Every Sunday, my family would gather at the park for what my mother called "Picnic Day". Every family household would bring their own food to share with the other two. Our house was the Carr house. The other two households were Tate and Duckatt.
This particular Sunday was my eighth birthday, so naturally, we were celebrating it at the park. My mom bought me a new dress that was periwinkle blue with white polka-dots and a big, white bow on the back of the dress. I had told my mom that I didn't want a big birthday party this year, but she said I was crazy and didn't know what I was talking about.
"Sarah!" my mom called.
"It's Kaylan!" I yelled back. I'd recently decided to be called by my middle name instead of my first. It was probably one of my kid phases.
"Sarah Kaylan Carr, get down here this instant!" She only used my full name when I was in serious trouble. I threw on my new blue shoes and rushed downstairs.
"Yes, mommy?" I asked, innocently.
"Did you put your brother's pants in the trash can?"
"No! Why would I do that?"
"She's lying! I know she did it!" Brandon yelled from behind the sofa.
"Shut up," I shrieked back.
"Hey!" my mom yelled grabbing us by the arms.
"You need to learn how to get along. It's your sister's birthday today, so be nice to her." Brandon groaned in complaint and then my mom slapped him on the back of his head.
"Ow," he cried rubbing his head. My sister Abby came down stairs with her cell phone attached to the side of her face and "attitude" was written all over her.
"Dad said to hurry up," she snapped. She went outside and got in the car with my dad.
"Alright, go on. I'll get the food." My mom nudged us out the door after my sister. Brandon beat me to the car. Abby was already stretched out in the back, so he took the middle section to himself.
"Where am I supposed to sit?"
"On the roof," teased Brandon. Abby kicked the back of the seat causing Brandon to roll off.
"You deserved that. Sit with me Kaylan," she said. She's the only one that actually called me Kaylan. I climbed over the seat and plopped down next to her. Abby pulled out a book and started reading. We didn't talk much, but we had a pretty good relationship.
My mom was running out of the house with pots and baskets in her arms. She shoved them into the trunk and literally jumped into the passenger seat. My dad sped off down the street and onto the freeway. There wasn't much traffic on Sundays, so we got there within fifteen minutes. I saw my cousins there as we pulled into the parking lot. I scrambled out after my brother, but my mom caught me before I could make a break for it.
"Your hair is a mess. Let me fix your bow too," she complained. I sighed and stood still.
"There," she said finally. My mom went to get the food out of the car and I went to find one of my cousins. She was sitting with her mother on a blanket near the grill.
"Happy Birthday, Kaylan," said Arabelle. She jumped up and gave me a hug.
"Thanks." My mom caught me by the hand and pulled me away. She took me to a fold-out table in the middle of the gathering. On one end there was a stack of presents, on the other were plates and utensils and in the middle was an enormous three-tier birthday cake. The cake was blue with white roses and ribbons. Leave it to my mother to make me match my cake. Each tier had a different word spelling out "Happy Birthday Sarah".
My dad lit the candles on the top. I wasn't tall enough to blow them out myself even though I tiptoed. The family laughed when my dad lifted me into his arms. Everyone sang the "Happy Birthday" song (mostly out of tune). I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and blew out my candles.
I jumped out of my dad's arms and was instantly smothered with hugs everyone. They were taking turns like kids going to see Santa Claus.
"Oh, little Sarah is growing up," cousin Sage cooed. She squeezed my cheeks and patted my head.
"I'm not a baby!" I slapped her hand away from my head. Sage looked hurt as I turned on my heels and stomped away. Everyone treated me like a baby.
I headed off towards the duck pond to get away from all the fuss. The pond was always full of guppies, so I swiped a plastic cup to catch them in.
When I reached the pond, someone was at my favorite spot. He was sitting on the edge with his arms wrapped around his legs and his knees pressed against his chest. His hair was dark brown, short, and messy. He was wearing faded, blue jeans and a red flannel shirt.
I decided to go tell him that that spot was mine. Being eight years old, I was pretty bold. I was about 2 feet away from him when he turned to look at me. His eyes stopped me in my tracks. He had the coolest hazel eyes.
"Hi," he said smiling. The air in my lungs felt trapped. I thought it was because I was nervous.
"Hi," I said.
"Is this your spot?"
"Yeah, how did you know?"
"Just guessing," he laughed. He ran his fingers through his hair. His skin looked pale and smooth. I'd never seen anyone like him.
"I'm Julian, What's your name?" he asked.
"Kaylan," I replied. He nodded.
"That's a beautiful name."
"Thank you." My face burned for a minute. He looked at the cup in my hand and grinned.
"Guppies?" He reached for the cup and repositioned himself so that he was sitting on his knees. I sat down on a rock next to him.
"What are you doing," I asked. He didn't say anything. He just stared into the water.
It felt like forever before he plunged the cup into the water and handed it back to me. I looked into the cup and there were at least twenty guppies in there.
"So how old are you?" he asked.
"Eight. Today's my birthday."
"Well, in that case, Happy Birthday!"
"Thanks," I giggled.
"You seem very old for your age."
"How old are you?" He seemed to hesitate at the question.
"I'm...nineteen. Give or take a few years."
"What does that mean?" I asked.
"Don't worry about it," he said. I nodded, but I was still curious. I sat there with him until it was time to leave.
"Sarah, come on!" my mom called.
"I thought your name was Kaylan?" Julian asked.
"Kaylan is my middle name. I don't like Sarah." I shrugged.
"I like it."
"Sarah!" I turned to see if my mom was coming. It was time to go. I turned to say goodbye, but he was already gone.