"Happy birthday, Zoë!"
I sat up in bed with a gasp. Niko jumped into my arms and my eyes rested on the calendar hanging on my wall. January 24. My birthday. I was sixteen today.
My last birthday.
Oh, god, I felt like I was going to be sick.
I turned to look at Cy's concerned face, and shook my head lightly.
"Nothing," I returned Niko's hug and mustered a smile for both of them. "Thanks, you guys. I completely forgot it was my birthday today."
"We figured you would," Cy replied dryly.
I stuck my tongue out at him as he came over and tousled my messy hair even more, dropping a sloppily wrapped box into my lap. There was a fifty dollar gift certificate for the mall, and a photo album with my name on it.
I carefully opened it to find myself in mom's arms. My smile widened as I looked through all the pictures. There was one from each of my birthdays and many in-between ones too. Crawling, walking, in diapers, potty training, eating, losing my first baby teeth, first haircut, first day at school, dressed for Halloween, holding baby Niko, with dad, with Niko and Cy, in my skates at the lake, and so on. There were recent ones too, me eating lunch with Ana at the school cafeteria, and the last one with Sean.
Sean's arms were around me, and I was staring at him in the picture. My heart squeezed. What was I going to tell him? What were we going to d—?
I looked up and— snap! There was a flash and I blinked furiously.
Cy was grinning, "Now, you can add this picture to your album."
I rolled my eyes, "Thanks a lot, big brother."
"You're welcome, little sister," he replied cheekily before dropping a kiss on my head.
"Happy birthday, Zoë," Niko's soft voice reached my ears and I looked down as he pushed the bundle of papers into my hands.
They were drawn pictures of me. I smiled as I looked through the colorful pictures of me with Niko, me wearing my skates, and me with Cy, Niko, and dad. The last one had a message written in Niko's handwriting, and was decorated with glitter.
'Happy Birthday, Zoë! You are the best sister ever, and I love you forever!'
I gathered him close to me and thanked him.
"I wanted to buy you something, but I didn't have enough money," he mumbled.
"This was perfect, though. I don't need you to buy me anything when I have all these," I told him, gesturing to the artwork.
He gave me a brilliant smile and stood up. "Dad went to work, but Cy says we can do whatever you want today."
My smile faded slightly. I hadn't talked to dad for a few days now.
"Can we go to the park?"
I blinked and looked at his small face. "Of course we can," I replied with a smile.
He grinned and bounded down the stairs, probably going to inform Cy.
I got out of bed and made my way to the bathroom. 15 minutes later I walked downstairs showered and clean in a pair of jeans and t-shirt, hair brushed back in a ponytail.
It was a pretty nice, sunny day, and Cy and I were sitting on the benches watching Niko play on the swings when I felt fingers tickle my bare arms. I looked up and opened my mouth, when he swooped down and kissed me.
To say I was shocked would be an understatement.
I barely heard him when he whispered "happy birthday" into my ear as I sat there, dazed.
It was only when I stared down at the double chocolate-chip ice cream cone that he'd pushed into my hands, did I find my voice.
"Thanks," I said hoarsely, and then cleared my throat.
It was disturbing how Sean had the power to affect me this way.
He smiled, and without taking his eyes off me, he said, "Cyril, I'll have to steal your sister for tonight."
I turned to look at Cy. I'd forgotten he was even sitting there.
Cy's gaze narrowed as he stared at Sean and I instinctively knew he was going to refuse, but just as suddenly, he grinned and said, "Sure, man."
I blinked. What?
Sean leaned forward and kissed my cheek, said, "Great, see you at 6," and left.
I stared after him.
"Stop drooling after the guy, sis, your ice-cream's melting."
I rounded on Cy, "How come you just said yes to him like that?"
He raised a dark brow, "Would you rather I said no?"
"Yes," I said, "I-I mean, no. No! I meant, how come you didn't give him the third degree and asked him where he was taking me and all that stuff?"
He shrugged and sat back, "He's a good guy. I trust him. I'd trust him with my sister."
I gave him a weird look. "I am your sister."
I shook my head. I would never understand how his mind worked. Something suddenly came into my mind.
"Why don't you spend the evening with Mel?"
Cy blinked, obviously caught off guard. "N-no. I, uh, I have to baby-sit Niko."
"No, drop Niko off at one of his friend's place, and have fun with Mel. I've noticed you haven't spent that much time with her for some time now."
He glared at me. "Its fine, Zoë."
I frowned, something was wrong here. "What happened, Cy?"
"We broke up!" he burst out.
My eyes widened. "What?"
"We broke up," he sounded noncommittal. Well, tried to.
"But why? What happened?"
"Cyril," I bit out.
He looked at me and rolled his eyes. "She was getting annoying, anyways. Don't worry about it, Zoë. We're fine."
"No, Cyril. I know how happy you two were when you guys were together, okay? I saw you both. And you love her, Cy. You can't just switch off your feelings for someone."
I knew he couldn't hold it in any longer. "Look, she wanted attention from me, okay? She said I wasn't spending much time with her and that I was always trying to avoid her. When I denied that and told her that I was just worried about you, she said some things about you, and after that I…I just lost it."
My annoyance and irritation died down. "What did she say?" I asked softly.
His jaw tightened visibly, "She said it was stupid, that all of this was stupid. She said you were old enough to take care of yourself and didn't need me running around you all the time. She said family wasn't the only thing in life, and when I told her that to me it was, she insulted you and… and she said that I would never be able to keep a girl happy because of my family."
I blinked and swallowed hard. "She is right, though. I mean, I am a big girl, and I'm capable of taking care of myself."
I looked away as I saw the flash of sorrow and pain in his eyes. "But, Zoë, she doesn't understand… with your condition—illness… anything could… I-I just, I can't—"
"Then tell her, Cy. Tell her what's going on in your life… That's what you do when you're in a relationship with someone. You share your joy and happiness with them, but you also share your sorrow with them. Let her know what's bothering you and tell her you need her support…" I trailed off, and then stopped suddenly, thinking about what I had just said.
…Share joy and happiness but also share sorrow…
I had to tell Sean everything.
The doorbell rang at exactly 6 o'clock. I was at the top of the stairs when I heard Niko call out, "I'll get it!"
I could hear Sean's voice as he talked to Niko. I took a deep breath and walked down just as he stepped inside. He looked up and surprise flashed in his eyes as he took in my appearance. He tilted his head a little and said with a smile, "Still beautiful."
I blushed and bit my lip, looking down at my sweatpants and t-shirt.
"Why don't you go finish your movie, Niko?" I said and waited until I was sure he was in the other room before turning to Sean.
"I can't go tonight."
He blinked. He frowned and opened his mouth but I beat him to it.
"I need to tell you something. Something important."
I saw the confusion, hurt, and worry flash through his eyes before it all disappeared and his face became an emotionless mask.
I turned around to walk into the living room, choosing the single sofa chair. Sean seated himself on the sofa adjacent to the chair and waited.
"I have coronary artery disease," I blurted. Stupid, I thought immediately. What happened to all the speeches you had practiced in front of the mirror the entire afternoon?
I waited for a response, but receiving none, I continued. "It's… It's a disease—a condition, where uh, where the arteries that supply blood to the heart become hardened and narrowed, because of plaque. This, uh, this slows the flow of blood to the heart and reduces the oxygen supply to the heart muscle. I've suffered a couple minor heart attacks and a major one could uh, c—"
"—could kill you," he finished for me. I stared at him for a moment before looking away. "We studied some heart diseases in bio last year," he continued softly.
Somehow, I found my voice again. "Uh," I licked my lips nervously and continued, "I have approximately one year until I… uh, until my heart eventually stops beating..."
He looked shocked. "But, you said… you said a major heart attack…"
I nodded, "That too; but, my heart's not too strong and the plaque build up will eventually become too much for my heart too handle, so…"
Tears were prickling the corners of my eyes but I blinked them away. Sean sat there quietly for some time, and I let him. He needed time to let it sink in and understand what was going on. I knew we had to end whatever we had started. It would be the best thing to do.
"I…I'm," his voice cracked, and he cleared his throat. "I'm s-sorry, Zoë, I…I don't know, what—to say…"
I stared at my hands in my lap and said quietly, "You don't need to say anything…I don't expect you to. You've given me some of the best moments of my life and I'm… I- Thank you…"
Before I had a chance to finish, Sean reached forward and pulled me into a hug. That did it, and the tears freed themselves. I sobbed into his jacket and clutched his shoulders.
"I'm always going to be here for you... till the end," he whispered fiercely, "you are the best thing that ever happened to me, and I-I just, there will be many more good times to come… I promise you that."
I bit my lip hard, until I could taste the blood, and squeezed my eyes shut against the tears.
"I love you," he whispered into my hair.
I froze and my eyes widened.
Sean slowly withdrew and rubbed a hand over his face. "I'm sorry…I shouldn't have said that, I, sorry, it just came out. Y-You don't have to say anything…"
"I love you too," I whispered.
"…You don't even have to, to like, feel the same way, I— what?"
"I love you too," I repeated, louder.
He stared at me for a moment before bending down and kissing me.
We sat there for a long time, not speaking, not moving; Just sharing each other's pain and company.
A/N: Hello! I'm sorry for the long wait, but, I don't know... I've sort of lost interest in this story. I was reading it from the beginning and it made me cringe. LoL, it's weird... hmm.. anyways, please review and if you haven't already, please check out my other new stories, Broken World and Confessions on the Dance Floor, and review those if possible.. Thank you!