A 5-year old’s birthday is incredibly hard to plan. There’s the food, which includes a cake in the shape of a rocket ship. Space themed candy, decorations, costumes, and the like. Then there are the guests. Which is hard as there’s very small amount of kids her age in the area. I found myself running back and forth up the coastal road just trying to get this done. While also trying to maintain the work that was continuing to pile up. It’s difficult, but it’s so fucking worth it.
Olive and Cynthia are out picking up the cake as Jasper, Noah, and I hang up the decorations. She points to where Jasper and I should hang the first banner. “A little more, more, more still. Okay, that’s pretty.” She says with a stern managerial voice. Jasper and I shrug and tape the banner to the curtains.
The cake arrives as the guests do, the best friends forever Aaron and Noah run off into the back to play with the water balloons, I mean space balloons. I follow them out and sit drinking iced tea. They fly through space dropping bombs on the evil aliens ants. Which I couldn’t tell who provoked who, but I knew which side was going to win. They wreck ants lives until there’s everything is devastated and they’re out of balloons. Which it was time for us to eat. They sprint back inside and I follow. Handshake, handshake, handshake, everyone needs to be greeted. The lasagna is luckily still warm by the time I get to eat any. We clear the table and set the cake down. Noah’s eyes go wide when she sees the grey and red rocket ship. I set the candles in and light them. We sing the song and she makes her wish and blows out the candles. Oddly when it came to presents Cynthia and I were the only ones not going with the space theme. I drag the bike out that I spent all night putting together. She forgets the rest of the gifts and wants to go ride it. So she helps me push the bike outside and down the steps. Like a natural, she peddles around the drive way with Aaron chasing her, as happy as a five-year-old could be.
The guest leave as Noah sleeps on the couch, the sugar high long gone. We tell our goodbyes to Olive and Jasper and close the door. A quiet house. I carry Noah to bed, Cynthia gives her five kisses and follows me out of the room. “What a day.” She whispers as we walk back down the steps. We put the leftovers away and decide the rest will be done tomorrow. “Want to go for a night swim?” Cynthia asks still on a health kick. “I’ll go down with you, but I don’t feel up to swimming.” I say. We walk down the slanted path to the beach. Cynthia slips off her dress and goes running into the cool water. I watch as she swims out then in, the moon gives the water a ghostly appearance, as if it was there and was not. Soaking wet and shivering Cynthia walks from the sea. Her teeth chatter as she speaks “Ok, it’s cold. Let’s go back.” My shirt and pants get wet as I hug her on our way back up. Back inside she takes a hot shower, I join her.
I wake up early, it was still dark outside. I walk out of our room and stop at Noah’s door. She wasn’t awake yet, which was odd, but she had a long day. I go to the fridge and eat some leftover cake with milk. Not the best breakfast. I walk up stairs again to raise Noah to go watch the sunrise together. I knock on her door but she does not answer. I knock once more, yet I hear nothing on the other side. I open it slowly and walk in. She has the blankets over her. “Hey, Noah sweetie, time to get up.” Again she doesn’t stir. I sit next to her on the bed and shake her a little. “Noah, no more games, let’s get…” My words are taken from me as I pull her blanket back. Her eyes glossy and vacant. The side of her face against the bed is blue and purple. I fall onto the floor. I shake my head rapidly trying to wake-up from the nightmare. But the world doesn’t change, I try to get up, to stand up, to do something but the floor is like quick sand it keeps me on the ground. I crawl my way out of the room. As if an invisible barrier passed I can stand myself up. I look to our room, then to downstairs. I take the steps slowly and carefully. I dial Elizabeth’s number and it rings, rings, rings, groggy voice answers on the fifteenth ring. “It’s happened.” I say. “She’s gone.” I hear Elizabeth murmur “Oh god.” on the other end of the phone. “I’ll be there shortly.” She says then hangs up. I let the handset drop from my hands and smack onto the floor. I walk up the steps and go into her room. I close the door and lock it. My face is wet, but I don’t feel like I am crying. I pick up Noah and cradle her. I walk to the rocking chair and sit down.
There’s pounding at the front door. I listen to Cynthia’s bare feet slap against the floor as she runs down to see who’s there. I listen as they shout at each other then hurry up the stairs. They knock on the door as I sit there rocking back and forth with my little girl in my arms. “Karl, let us in please.” Elizabeth says in probably the sweetest voice she could muster. I kiss my little girl on the head then stand up. I unlock the door and step out into the hall. Cynthia catches sight of Noah’s face and faints. Elizabeth helps her fall slower as I walk down the stairs. With tunnel vision, I see nothing but the exit, then her car. I open the back passenger door and sit down, waiting for wherever we needed to go. Soon, and not too long Cynthia comes running out of the house and into the car with me. Without saying a word she takes Noah from my arms and cradles her into her own. Elizabeth’s closes the front door and walks out. As we drive down the road the sun begins to rise, on a new day without my little girl.