Authors: Yolanda Allen
“Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday,
dear Marissa, happy birthday to you!”
I smile at my three closest girlfriends as they walk out onto
the patio. My best friend, Bianca, leads the pack. She sits a penis shaped cake
with marshmallow icing down onto the patio table. I shake my head. I’m pretty
sure this was all her idea. There are two number two candles covered in
bubblegum pink glitter stuck into the middle of the cake. The flames flicker in
“Make a wish,” Bianca says.
I close my eyes. My wish is simple. I just want to get through
the next six months left in the year without losing my mind. I take a deep
breath, open my eyes and blow out the candles.
“Yay!” my girls cheer.
“You just performed your first blow job!” Bianca giggles as
she takes the candles off the cake and lays them on a napkin.
“Whatever, Bee. How do you know that was my first blow job?”
She gives me the side eye. “Because I know
smiles. “You do the honors, birthday girl.” Bianca hands me the knife and a
small paper plate adorn with pink and green flowers.
As I cut medium size pieces of cake, I place them onto a paper
plate then pass it to my left until everyone has a slice. Strawberry cake is my
absolute favorite cake in the whole wide world. Definitely will be the cake of
choice when I get married.
I ever get married.
Bianca fills the ladies’ wine glasses with her homemade red
, as it’s become famously known amongst
our group of friends. I watch the succulent pieces of strawberries,
blueberries, and peach slices topple over into the glass. I lick my lips. I’ve
never had the pleasure of tasting her sangria since I don’t drink alcohol but I
do dabble into the drunken fruit now and then. It gets rave reviews so I
imagine it’s quite good.
Bianca picks up my wine glass and fills it halfway with
She raises her glass in the air. “I would like to make a toast
to Marissa.” We all hold our glasses in the air. Everyone stares at me with
huge grins on their faces. “Marissa, we have been friends since I punched
Jeremy in the gut for trying to make you eat paste when we were
five-years-old.” Everyone laughs.
Bianca is, have always been, and will probably always be,
protective of me. She’s like my older sister although we’re the same age.
“I love you like a sister and I am so glad that we are best
friends. You have been through so much over the last year with the passing of
your mother and the breakup with Richard.”
I lower my eyes for a moment. My mom died a day before my
twenty-first birthday from breast cancer. She was all that I had. Bianca took
the lost hard too since she lived with us the four years of high school when
her mom got remarried to some rich guy. She didn’t want to move to the suburbs
and switch schools and leave all her friends behind, especially me. So she
stayed with us during the week and at her mom’s house on the weekends. It was
great having her around. Our moms are best friends as well. I should say that they
I take a deep breath and meet Bianca’s gaze. I give her a
small smile to let her know it’s okay to continue with the toast.
“I just want you to know that I love you girl, and I hope that
this year ends better than it started. I hope your twenty-second year on this
planet is one of your best years to come. You deserve the world and if it was
up to me, you would have it.”
My bottom lip quivers. Tears sting at the back of my eyes. I
won’t cry. Not today. Not on my birthday. I’ve cried long and hard many nights.
But today is the start of a new beginning for me. Today is a celebration and
unless they are tears of joy, they have no business rolling down my cheeks. I
swallow hard and lift my glass in the air again. “Cheers!” Everyone smiles. We
clank our glasses together then take a sip. “Thank you, Bee.” I say as I place
my sparkling cider on the wrought iron patio table.
“So” —Bianca holds up her index finger— “since I can’t give
you the world, these presents will just have to do.” She picks up two large
shopping bags stuffed with hot pink tissue paper and sits them in front of me.
“Happy Birthday, Rissa.”
I stand and wrap my arms around her curvy body. “Thank you so
much, Bee. You are the greatest.”
Bianca kisses my cheek. “Tell me something I don’t know.”
“Rissa, you know her head is already too big,” Jasmine says
with a smile.
“Whatever, Jas.” Bianca playfully rolls her eyes. “Okay Rissa,
open your gifts, girl.”
I smile and take my seat. I pull the tissue paper out of the
first bag and place it on the bench beside me. I take out a beautiful throw
pillow. On the front are the words “every day is a new adventure” stitched in
hot pink. “This is so beautiful.” I look to my friends.
“That’s from me,” Jasmine says. “I just want you to enjoy life
to the fullest. We’re only young once and this is the time that we need to
explore things in life and not be afraid to try new things.”
“I’ll drink to that!” Bianca holds up her wine glass then
swallows a gulp of sangria.
“Thank you, Jas, and I will definitely keep that in mind.” I
lean over and hug her.
“Okay so the next gift is…” I grab the hot pink straps and
lift the purse from the bag. “Whoa! Oh my god…this is beautiful.” I sit the hot
pink Coach purse in my lap to examine it. The Coach C’s are etched into the
fabric in a metallic thread giving it a soft shimmer. I absolutely love the
leather bow on the strap. Pink is my favorite color. “Let me guess. Sara, this
is from you.”
Sara grins. “Now why would you think that?”
“Umm, I don’t know, maybe because you work at a Coach store
and you love using your employee discount. Not to mention you have the exact
same bag in black sitting on the floor near your feet.”
Sara looks down at her bag as if she’d forgotten that she in
fact has the same one. “Oh, well. You’re welcome.”
“It’s beautiful Sara. I will use it every day.”
“And you know she will too. She’s a creature of habit. When
was the last time you bought a new purse anyway, Rissa?”
I look over at my black Guess bag that I’ve been carrying for
the past two years. It’s my every day bag. The straps are peeling and the
fabric on the bottom is so worn you can see tiny holes in the corners. “It’s
been a while. But you know me. If it’s not broke then why fix it. It still
carries everything that I need on a daily basis with no problems. Besides no
one should be looking at me that hard to see the minor wear and tear.”
“Are you going to throw it away?” Bianca asks.
My brows furrow. “Why would I do that?”
“Because you have a new one,” Sara answers.
I place the Coach purse back into the bag carefully as if I’m
handling glass. “I don’t see why I need to throw away my Guess bag. I like to
have backups so no, I won’t be throwing it away.” They laugh as always. I can
be a bit frugal, I admit. But who can blame me. Growing up with a single parent
made having the best things in life a little out of reach. So I made do with
what I could. When I started working at fifteen, I was then able to splurge a
little on some of the trendy things that my friends were wearing. I’m not
really into fashion and following the latest trends. I’m all about
practicality. If it gets the job done, then I don’t care who makes it. Throwing
clothes, shoes, or
away as soon as they start showing signs of
wear and tear has never been my first thought.
When my mom got sick two years ago, all the extra money that I
had to spare was used to pay off the medical bills that weren’t covered by her
insurance. I couldn’t just go out and purchase a new
felt like it.
“Okay, Rissa, now it’s time to open up the fun bag!” Bianca
claps her hands in excitement bringing me out of my thoughts.
I plaster a big grin on my face. I can only imagine what’s
waiting for me in this bag. I pull the bag closer and peek inside. There are a
few items in there. I take them out one at a time. The first item is a long
silver jewelry box. I open the box slowly. “Oh my.” It’s a sterling silver
necklace with a bar shaped pendant connected to it. At the top of the pendant
is a single emerald cut pink birthstone. The name “Margaret” is engraved on the
side of the pendant.
“That is a milestone necklace. I chose to get the pink
birthstone and to have it engraved as a memorial to your mother, Margaret. You
have made it through a year since her passing and knowing that she was the only
family that you have,
, I consider that a milestone.
And of course pink because it’s your favorite color but also for breast cancer
awareness,” Bianca says.
My finger traces over the letters that spell out my mother’s
name. This time I don’t stop the tears from falling. This time I welcome them
to grace my cheeks with their presence. This past year hasn’t been the easiest
to deal with. I’m reminded daily of her absence. But she would be so proud of
me right now. To know that I didn’t let life take all of me when it took her
from me. I slowly look up at Bianca. I blink the tears away to clear my vision.
“Thank you,” I say with a hoarse voice. I clear my throat as I take the
necklace from the box and secure it around my neck. The pendant lay on my chest
just above the curve of my breasts. “This is like the best birthday ever, guys.
I mean,” —I let out a shaky breath— “I’m touched.” Everyone dab the tears from
Jas hands me a napkin. “You’re just that damn special.”
I manage a smile. “Thanks.”
“Okay, okay…there are more presents to open. I can’t be crying in my sangria.”
Everyone laughs as Bianca dries her cheeks then takes a sip of her drink.
I inhale deeply then look up to the sky. I blow a kiss to my
mom who I know is smiling down at me then mouth the words “I love you”. There’s
a sudden peace in my heart. It’s like she’s telling me it’s okay to be happy. I
place my hand over my heart and smile. “Alright, what’s next?” I pick up the
next item in the bag. It’s a small cute teddy bear, the color of pink cotton
candy. It has a white t-shirt on and a pink ribbon around its neck. I hold it
up in front of me then read the writing on its t-shirt out loud. “When I grow
up I want to be an event planner.” I laugh and look over to Bianca.
“I figured since you will eventually become an event planner
that you would like that. I would’ve gotten you the t-shirt but the largest
size they had was for toddlers.”
“I love it, Bee. It’s cute.”
“I had to throw something in there to lighten the mood because
I knew the milestone necklace would be a heavy hitter.”
“I appreciate it.” I hug the bear then place it on the bench
beside me. “Okay, there’s one more thing left.” I lift the small white plastic
purse in the air. “Keep It Kinky?” I roll my eyes. “Bianca, are you serious?”
Bianca nods as she drinks her sangria.
I shake my head and unfastened the front of the purse. Inside
are four small items. A small bottle of lickable body oil in a sweet almond
flavor, a massage bar made from shea butter, which melts with your body heat, a
tiny bottle of lube, and a waterproof mini-vibrator called
It reminds me of a tampon. “Thanks, Bee.” I shove everything back inside the
purse and snap it close. “Leave it to you to come with the sex toys.”
“I’m just trying to help you out. You need some action down
there to keep the cobwebs away.” Everyone laughs.
My cheeks become warm. “I don’t need toys. My hands are just
“Oh my god, Marissa, you masturbate?” Sara squeals.
I cover my face with my hands. “Can we please change the
Bianca burst into laughter. “I have to say, Rissa, I’m
surprised. Well now you can give your fingers a break and let Mr. Bullet put in
I shake my head. I’m sure I’m the color of beets right now.
Bianca springs from her seat. “I’ll be back ladies.”
I place all my gifts into their respective bags and slide them
over to the left. I refill my glass with sparkling cider. I make no eye contact
with Sara or Jas hoping to not have to discuss my pathetic sex life anymore
About a minute later Bianca returns and she’s not alone. “Did
one of you guys order a pizza?” Bianca asks. She steps out onto the patio. A
tall guy in khaki pants, a red shirt and a matching cap stands beside her with
a white pizza box in his hands. His pearly white smile is breathtaking against
his sun kissed skin.
I look over to Sara and Jas, they both stare back with
confusion. We all shake our head no. The delivery guy pulls a white piece of
paper from his pants pocket. “It’s a special delivery for…Marissa Riley.” He
looks around at everyone.
I point my finger to my chest. “I’m Marissa Riley.”