I’ve always loved birthday parties. We mark our years by them.
But this party leaves me shredded to the core.
In addition to the party crashers, everyone I invited came: the Nixes, Faith and Felicity, Frank, Arkvoodle, and, of course, Chauncey. This is Chauncey’s last party.
I knew he was getting old. He’s a little older than me, and he’d been complaining lately of feeling tired and not having much energy. But we had no idea that tonight, his time was up.
Mike Nix, who’s known him even longer than I have, looked like his heart would break.
Faith and Felicity tried to comfort Marigold, who had never witnessed a passing before, but they were so sad themselves, they hardly knew what to say.
Poor Mara, with her gentle heart, looked like the world was ending.
Hetal, who never could stand her mom’s boyfriend, was untouched.
While Annie wept, and Frank and Arkvoodle looked on with remorse, Chauncey smiled. He looked more at peace than I’d ever seen him in life.
And that’s when I lost it. Chauncey. My oldest friend! My first crush. My first best friend. My first roommate. Chauncey. What will we do without you?
Was it the grief, the overwhelming emotions? Something touches my friends and transforms them.
Annie looks like she’s been zombified.
And Frank! I have never seen him like this! If it weren’t for his same golden eyes, I wouldn’t recognize him with what long, pointy ears he has, what long pointy fingernails, what long pointy teeth!
And the strange robed figure in black curdles my stomach and sends chills up my spine. All the grief is shocked out of me for that brief moment.
Marigold soldiers on and prepares to make her wish and blow out the candles, and I let out what is meant to be a cheer, but what becomes the longest, saddest, yowling keen. It’s a broken heart keening, a fear-inspired keening, the keen of one who sees her place in the line, with all her closest friends standing before her, knowing that, one by one, there is a single direction in which we head. It’s the keen of a mother who doesn’t want to leave her child. Oh, you in the black robe! Listen well! And give me time! And let my friends linger, too.