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Frost layered itself on the windows with a thin sheet of ice, making it impossible to see outside. The smell of cinnamon filled the house. My eyes shot open as I heard the sound of an ax chopping wood. I threw off my heavy comforter and jumped out of bed. Running to my closet and grabbed my winter coat and snow boots. With my coat on my back, I stumbled my way down the staircase, putting on one boot at a time, fortunately not falling flat on my face.
“Mom!” I huffed as I rushed through the kitchen. My mother looked up at me as she was pulling out cinnamon buns from the stove.
“Yes, dear?” she asked, smiling. I didn't answer, I pushed the back door open and ran out.
A cold breeze hit my face, causing my cheeks to prickle, but I didn't mind the wintry weather. My boots crushed against the snow with each step I took. I stopped when I reached a man who was wearing a thick plaid jacket and jeans, handling an ax.
“Dad! I can't believe you!” I crossed my arms over my chest. He stopped mid-swing and set his focus on me.
“Oh, lord. What’d I go and do now?” he asked with a chuckle.
“You were supposed to wake me up!”
“I thought you'd like a little extra sleep to get ready for the party…”
I narrowed my eyes at my father. “You just wanted to chop all the firewood yourself! How selfish of you!”
My dad laughed, “Only my seventeen year old daughter would be upset that she got out of chopping wood. You’re just like your old man,” he smiled. “Besides, you're on winter break and it's your party. Birthday girl is supposed to be relaxing today.”
By midday, people started to arrive in small groups. Gracen, my fourteen year old sister, was greeting people on the front lawn as they entered. I, on the other hand, stood beside our barn. The barn had a gigantic ‘Happy Birthday, Lux!’ sign nailed to it. I was gazing into the woods, zoning out, daydreaming. Something big and dark darted past my line of sight. I tried to focus my eyes in its direction, but then something nudged my elbow causing me to jump and yelp.
“Oh shit, sorry, Lux. I didn't mean to scare you.” It was Riley.
“No, it’s fine,” I turned to face her.
“Happy birthday!” she hugged me. “So how’s it feel to finally be seventeen?” she asked as we started heading back towards the house.
“Not much different. I am glad my dad caved and let the guys come. You know how he feels about me hanging around boys.”
“Yeah, he can be a bit overprotective. But at least your parents agreed to stay upstairs and let us have our fun,” she winked at me.
“Not too much fun,” I laughed. “Where’s Morgan? Did she come with you?”
“Yeah, but Reese is here with his cousin and she’s already drooling all over him.”
“Reese brought his cousin?”
“Uh huh. The hot one from California. Big city boy,” she laughed.
“And Morgan is already on the attack huh? This I gotta see.”
We barely made it to the front porch before Morgan came racing out. She wrapped her arms around me and shook. “Happy Birthday, girly!”
“Thanks, Morgan. Please don’t choke me,” I gasped.
“Whoops, sorry, just so excited! This party is going to be amazing. Oh, and did you see?”
“See what?” I asked, even though I already knew the answer.
“Reese’s cousin. His name is Kai and he is dreamy,” she sighed.
“I have not seen him. But um, you have fun with that. Let’s get inside and start this thing.”
We went inside and I greeted the rest of the guests. I wasn’t exactly friends with everyone who came. My mom sent out emails to all my classmates' parents. So even the people I didn't want showing up, did. Like Emma, Chloe, and Brianna. The biggest b-to-the-itches at our school. One would think such a small population of people would get along better. But in reality, that didn't change a thing. No school could escape the curse of the cliques.
My dad led everyone out to the barn in the back of the house. There were white chairs and tables set up everywhere in the yard. He had a bonfire going and food on the grill. My dad and I agreed that he would stay out with us in the yard to cook and keep watch on the fire. But once the party moved inside for movies on the big screen, he would go upstairs. My older sister Joslyn, who was nineteen, was home from college and agreed to keep an eye on us for him. I’d much rather have Joslyn hanging around than my dad.
The music was playing, some local band. I didn't know who it was but it was pretty good. I left Riley in charge of the music. She always had good taste. Morgan and I were sitting at one of the tables nearest the barn. “So you going to talk to anyone tonight?” she asked.
“What do you mean?” I looked at her. She was smirking at me.
“You know what I mean. You gonna hook up with anyone tonight?”
“Oh, no. God, no. My parents are here. Besides, there is no guy here I'm even the slightest bit interested in.”
“What about Evan? He’s pretty cute.” I glanced over at the tall, thin boy with honey brown hair and brown eyes. Evan was sweet and attractive, but he was a little too immature for my liking.
“He's nice, but no.” I spotted Riley next to Reese and two other guys. She was twirling around, her black hair swinging through the air. I wished I could be as confident as her. She didn't care what anyone thought. Then again, why would she? Riley was multiracial; Columbian, Black, and White. So she stayed this very beautiful golden brown color all year long. She was short, skinny, with beautiful wavy hair and big brown eyes. Morgan was also very confident in her looks. She had blonde hair, blue eyes, she was at least 5’7" and, unlike Riley, she was well endowed in all the places guys liked most. She also wore certain clothing to make sure they knew it.
“You can't tell me that out of all the guys in our school, none of them pique your interest?”
I sighed, “I don’t know. I haven't really given it much thought.”
“There he is! He's coming over! He's coming over!” she nearly jumped out of her chair.
“Who?” I asked, following her eyes. Riley and Reese were walking over along with two other guys, neither of whom I recognized.
“Kai! Oh my god, he is so sexy,” she scooted her chair closer to mine so the we could all fit at the table. Reese sat down next me and kissed me on the cheek.
“Happy birthday, Lux,” Reese hugged me. “Oh, by the way, I hope you don't mind, but my cousins were in town so I figured I would invite them, too. I hope you don't mind.”
“Not at all. The more the merrier,” I glanced at the two guys who were now seated across from me.
“Lux, I'd like you to meet Kai and Nolan. They're from… “
“California, yes, we heard,” Morgan cut in. Reese gave me a look and I just shrugged and smiled. “So what's it like over there on the west coast compared to here?”
“A lot more cars and people,” Nolan said. I noticed he had an accent.
“Where are you from?” it just slipped out.
“Huh?” I guess I caught him off guard.
“I’m sorry. I didn't mean anything by it, I just heard the accent.”
“Oh, no, it's fine. Kai and I are originally from England. We’ve lived here now for about nine years.”
“I love the accents, by the way,” Morgan winked at Kai. He looked at me. I quickly looked away.
“So, is it just you and your parents living here?” Nolan asked.
“I have two sisters as well. My older sister is in college right now so she's only home during the summer and holidays. And I have a little sister, Gracen,” I pointed to her standing next to my dad at the grill.
“Do you like it out here?” It wasn't Nolan's voice I heard this time. It was Kai who spoke.
“I-I-I, uh, yeah. I love it out here,” I don't know why I stuttered. Feeling embarrassed, I kept my eyes on my little sister.
“Lux and her dad are like, major outdoor buffs. Morgan and I have gone camping with them numerous times,” Riley said. I looked at her and she smiled. I knew she did it to take the attention off me.
“Hey, remember that time you saw a bear and like, passed out?” Morgan laughed.
“Yeah, I, uh,” not knowing what else to say, I got up and walked away. I made my way to side of the house, out of view of everyone. Why did she have to bring that up? I was already feeling embarrassed and then she just had to bring that up.
“Are you alright?” Kai walked over to me. My heart fluttered.
“Yeah, I'm fine.”
“Happy birthday, by the way.” Kai smiled at me.
“I, uh. Thank you.” I blushed, losing eye contact with him and glancing over to where my friends sat. Morgan was looking at us with disbelief. I started to feel uncomfortable. “I have to go… check on my dad. See how the food is coming.”
I turned away from him and walked toward the grill.
“Lux!” he called out, but I pretended not to hear him and kept walking toward my dad.
“Hey dad! How’s the food coming along? Have you burnt anything yet?” I asked, smirking at him.
“You are never going to let that go, are ya? That was years ago.” My dad was referring to the time he almost caused a forest fire on my fourteenth birthday. He left steaks on the grill too long because he was trying to get me out of a really tall tree. I didn't mean to terrify him. I just really wanted to climb that tree for some odd reason.
“Nope, I was perfectly OK in the tree.”
“I'm a parent and one day you will be too, and then you'll know how it feels,” my dad grinned as he flipped the burgers over.
“Oh god, dad, no. I don't even want to picture that. I haven't even graduated from high school yet,” I said, making a disapproving face. “Aren't you supposed to be against that?!”
“Yes, no babies until you're thirty—no, make that forty!” My dad chuckled. I shook my head at him.
“Lux! Hey,” it was Riley. “Let's go sit by the fire. I'm freezing!” She tugged on my arm and pulled me toward the bonfire that was growing as we were getting closer. We plopped down on some logs. My eyes wandered around to the faces of my guest. I didn't spot Morgan in the mix and I didn't see Kai either. My stomach did queasy flips and I wasn't sure why. I have never felt this feeling. I didn't like it. I picked up a long stick and stabbed at the dancing fire.
“Lux. Are you OK?” Riley asked, pinching my leg. I jumped, forgetting that she was sitting next to me.
“Yeah, I'm fine. Just zoned out for a minute,” I replied, throwing the stick into the fire.
“Ooh look, they’re passing out food. That'll get you moving! And not daydreaming,” Riley laughed, pointing to my dad and Gracen who were doing exactly that: passing out food.
I was finishing up my burgers and potato chips when I heard the strumming of a guitar. I looked up to see my dad holding a huge cake with seventeen candles lit on top. My dad made a beeline to the table behind me and I followed him. Everyone began to sing happy birthday to me. I reached the table and saw my beautiful cake with trees and bushes made of icing. All the different shades of green; it was breathtaking. He even managed to get the lake on there, made with the deepest of blues.
I looked around and instantly made eye contact with Kai, who was strumming his guitar. “Make a wish, Lux,” my dad said. I looked down at the cake. I thought real hard, closed my eyes and blew out my candles. When I looked up, Kai was still watching me and I couldn't help but blush. My dad handed me a knife for the cake. “First cut.”
After cutting my cake, Dad took over the rest and when everyone had a slice, he went inside with mom. Now the real party can begin.
I sat down by the fire again, eating bits of cake. Riley sat down next to me. I saw legs approaching and looked up to see Morgan standing in front of me, arms crossed. “You mind if I sit with you?” she asked.
“No, not at all,” I returned my attention to my cake.
“I'm sorry about what I said. Sometimes my mouth runs faster than my brain,” she laughed.
“It's alright. I just had walked off. But it wasn't that serious.”
“Well I wouldn’t say that. You caught Kai’s attention.”
I looked at her. “Oh no, he just was asking if I was OK. That's all.”
“Are you sure? Because if you like him in any way I will back off. But if you don't like him, I would like to talk to him.” My heart fluttered.
“No, I don't like him like that.”
“OK, great!” she smiled. A couple more people sat around the fire. We all shared childhood memories, and told some jokes. Kai played his guitar and started singing, “Kumbayah.” I laughed, but tried to hide it by covering my mouth quickly. It was too late, Kai had caught me.
“What's so funny?” Kai asked all serious, but then winked with his beautiful, ocean blue eyes.
“Is that really the only song you can play?” I asked, laughing.
“Seriously?” Riley asked.
He laughed. “Of course not." He went on to play a song I never heard before, but it was good. Well, more like great. We continued to chat and talk about olds times, while Riley and Reese danced to the music. I was having the best time ever.