I was walking through the house. It was empty. “Mom? Dad?” I called. No answer. “B.F?” Nothing. I ran out to SD’s house, nobody answered the door. Same with Nameless. B.F and SD weren’t at their makeout point either. [Everybody knows what you two do in that apartment, guys. No use denying it. Watch your mouth, B.F.] I tried calling Speedy, but his phone was off.
I was all alone. And then I heard it.
“Lost, Ms. Icicle?”
I whipped around, a sense of dread forming in my stomach. I knew that voice.
There was Ringmaster Raven. What was he holding?
He leered at me. I sputtered. “I thought you were dead!” He threw his head back and cackled. “You hoped,” he corrected. “But don’t worry,” he said. “Somebody did die in that incident.” He ripped open what appeared to be a burlap sack and showed me what was inside.
The broken body of Cuddly Lion.
I retched and sick splattered all over the pavement. Raven laughed even louder. He grew into the monster he had been the last time I had seen him.
Then huge feet came bounding by me. It was Uncle Axe. “Run, Slip!” he yelled. “I’ll hold him off!” He was the size of a fifty-foot building.
My head was spinning, I had so many questions and so few answers. Raven and Uncle Axe collided with a ‘bang’ like a gunshot, and started struggling against each other’s force. My uncle turned to me, fire in his eyes. “Go!” he yelled.
I wasn’t proud of it, but I ran.
And I woke up in a cold sweat. I swore violently, beads of sweat plastering my dark brown hair to my forehead. To test, I pinched myself, then screamed silently. Then I texted Speedy-and of course he replied immediately. Okay. I was awake.
I scrambled down the stairs as I heard voices and looked around. Everybody was there that had been there yesterday. I had to conceal a grin-when we were little, we always threw temper tantrums about how our birthdays were too short, so we started an Icicle family tradition-birthweeks. We celebrated their birthday for an entire week, Sunday to Friday, the week of our birthday. Each day was dedicated to a different thing.
I checked the calendar. Right. Yesterday had been family. The schedule is very well organized, same for every birthweek-Sunday is family, when you spend time with the family (and girlfriends, boyfriends, friends, anyone really close) so we talked, played board games, found the occasional long-lost family member-and I’m not making that up. Uncle Axe wasn’t the first-but that’s a different story.
Monday-today-was treats. Basically all day we pigged out on sodas, cakes, cupcakes, brownies-my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Trust me, you haven’t LIVED ’till you’ve tried Dad’s cupcakes. Yeah, you probably think it’s weird that such a tough guy makes baked sweets, right? Well, try them. You’ll shut up and stop complaining if you do, I swear.
Tuesday is What’s New With You. All day we reflect on what we’ve done over the past year, give speeches, whatever. Man, that was gonna be a big day.
Wednesday is Do What You Want. The birthweek person chooses what to do all day, within reason. For example, bowling, reading (like BF’s ever read a book on his own choice), etc.
Thursday is one of my favorites-game day. We play games. Well, duh. But not cheesy board games or Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Pfft, no. I’m talking stuff like the newest horror games, comedy games, whatever. We have a ton of consoles that came from the birthweek Thursday.
Friday is the party. The birthweek person can invite up to 30 non-family people for whatever kind of party they want-whether it’s big and loud and screamy or quiet and family only and simple. Knowing BF, it’ll be the first one.
And Saturday has always been BF’s favorite. Presents. I know BF. I know he was listening to me as I talked to SD about her present for BF. Trust me, I’ve lived with him for fourteen years. I know him.
SD and BF were sitting together, sipping sodas, BF with an extremely satisfied look on his face. The adults stood talking happily in the corner, and I felt my phone buzz.
“Be right over ❤ ~Speedy”
I smiled and shoved my phone in my pocket. Then I frowned and realized there was one more person missing. I walked into the kitchen and there he was.
His head was sweating from the heat of the oven as he pulled out a cake, and pancakes sizzled on the stove. But he saw me and grinned.
“Hello, dear,” said Uncle Axe. “Want a cupcake?” He offered me one and I giggled.
“Uncle Axe, I haven’t even had breakfast yet. Mom’ll get ticked.” He winked at me. “Don’t worry, it’ll be out little secret.” I hugged him and took a bite of the cupcake and my eyes went wide.
It was like my mouth had exploded with flavor. I quickly ate the rest and stared at him. His smile wavered. “Don’t-don’t you like it?” he asked, looking hurt. I shook my head. “No, I don’t like it.” He went back to flipping pancakes and didn’t see my wide grin. “I love it!” He looked at me. “No joke?”
I shook my head. “These are even better than Dad’s!” He laughed. “Where do you think he learned? He asked me what my sister liked the day before their wedding and I taught him how to make them.”
I shifted uneasily. I wanted to ask him two things. First-the easy one. “Uncle Axe?” I asked quietly. “Mmm?” he said, mouth full of pancake.
“Why do you talk like an old man?”
He froze for a second and swallowed his pancake. I was afraid I had asked a touchy question. Then he roared with laughter.
“You’ve got spunk, Slip!” he said, still laughing. He wiped the pancake off his mouth, chuckling, and stopped before answering my question. “My father taught me to talk like that,” he said. “Your mother never listened to him. If anything, she was a little more like your brother as a girl. Of course, when you’ve seen what I’ve seen, you change…” his smile faded. I gulped, because we were getting close to what I wanted to ask anyway. Full steam ahead, I guess. “And, uh, how…how did you get that…leg problem? And the Purple Heart?”
Now there wasn’t even a trace of a smile. “That’s for another time, Slip. Maybe tomorrow, in my speech. No guarantees.” Then he looked as though he’d like to be alone for a while, and luckily the doorbell rang at that moment. I murmured something about going to see Speedy, and left the room. I opened the door, still preoccupied, and greeted Speedy and his parents.
Speedy walked over to BF and sat down. “Happy birthday-again,” he said, grinning. BF actually laughed. “Family tradition. My REAL birthday was yesterday, but I still get this.” He waved a hand at the entire room, smiled, and handed Speedy a soda then apparently realized he was being too friendly and advised Speedy to go “play a video game or make out with Slip or something.” Speedy punched him then came over to me and asked if I wanted one too. I shook my head, apparently too quickly. He stopped grinning. “What’s wrong, Slip?” he asked, looking worried. It was almost like I was half asleep. I shook my head once to clear it and said “Hmm? Oh, nothing. Just thinking.” He shrugged and snatched a pancake from the table. “Sure?” he said, chewing. I laughed. “You, Speedy Tomato, are a pig.” He pulled up his nose and started shoving the pancake in his mouth quickly and repeated until he said he felt like barfing, went into the bathroom, and left me there gasping for breath.
The doorbell rang again. I ran to answer it and instead of two people, like I expected, there were nine. I gaped as I recognized only four of them. Nameless, her parents, GS, some people I assumed were his parents, and a girl I had never seen before standing behind Nameless and next to her parents, I guess.
“Nameless, who is she?” I asked, gesturing to the person behind her, who I now noticed was wearing a pink beret. She pulled me aside. “Tha’s my cousin,” she said. “Fierce Popper.” I looked at the girl, twirling her hair between her fingers.
“Is she nice?” I asked. Nameless nodded. “Very. She’s a good person.” I shrugged. “Well, I guess if she’s your friend-” “-she is-” “-then she’s my friend too.”
Nameless smiled and went over to talk to Fierce. Yes, that’s what I’m calling her. You think every one of us has to have a cool nickname? Hahaha, no.
Fierce walked in and I introduced her to everyone. She waved, and she was clearly enjoying the attention. Her parents said hi to me and thanked me for being so nice to her, but I assured that I genuinely meant it.
Then Uncle Axe walked out and Fierce’s eyes grew large. She said something like “bathroom” and shot out of the room as fast as her legs woud take her. I frowned. She didn’t even know where our bathroom was.
Why had she run off like that when Uncle Axe came?