Named after the obnoxious pop song that inspired this speed prompt. Written in 78 minutes.
Not that I’ve ever been the most cheerful person in the world—I’ll leave that position to my crazy other half—but I’d been doing okay. Things had been looking up since August and I was finally in a place where I felt like everything was going to be alright. Today, though? Not so much.
I’d forgotten to delete some stuff out of my calendar, so I got woken up first thing by a notification on my phone. And as much as deleted it and I tried to put the whole thing out of my head…
I wasn’t doing so great.
Fortunately, I had stacks of work to do for Flagship so at least I could just bury myself in that for ages, but after at 8pm I’d finished materials that didn’t need Sarah’s input and I had to wait for her to get home to continue.
I didn’t realise I’d been sitting and staring blankly at the redbrick walls until a gentle voice said to me, “Hey…” from the doorway. The clock read 8:51pm.
In my peripheral vision, I could see Bree was wearing her favourite strawberry-print apron. Now that I was paying attention, I could smell something sweet in the oven, too; probably a cake or a slice. Normally, that would have made my mouth water. Not today, though. I couldn’t do any cake today. I tried to force a smile for her sake, anyway. “Hey.”
She saw straight through it, and spent a couple of seconds considering me from the door. “You want an angel cupcake? They’ll be done soon.”
I shook my head.
The way she looked at me, she understood. “It’s your mum’s birthday.”
Hearing those words spoken aloud… God. My throat tightened. It was pointless, me feeling like this. I’d done what needed to be done. There was no use dwelling on it or feeling like shit about it. But I did.
“Well, it’ll be okay, I’m sure she’s got heaps of Church friends who can—”
“She’ll spend it alone with Grandma.”
Bree considered that. “Okay, but you can’t punish yourself for what she chooses to—”
“I know,” I told her. “I know it’s not my fault, I know it’s her fault and her choice, but my mum is still basically alone on her birthday.” I thought about my last birthday, surrounded by friends who loved me and celebrated me…
Bree watched me quietly for a minute or two, and then walked past me, gently brushing my cheek with her fingertips. I realised what she was doing when obnoxious pop music blasted out of Sarah’s iPod dock behind me.
I managed to turn my head enough to give Bree the side eyes. “I hope you’re not going to sing, because that might tip me over the edge.”
She rolled her eyes at me and laughed good-naturedly, already bouncing on her toes in time to the music. “Please, you totally love it. Besides, who can listen to this stuff and not feel better?” She did a little dance at the beginning of the chorus—probably copying what the artist herself did in the music video—and then gestured to me like I was supposed to continue it.
I just raised an eyebrow at her.
She laughed again, and grabbed my hand. “You are hopeless,” she said, and then tried to pull me to my feet.
‘Tried’ being the operative word. “Just so we’re all 100% clear, I hate this song.”
“That’s nice,” Bree said dismissively. “Get up. Come on.” She gave my arm another yank. “And just so we’re all 100% clear, I’m not going to stop until you get up. I will literally do this all night.” She kept on pulling at me, leaning so far backwards that she’d fall if she let go.
I gave up, because Bree actually probably would have kept going, and also because I didn’t want her to slip, fall and hurt herself. Once I was up, though, Bree twirled herself under my arm and then grabbed my other hand with a giant smile on her face. She looked delighted, and it was hard to not feel a little charmed by open excitement. “I’ve been watching YouTube videos on how to swing dance!” she told me. It was a loaded statement.
Oh, god... “I hope that’s a dance you can do by yourself.”
“Nope,” she said, still bouncing to the music. “And I’m going to teach you—and before you tell me you can’t dance,” she said, correctly pre-empting what I was going to say, “as your girlfriend I think I’m obliged to call you on your shit. ‘Don’t’ isn’t the same as ‘can’t’.”
“The result is the same.”
“Shut up and copy what I do with my feet, but in reverse, okay?” she said, as I gave up and half-heartedly followed her instructions. “So, like, when I step back, you step back—yeah, like that, and—see? It’s fine! Hang on, let me put this song on repeat.”
She wasn’t kidding either. She did put that terrible song on repeat. I was never going to get it out of my head, I swear to god, and I don’t know how long she’d been secretly watching those YouTube videos for either, because she’d memorised an entire song and insisted on teaching it to me. Just when I thought we’d leant enough sequences to make her happy and get her off my back, she would say, “Okay, now I’ll show you the next part!”
Bree might have fancied herself as a bit of a dancer, but neither of us were very good at all and we kept bumping into things.
“You’re not going to cheer me up if you seriously injure yourself,” I told her after she’d smacked her head into my sharp elbow and had stopped dancing for a moment to rub her temple and groan.
“I’m fine,” she told me in a very strained voice, and then grabbed my hand again. “I’m totally fine, I used to bump my head all the time when I was kid and I never died from it. Come on, this is this best part of the song!”
We stopped for a second again when I tripped on the edge of the rub and nearly knocked a vase off Sarah’s side table—I don’t think I’ve ever caught something so fast in my life—and we were just crashing into the dining table like a pair of clumsy, giggling like 12 year olds when Sarah appeared in the doorway.
We all froze.
Around us, that perky pop song kept blaring out of the speakers.
Sarah’s eyes were pretty narrow. “Okay…” she said at length. I’d never seen her look so suspicious.
Bree was still giggling, and she approaching the point where she couldn’t breathe. That, in combination with Sarah’s flat stare, was making it difficult for me to stop laughing. Trying not to was making my face red.
Sarah very, very slowly put her keys and handbag on the dining table, still squinting at us, and then went to go and get changed.
Once she was in the hallway, Bree burst out laughing and nearly collapsed against the table again. In catching her I nearly fell myself, and she shrieked and put her arms around my neck, laughing openly into my shoulder. She smelt of icing sugar and vanilla essence. I wrapped my arms tightly around her laughing ribs and squeezed them until she pretended to choke.
When I released her, she leant back, hanging off my shoulders. Her cheeks were flushed from giggling so much, even if she’d quietened down a bit now. “I hope you feel better,” she told me. Then, quite abruptly, her smile fell.
Mine did, too. I was about to ask her what was wrong when I realised I could smell something burning.
Bree’s eyes were wide. “Shit!” she said, pulling away from me and zooming off to the kitchen in a panic. “My angel cupcakes!”