jeopardy with him. I missed Jessica's mom wanting to hear more about my school life and inquiring if I wanted to assist her in baking. I hadn't realized how accustomed I grew to their affection spent on me until I was deprived of it. Daniel still asked me to read to him. It was my only saving grace in that month at the house. I cried myself to sleep most nights worrying I once again had lost the opportunity for a parent's love.

To me, today was a Tuesday. To every other student in Forks High School, it was Valentine's Day. I had no expectations of anything today. I was actually looking forward to people watching the other student's and their idolized expectation for Cupid's Birthday. I did have a hidden reason for detesting Valentine's Day in addition to it being a 'Hallmark Holiday'. In my last relationship as Katie Smith, I was dumped on Valentine's Day. Such an experience tends to leave negative mark on the Holiday.

I walked around the Forks High School hallways looking at all the red everywhere and heart shaped anything. When my eyes gazed upon my locker, it stood out from the rest. Shiny silver wrapping paper adorned with colorful balloons completely covered my school locker. What the f***? Is this a practical joke or did someone decorate the wrong locker?

Before I was within five feet of it, I heard "Happy Birthday, Jessica!" Oh, you got to be f***ing kidding me! A Valentine's Day birthday?! F*** me.

I looked to Angela, Eric, Mike, Lauren and other casual acquaintances who were now surrounding me by my locker. No, they are not going to-

The classic happy birthday song rang in my ears for the next grueling 30-seconds. I tried to act complacent with the birthday surprise bombardment, but I felt my internal cringing could have been spotted from a mile away. To my surprise, Bella and Edward joined the circle around me for the last stanza in the song. I was mostly amazed by Bella's presence. She had been so distant with me since Edward came back. I was not sure if she was ignorantly wrapped up in both love interests now, or if she was deliberately ignoring me because she knew when she was with one of them the other was present in my company, most likely. Not by my choice though!

I tried to suppress my Katie urges, but I instinctively pinched the top of the bridge of my nose when the song concluded. I was trying to simmer down the contempt I whole heartedly felt toward Jessica Stanley's birth date in that moment. Angela was the first to approach me and throw a hand on my shoulder. "Jessica, I know it's hard getting old, but you got to accept it."

Her joke roused a laugh from my throat. I appreciatively glanced at her for reeling me back into becoming Jessica. "Thank you, all. I didn't think I could make it to the ripe age of 18, but here I am. An old maid. Goodbye youth, you will be sorely missed." I played along with Angela's set up and it was well received by the crowd around me.

"Boo! I hope that speech is no indication of what we should expect from your valedictorian address!" Mike's eyes shone like the blue morning sky as he made fun of me. He inspired me to not adlib more. It was an awful speech, I could admit.

"Not even!" I smirked at him. "You and everyone else will be blown away by my speech. The Forks Tribune will caption it as 'not a dry eye was in the audience following Jessica Stanley's mesmerizing speech to send off the graduating class of 2006." I beamed at Mike. He couldn't even pull off a convincing 'scoff' at my assertion. He knew I had him in the bag. He drew closer to me and pressed his soft lips to my cheek, catching me and everyone else off guard. "Happy birthday, crazy," he whispered in my ear before backing away and offering me a smooth wink. I could hardly bare to admit it to myself, but I was slightly 'swooned' by his overly friendly actions.

The day resumed to be fairly normal aside from the beginning's bombshell. When I realized no one in my family said anything about it being my birthday, I felt slightly upset. That cloud hovered over me and Edward was the only one who picked up on it despite my best efforts to hide it. It was weird circumstances that allowed him to bring it up too. The typing elective class we shared normally was on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday schedule. But due to our teacher being ill, a make-up class was offered on Tuesday if other teachers during the same period granted us permission to attend it. Only Edward, myself, and three freshman girls were granted permission to make up the class we missed.

Our 'Typing' teacher, Ms. Hensley, was not stunned with the low attendance. In fact, she was actually flabbergasted any students were allowed to attend at all. Edward and I speculated to each other that she made the offer to sound nice without believing anyone would show up. Because we caught her off guard, she had no lesson plan for us that day. She allowed us a free period, aka play computer games if you can access websites that are not blocked. The freshmen failed to work up the courage to talk to Edward, so they all three decided to see what games they could find to play together. Edward was pleased they didn't intend to bother him. He was then left with my attention only.

"Happy birthday." He fought a grin as he said it. "Great speech this morning. I think you still have the youth card to play still." There was a hint of mischief in his eyes that failed to try to convey nothing.

"I think so too." I leaned in closer and Edward's shoulders stiffened in response. "I have it on good authority that I don't have to throw in the towel until after I turn 21," I whispered into his ear playfully. A rueful smile spread across his full lips. He turned his head to directly face mine. His gold eyes peered deeply in my own. I could not begin to guess what words would fall off his beautiful lips next.

"Why have you been sad most of today?" he asked quietly. Now the mood shifted. He was trying to pry where he should not. I closed off my once open posture and reverted back to a mode where I protect my secret.

"You were misreading me. I was worried about a homework assignment I submitted earlier in the day for class. I was having a hard time shaking off the feeling I messed up." I hated lying at this point. Someday, I wished to not have to cover my tracks and my real past. Edward did not buy my excuse.

"You're lying. Try again," he demanded sternly. How does he know I am lying? It is not like he can read my mind now, right?

"I don't know what you're talking about," I said in a huff. I peered at the clock in the middle of the classroom; I had a 45-minute interrogation to endure if I did not get him off of my back.

"Why are you persistent? It's my birthday! Can you do me favor and let this go?" Edward slumped his shoulders and looked away from me.

"Is that all you want for your birthday?" Edward asked barely above a whisper, still not facing me.

"From you? Yes. I am a simple girl who doesn't need much from others." I smiled when speaking my answer. I always prided myself on not needing much from others; nothing more than their time.

"Why is that?" Edward's question had an answer; I just could not give it to him.

"Who knows?" I didn't look at him when I answered.

"Please." Edward sounded so desperate to hear my real answer that I was forced to look up and meet his golden eyes.

"Maybe that will be my birthday gift to you." I responded in almost a light whisper. His eyes gleamed with hope. I was happy I could be the one to put it there. "But since it is still my birthday, I demand we play…Lemonade Stand."

Edward tilted his head to the left side trying to understand what I meant. I pointed him to the computer mouse in front of me. He watched me intensely as I typed in the game website's URL address. When I selected the game, he was starting to show intrigue.

Out of five matches, three of them I outsold Edward and had the more profitable lemonade stand. I was the undisputed champ despite Edward mocking my title and protesting my prior knowledge of the game's strategy gave me the upper hand. I refused to concede this despite the truth in his conclusion.

Edward's parting words to me after class and before he walked toward Bella waiting for him down the hallway were, "I let you win." The wink he threw at me on the word "win" pierced my heart. He had to be lying. I was a lemonade stand connoisseur!

I had almost left the school grounds without anymore birthday wishes following Edward's throughout the school day. Then…I saw Jacob's motorcycle deliberately wedged between my Camry and the ford truck parked next to it. Don't tell me he knows too! Jacob was not in the area as far as my eyes could tell, so I decided to pick up my pace to make my getaway undetected.

After my keys shifted in the driver's side door and I wrapped my fingers around the door handle I heard, "Where do you think you're going, birthday girl?" Dammit.

"Hi Jacob," I muttered after being caught trying to evade him.

Jacob rose both hands to rub his temples for an exaggerated effect before he remarked, "Jake." Jacob had been pestering me recently to reduce his two-syllable name down to one.

"I prefer Jacob though," I teased him. I threw my hands up in the air to meet his dramatic theatrics.

Jacob cocked his head back and a roaring laugh bellowed from his mouth. "I will allow it today with no more protests. Only because it is your birthday though."

"Alright, who told you?" I asked him inquisitively. I didn't even know myself, so how did he find out?

Jacob looked at me like I should obviously know the answer to my own question. "Bella."

"Oh. Yes, of course. But why did she bring it up at all though? Are you flailing in your tactics to woo her still?" I remarked humorously.

Jacob handed me his bike helmet. I pushed the helmet back to his chest. "No way. And my car is here."

"Live a little, Jessica." Jacob once again offered me his black helmet.

"You NEVER lived." Why is this echoing in my head right now? Who said that to me? I felt obligated to fight my fear and accept the motorcycle ride. Just this once though I told myself. I looked sharply at Jacob and told him, "YOLO". His dark eyebrows knitted together in confusion. "What's a yolo?" he asked earnestly. Hahaha! Oops. Drake's not a thing yet.

I accepted the helmet, climbed onto the back of his bike and wrapped my arms above his waist. What a six-pack! The grooves of each ab felt as if they were chiseled in place. "I'll explain it on my next birthday," I laughed into his ear before he took off from the parking lot.

The timing was oddly perfect. We passed both Bella and Edward talking outside of Edward's Volvo. Edward frowned and Bella gawked. I self-consciously waved at them both before latching my fingers once again across Jacob.

The wind on my face and the thrill of the speed Jacob revved up too made me feel...alive. It was an extraordinary experience. Even though Jacob pushed the speed to a faster pace than I preferred, I felt safe that he was in control.

The ride ended at the cliffs in the Quileutes Tribe's Reservation. The infamous spot where Bella kicked off the climax of New Moon. Jacob attempted to gauge my reaction to where he brought me.

"Why did you bring me here? A birthday surprise of a beautiful landscape for me to admire? You shouldn't have, Jacob." I jested coyly to him.

"I knew you wouldn't care about receiving a present." Am I actually right?

"How did you draw that conclusion?" I enquired. Jacob looked out to the blue water ahead of us.

"Observation." That's all I get? Lame.

"Well thank you for sharing this with me. It's definitely a sight to behold."

"Not the only sight..." I thought I heard Jacob whisper.

"Come again?"

"It sure is." He clarified when he spoke up. I knew I misheard him.

"We better get back to my car though. I am no longer grounded, but I still need to keep in my parents' good graces."

"Well there was one more thing..." Jacob's voice drifted off. He still wasn't looking at me. I shifted my body to fully face his side profile. "Have you ever heard of cliff diving?" Only from the books.

"Sounds dangerous." I omitted to directly answer his question.

"For some it can be. Me and my...friends do it often. It's a rush that makes you feel alive." I smiled at him. I knew what he meant. I had just experienced that on the back of his motorcycle.

"Let's do it together." He didn't ask but informed me.

"Hold the phone. What? Didn't you get me out of my comfort zone enough with the motorcycle ride back there?" I asked him incredulously. He finally turned his face to directly face me, aside from the obvious height difference. He looked older in this moment then I was used to seeing. There was a different air about him. He had been becoming more mature little by little through my coaching on his approach with Bella. Apparently, it had also been trickling over into his behavior with me as well.

His tan skin, dark eyes and ebony hair contrasted beautifully with the light in the sky. He was a...good looking guy.

"You're 18 now. Don't you want to start it off with a real bang? We can leave immediately when we get out of the water."

"But your bike is up here, so it wouldn't be that immediately." I poked a hole in his logic.

"I'll retrieve it why you wait. I can be fast." Jacob grinned devilishly at me. I knew he would be if he transformed. Am I really considering this?

"But I don't have any other clothes than this and it's cold outside." I threw out my last line of defense. If he could break through it, I knew I was bound to give in.

"I can keep you warm. I run at a high body temp," Jacob assured me as he grabbed my hand and placed it on his exposed bicep. Dammit.

"Have you done this with Bella already?" I had to ask. I was genuinely curious.

"No..." Jacob said with sadness. "She just wants to talk about Edward most days and not go anywhere when she comes to visit me." My lips pressed together, and I held in my initial response.

"I am sorry. We both could use some excitement then. Let's jump." I knew my decision was more for his benefit than my own. Jacob was in a lot of pain with his struggle of participating in a battle that he would ultimately lose in.

Before I let my decision fully sink in, Jacob's hand was pulling me over the cliff's edge. The fall was short. But during it, I felt time slow down as Jacob and I looked at each other in excitement with our hands intertwined. The impact in the water was harsh and frigid. My swimming would have gone over poorly in the present current, if Jacob didn't help keep me afloat. We made it to the shore together, and he made good on his promise of retrieving his bike in a fast turnaround time. I didn't question the speed of it.

Despite chattering my teeth off when Jacob finally returned, I started boiling soon after I was once again wrapped around him as he drove me back to my car.

When we arrived at my Camry, I was quick to jump off the bike feeling flustered with how I had been acting since he showed up. Jacob looked at me strangely as he watched me walk to the driver's side door. "Happy birthday, Jessica."

"It was a fun time. Thanks...Jake." Jacob beamed at me with surprise. He shook his head at me and commented, "You never cease to surprise me."

"That's what it means to be 'A-game' Jessica." I winked at him before opening the car door and settling inside it. He was off before I turned on the engine.

I had no idea what to expect when I arrived home. I assumed my family forgot my birthday. Which wasn't a big deal. I decided to no longer be hurt over it. I hadn't celebrated my birthday as Katie Smith either. It would not be a letdown after all.

When I walked through the front door, streamers were hanging from our high ceilings. Red and pink balloons were scattered in the front hallway and led into the kitchen. I followed them and stopped short from entering the kitchen when I heard the ensuing conversation.

"So, you didn't say happy birthday yet to our daughter either?" My mom asked my dad.

"I thought this was all supposed to be a surprise," my dad answered in disbelief.

"It was but we should have told her happy birthday this morning still! What terrible parents we are," my mom exclaimed disappointedly.

I walked in to greet them with tears streaming down my face. My face felt so damp I was at a loss of what produced so many of the tears to occur.



That night I went to bed on my birthday with a heart full of love following the birthday celebration with my parents and Daniel.

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