Claudia was sitting in a booth at Tony's talking to Wesley by the time I arrived. What in the world could she possibly be talking to him about? I tugged at the sleeve of my jean jacket and headed towards the bright red and white counters. Suddenly, I was feeling incredibly thirsty and knew a Pepsi would do the trick. I turned around to get a glimpse at Joel and Claudia again. Could they be dating? No, no way. Claudia couldn't keep a secret to save her life. So, like, she'd tell me if she was into him. It's not like they were close or anything either. There was some space between them even if they were sitting on the same side. Wesley looked upset. He rubbed his eyes, lowering his heads into his palms. Was he crying? Even if a small part of me wanted it to be true, that would never happen. He'd never be caught dead crying at Tony's.
Claudia moved her hand to his back, rubbing it in small circular motions. A weird feeling washed over me. One I couldn't exactly describe. Whatever it was, I didn't like it. They hugged for a moment and then he pulled away. Wesley turned around and that's when he caught me staring. Crap. For some reason I was embarrassed I had been caught so I quickly turned towards the counter again.
I watched my manager, Kevin make his way towards me. His balding head was covered in a red hat, matching the red T-shirt with TONY'S sprawled across it. He was wiping his hands with black apron, flour staining it. I smiled when he reached me.
"Hey Kev," I said, leaning forward. "Busy night."
"Is that sarcasm Miss Zimm?" He asked with a chuckle.
"Of course not," I winked his way before continuing. "It's graduation day. Everyone is probably out getting wasted at a party."
"I figured," Kevin said. "I'm surprised that Wesley kid is here. Isn't he the rich kid you always complain about?"
"I don't always complain about him, Kevin." I rolled my eyes. He made it seem like I was obsessed with the guy or whatever. "But, yeah, I'm shocked he's here too."
As soon as the words left my mouth, Wesley brushed past me on his way out the door. I only caught a glimpse of his face, but from the glimpse I caught, he looked pretty angry. That made me question why he was here with my best friend even more. After ordering a Pespi and Kevin sliding it to me, I told Kevin I'd catch up with him later and went to go talk to Claudia.
She was looking straight into her red and white paper cup, no doubt filled to the rim with Pespi like mine and held a sad look on her face. It changed instantly once she saw me coming towards her. That bright, cheery, smile I'm so used to spread across her face quickly.
"Mar!" Claudia said getting up to hug me.
"Hey, Claud," I said, hugging her back and taking a seat across from her. "What's up?"
"Oh nothing," she replied quickly, taking a sip from her drink. "Do you hear the stuff Kevin is playing on the jukebox? Gag!"
I laughed, recognizing the tune coming from the 50's styled jukebox. I was pretty sure it was Frank Sinatra. My grandparents listened to the stuff a lot.
"Well, you know, Kev," I told her, smiling. I figured this was as good as time as any to ask her about Wesley. "So, why were you talking to Wesley?"
She shrugged. "I saw him here waiting for you."
"Are you guys, like, a thing?" I asked. I know I was jumping to conclusions, but I figured getting the worst possible scenario out of the way first would be a lot easier.
"Gross, Mar. You know I'd never date 'Wealthy Wesley.' He just looked upset so I offered an ear. You know me, I always play Good Samaritan," she said with a grin.
"It was just weird … that's all," I told her. "Is he okay?" It'd be a lie to say I wasn't a little interested in why he was upset.
"Yeah," Claudia said with a shrug. "He's okay. Anyway. We didn't meet here to talk about Wesley. We came here to talk about you, the birthday girl and our trip!"
I grinned. Just the thought of us running away to Los Angeles made me all giddy inside. I took a sip of my Pespi and shrugged. "Yeah. That's right. So, did you get the tickets? I'm already packed and everything."
Claudia's bright smiled turned into a frown the moment the word "tickets" left my mouth.
"I got the concert tickets … yes." She looked back down into her cup.
"Duh!" I told her. "I saw those the moment you got them. I mean the plane tickets. Did you get the plane tickets?"
"Oh." That's all Claudia said.
She didn't need to tell me. I already knew the answer. A sinking feeling swept over me and I could feel my stomach dropping to my feet. I knew something would go wrong. I just knew it! I should have purchased the tickets. I should have took the initiative. Claudia was totally unreliable with this kind of stuff. If she didn't get the tickets now, we'd never go to California. This was her way of backing out of the trip. This was her way of saying she no longer wanted to –
Claudia broke me out of my thoughts. "Get that pout off your face, Mar. We're still going."
I smiled. "Really? But if we're not going by plane -"
"Don't worry. I've got it all figured out. Just be ready bright and early tomorrow." Claudia grinned. "Have you told your grandparents yet?"
My face went back to a frown. "No, Claud. And I'm not going to tell them. They'd just try to stop me and make me apply to colleges."
"You have to tell them eventually."
"And I will," I told her, smiling again. "I'm going to leave them a note before I leave."
"But what if they, like, try and find you or something?" Claudia asked.
I shrugged. "I'm eighteen. I'm an adult. Technically, I'm just moving out."
Claudia stayed quiet for a moment. I couldn't exactly read her thoughts and I was usually pretty good at doing that. After a few minutes, she nodded again and went back to grinning. Turning around, she signaled towards Kevin. I sat there, confused, until a few of my co-workers walked out behind Kevin holding a medium-sized chocolate icing cake decorated with pink candles. Ever since the movie Pretty in Pink came out, I'd been totally obsessed with the color. I felt like it was my good luck color. The fact that Claudia – Kevin or whoever remembered that made me all giddy inside.
They came to our table, singing "Happy Birthday" and clapping. I couldn't help but giggle. I mouthed 'Thank you' to Claudia before turning to face everybody else. Once they were finished singing, Kevin set the cake down in front of me and told me to make a wish.
Closing my eyes, I thought long and hard. I had already wished for success in California and I couldn't use the same wish twice, could I?
So, finally, I wished for success in California for Claudia as well. I blew my candles out and sat back in my seat and smiled.
These people felt like my real family, not those two people at home.
When I got home, my grandparents were both asleep. On the end table next to the door, I saw a piece of mail with a sticky note on it.
Forgot to give this to you earlier, Marilyn.
I ripped the sticky note off and looked at the return address. The name read 'LILLIAN EVAS.'
A letter from my mother! Quickly, I took off my jacket, threw it on the coat rack and ran upstairs to my bedroom. I sat on my bed and turned over to my stomach. I practically ripped the envelope open. This letter was a short one.
Happy Birthday! Also, correct me if I'm wrong, congratulations on graduating as well! You've made your mother so happy! So what are you graduation plans? Are there any colleges you'll be attending in the fall?
Remember, your opportunities are endless!
How are Grandma and Grandpa? Oh, Marilyn, I know you're not a fan of them but please remember they have your best interests in mind. They do love you and want nothing but the best for you. I hope to hear from you soon. Keep in touch.
Smiling, I rolled over and sat up from bed. I walked over to my dresser, opening the small jewelry box that had turned into a box where I kept my mother's letter. I gently folded it back correctly and slipped it inside with all the others. I walked over to my desk, opening the top drawer and grabbing a piece of paper and pencil. I sat down and began writing my mother back. It was like a habit, to stop anything I had plans of doing and responding to her instantly.
Thanks so much for the birthday wishes and congrats! I'm finally an adult, can you believe it?
Grandma and Grandpa are fine, as usual. Still pretending I don't exist. I know they love me but … sometimes they don't act like it. They did make me a cake for my birthday. It was vanilla with burnt cream icing. I much prefer chocolate, but I guess they didn't know that.
As for graduation plans … well, I don't have any.
I guess I ought to be honest since by the time this letter makes it to you, my secret will be revealed.
I'm going to California, mom!
Claudia and I have plans. I'm going to become a singer like you were … well, are? And Claudia is going to be a famous artist. She says she wants to relocate to New York eventually but that's okay. By then we'll both be famous and will be able to fly from NY to California anytime we want.
I also have another secret. I'm coming there to visit you! Are you excited? It was supposed to be a surprise but I figured I'd tell you now. I can't wait to see you, mom!
I grabbed an enveloped from my desk drawer and slid the letter inside. I addressed the letter and reminded myself to place it on the end table by the door before I left in the morning. Grandma would put a stamp on it and place it in the mail for me. Like she always did.
Once I was ready for bed, I slipped inside the covers and closed my eyes. I dreamed of many things. Like meeting Dean Lee, becoming famous and drinking mimosa's by the beach. But mostly, I dreamt of my mother and what she looked like. How happy she's going to be to see me and finally having someone tell me they love me.