Chapter One::I wish.
My auburn hair danced up into the air as I spun around and around, only pausing when my dark green eyes started seeking out the matching ones of my twin sister who was dancing with some friends a few feet away.
"Blair!" I called, trying to be heard over the loud music. Unfortunately, that was near impossible as the DJ was playing our favorite songs as loud as possible. Multi-colored lights bounced around the club and I bent down to grab a blue jello-shot that one of my friends was carrying past me.
She glanced up at me and I merely smirked as she rolled her eyes and smiled.
"Anything for you, birthday girl." I laughed and downed the vodka-soaked jello piece before jumping off the table and heading to where my sister was dancing.
"Blair!" I called, grasping her arm. She turned to face me, smiling towards me as she pushed some sweaty pieces of aurburn hair back from her face. "Have you seen Evelyn?" I yelled over the music, referring to my best friend. Blair shook her head.
"I haven't seen her all night!" She called back. I frowned.
"But I need her! I'm not nearly drunk enough and I'm going to make her take some shots with me!"
Blair looked offended.
"What? You need Evelyn in order to do that? Come on!" She grabbed my hand and pulled me through the crowd, smiling and thanking people for the birthday wishes they offered as we made our way to the open bar. I jumped up onto one of the black stools and crossed my bare legs before I brushed down my black skirt. "Hey! Can we get six shots over here?" Blair called to the bartender. He quickly poured six shots and Blair divided them among the two of us. "Alright, we each drink three as fast as we can. Whoever finishes first gets to open the first present of the night."
"What presents?" Instead of birthday presents, we had people give money donations to a local homeless shelter our Mother had recently become very involved with.
"Just shut up and drink. Ready. Set. Go!" We toasted our first shots before downing them as quickly as we could and unfortunately, because the alcohol burned down my throat and made me want to throw up every time I swallowed, Blair finished her third shot moments before I was even onto my second.
I rolled my eyes as Blair took my third shot and finished it for me.
"Gee, thanks Blair," I mumbled and she tossed her loose red curls over her shoulder.
"Like you would have been able to stomach it anyway," she teased.
"I could have-"
"Aubrey! Blair! Oh, I finally found you two! Thank God." I turned on my stool to see Evelyn standing next to me in all her blonde haired, brown eyed, 5' 7" glory. Other than Blair, Evelyn Bloomer had been my best friend growing up. Her father was my parent's financial advisor and since we were the same age, it only made since that our parents introduced us in our early childhood.
Blair, Evelyn and I stuck together like glue through our early school years; however, when Blair and I ended up attending boarding school for high school, Blair and Evelyn's relationship fizzled while I managed to keep my friendship with the girl alive. To this day, even though Blair has made it clear to me that she dislikes the blonde girl, Evelyn and I have remained best friends.
"Yeah, I was looking for you," I spoke, standing from the stool.
She tucked a piece of blonde hair behind her ear and I was once again struck by how pretty my best friend was. With her long legs, thin shape, high cheek bones, and blonde hair that shined like gold and bounced like nothing I'd ever seen before, it was easy to understand the 'sex-bomb' label that the media had stamped her with. Blair and I were beautiful, but Evelyn practically oozed sex, which was something I was never able to do.
"Well, I was looking for you to! I have some news to share with you! Actually…we have some news to share with you. Blake! Come here!"
I tensed slightly and felt Blair materialize beside me as we watched Evelyn wave a dark haired man over. He looked up from the group of people he was talking to before he started walking over to us. I watched him walk and took note of his black blazer over his dark T-shirt and jeans. His black hair was short and messy and his light, olive skin was a mix of his mother's Greek background mixed with his father's Italian-American heritage.
Evelyn reached for his hand and he grabbed it when he reached us.
"Okay, I just wanted to tell you guys first before we made a formal announcement! Blake and I…" She took a second to glance up at him and smile. "Blake and I are getting married!"
She picked up her left hand and the diamond ring flashed red as the red light brushed past us.
I took a step back and felt Blair's supportive hand against my back.
She was staring at Evelyn in shock while I took a moment to breathe and recollect myself. Did I even hear her right? Did those shots hit me faster than I suspected they would?
"Oh, Aubrey! I wish you could have been there! He asked me earlier tonight after we did the cake thing! And-" I completely tuned her out as I stared at the diamond ring on her finger, watching it as she waved her hands around as she spoke. He asked her tonight? On my birthday?
I finally managed to tear my eyes away from the ring and glanced at Blake, only to find his bright, hazel eyes staring straight at me. I took another step back and Blair's hand fell to her side.
"I need some air," I spoke aloud. Evelyn stopped talking and frowned. "Congrats Eve, but I really do need some air. All those shots…I need to sober up, you know?" I lied and without waiting for anyone's response, I turned around and pushed my way out of the club.
I kept my head down to avoid any well-wishers and immediately felt relieved when the cold night air struck me. I took a deep breath and leaned against the wall, the music seeping from inside the club to where I was standing. There were a few more people standing around, but they seemed to be too drunk to notice me.
I crossed my arms, closed my eyes and looked up at the sky as if to ask, 'why me?'
Or better yet, why Blake and Evelyn?
I rubbed my forehead as memories of my high school years with Blake rushed through my head.
I met Blake DeLorene my freshman year of high school because we were placed in the same orientation group and he was the first person with the guts to talk to me after learning who I was...or better yet, who my parents were. We became fast friends and I attended his soccer games whenever I could while he made an effort to attend my cross-country meets.
We were close all through high school and as much as I hate to admit it, I was in my senior year of high school when I realized that somewhere along the line, I had stupidly fallen in love with him.
Probably the second biggest mistake of my life, the first being introducing him to Evelyn.
The familiar scent of citrus, rosemary spice and a woody undertone hit my nose and alerted me to his presence moments before he said a word.
"Aubrey." I opened my eyes at the deep voice and took a moment to myself before I leaned off the wall of turned to face the man next to me. I took deep breath, secretly inhaling the scent I came to adore years ago.
"What do you want, Blake?" He frowned at my snappy tone and had the audacity to even look a bit hurt as he stared down at me.
"Listen, I know this may come as a shock to you, but-"
"A shock? Yeah, it's a hell of a shock. You guys are only twenty-three years old-"
"I'm planning on this being a long engagement-"
"And she was cheating on you this time last year!" I finished. "How you got past that so quickly amazes me but the fact that you're so over it that you're now ready to marrythe girl…that makes me a little insane," I admitted, my voice harsh and snappy. Blake looked down and rubbed the back of his neck as we stood there in silence.
After a few moments, Blake took a deep breath, looked up and reached out to me but I stepped back, avoiding his touch. He dropped his arm.
"Listen, Aubrey…if I could do things over I'd…I'd-"
"You'd what? Stop me from telling you I loved you?" I snapped, blocking out the less-than-pleasant memory.
Blake's hazel eyes widened as he immediately started shaking his head.
"No, no…I, God, you don't even know how much that memory means to me. How important that moment was –is- to me and I…I…"
He trailed off and ran a hand through his dark hair, his arm muscles clenching in obvious frustration.
He brought his hands back down before he continued to speak.
"I'm sorry I couldn't tell you I loved you," he finally managed to choke out. A pang went straight through my heart and a determined look suddenly came over Blake's face. "And I'm sorry about this whole situation with Evelyn, but Aubrey, you've got to understand that-"
"Aubrey?" Blake stopped talking, his face scrunching up a bit in obvious annoyance. I stepped to the side and saw Blair looking around the outside of the club.
"I'm over here, Blair." She looked over at me and I started to walk towards her when Blake grabbed my arm.
"Aubrey, wait, I-"
"Your fiancé is waiting for you inside," Blair told him, snidely as she reached us. "In the mean time, we have a birthday tradition to fulfill before it's too late, so if you don't mind," she pulled me away from Blake without another word and the two of us started walking down the street. "I can't believe that idiot. Who in their right mind would want to marry Evelyn? Am I the only one who sees that girl for what she truly is?" Blair continued to rant and right before we turned the street corner, I glanced behind me, back to where I had been standing moments ago.
Blake was standing there, watching us go, his hands in his pockets and his face emotionless.
He disappeared from view as we turned the corner and I turned my attention back to my sister.
"Blair, it's almost 11:30. Do you really think any bakeries will still be open?"
"I know of one that will definitely be open," she assured me as we continued to walk. We walked the same tempo, our long tan legs stepping in perfect union with each other as our stilettos clicked against the cement sidewalk.
Apart for our high school and college years, Blair and I have spent most of our lives here in Callaway, Connecticut. We were born in France because our mother wanted us to have dual-citizenship and since neither she nor my father is French, that was the best way to go about it, but our parents were quick to take us back to the United States to raise us.
Anyways, as we walked down the empty streets, I was conscious of all the memories this small town held for me.
I briefly glanced at the candy-store where our parents would us after my pee-wee soccer games, and a few doors down was the small art studio Blair attended after school throughout our childhood, and a few blocks ahead was the park where I had my first kiss at Evelyn's 12th birthday party.
"Aubrey? You coming?"
I glanced away from the park and looked towards Blair. I hadn't realized that I stopped walking.
"Aubrey, are you okay?" She walked up to me and lightly touched my arm, concern etched on her face. "If you don't want to keep looking for a bakery, we can just go back to the club and-"
"No," I cut her off with a shake of my head. "We can't forgo tradition. And the last thing I was to do is go back to Blake and Evelyn…"
At my best friend's name, Blair wrinkled her nose and crossed her arms.
"You know what? It's just like her to do this! Trying to upstage you at your own birthday party!"
"Blair, I doubt she was trying to upstage-"
"And it's just like you to defend her to the death," she finished, dryly. She linked our arms and made us continue to walk. "You know what you should have done? You should have fought for Blake this past year after Evelyn cheated. That was totally your chance to take back what was rightfully yours and-"
"He wasn't mine to take, Blair. Not after dating my best friend." But I couldn't help but secretly agree with her. After he found out about Evelyn, I probably could have done something differently. This whole past year could have gone differently if I had decided to fight for him after the whole cheating scandal between him and Evelyn. Who knows? If I had played my cards right, maybe he would have proposed to me tonight instead of to my best friend.
"I don't know what Blake sees in her. Or what you see in her, for that matter."
"Other than you, she's my best friend, Blair."
"Okay, but what kind of best friend agrees to marry –or better yet, agrees to date - the guy her best friend has been in love with for the past whatever years? That fact that you forgave her after doing that to you…ugh, that just made me so angry, Aubrey! I mean, are you serious?" I winced at her harsh tone and the bitter memories that came with it.
I was heartbroken when I learned that Evelyn –who knew I was in love with Blake- had become romantically involved with him. But somehow, with Evelyn's incessant prodding, I got over my anger.
Kind of like how Blake got over the fact that Evelyn cheated on him.
"Evelyn just has a way with words, I suppose…"
"If that's the nice way of saying that she's a lying, manipulative, coke-whore than I must say that I'm inclined to agree with you." By her high-pitched tone, I could tell Blair was getting ready to go another rant, so I quickly spoke up to change the subject.
"So, where was Pierce tonight? I didn't really see him…" I asked, referring to Pierce Ashen, my sister's boyfriend andhigh school sweetheart.
I heard Blair sigh and silently congratulated myself: rant avoided.
"He left after an hour or so," she mumbled and I frowned at the sad tone. She glanced over at me and her features looked distraught and with a silent groan I realized that, while I had avoided one rant, I walked straight into another. "I don't know what the hell is going on with him…I…he used to be so fun, you know? Remember high school? How he would break co-ed with me all the time and even convinced me to spend the night in his room?"
I held in a snort because how on Earth could I forget? I barely got any sleep those nights, terrified that Blair and Pierce would be caught and that the pair would be expelled. Blake was the only reason I made it through those nights; he would talk to me on the phone and distract me in order to prevent me from having a full-blown panic attack.
"And remember that night in college when he did that naked run? It was literally two degrees out! Oh, and lets not forget the time he had me skip study hours and dragged me that bar on his 17th birthday –to this day, I swear Mr. Leonard walked in and recognized us when he passed by!"
"Your relationship with Pierce was literally the scariest thing I've lived through. I definitely think it took years off my life," I answered in all honesty. I expected Blair to laugh but instead she sighed again.
"Yeah, but now he's so boring! These past two years have been boring! All he ever does is work-work-work and he never wants to go out anymore! Well, I mean he'll go out but he doesn't like to stay out for too long and…ugh! I'm so confused over what's going on in his head…I just want to have fun again!"
"Yeah…I see what you mean," but I actually didn't. It sounded to me like Pierce was finally growing up, and what was wrong with that?
However, I didn't get a chance to relay that thought aloud because Blair pulled me to a stop in front of a lit store.
I turned and through the big glass windows I saw empty displays that were probably full of freshly baked goods every morning. I glanced up and saw a big light blue sign that had bold, black letters spelling out 'Gypsy Candles'.
Blair unlinked our arms and instead grabbed my hand.
"Come on, Aubrey!" She pulled open the front door and pulled me into the small bakery.
I was prepared for overwhelming smells of freshly baked bread and sweets to overtake my senses which is why I was surprised when I instead inhaled something that smelled more like rosemary than anything else.
"Excuse me!" Blair called when no one immediately showed up at the front counter of the bakery. "Excuse me!" She called again and this time, one of the back doors swung open.
An extremely tall woman walked out and looked at us, surprise evident in her elderly features. Her dark grey hair was up in a bun and wrinkles met at many different points on her face, but nothing could distract me from her eyes, for they were the palest blue eyes I had ever seen…they almost seemed colorless. She lifted painfully thin arms up to adjust her reading glasses and I could see some of her veins through the tight skin covering her arms.
"May I help you?" She asked, her voice strong and upbeat, which was certainly not what I expected from a woman as frail looking as she.
"Yes. Well, you see it's my sister's and my 23rd birthday. We're looking for a birthday cupcake. Not two, just one," Blair explained.
When Blair and I were nine years old, our parents brought in cupcakes for our class. However, we came up one cupcake short so Blair and I ended up sharing one and it somehow became tradition that every year, even with our separate cakes, we would somehow get our hands on a single cupcake for the two of us to share.
"Well, I'm sorry but I'm just about to head home," the woman explained. "You'll notice that all the display cases our empty because I've already gotten rid of today's leftovers. I was actually in the back, getting all my stuff together when I heard you yelling and realized that I had forgotten to lock up."
I nodded and grabbed Blair's arm.
"Alright, thank you for your-"
"No, please," Blair yanked her arm from my hand and turned her attention back to the elderly woman. "You see, this really hasn't been the best birthday for us –actually, it's been kind of miserable- and it's almost midnight so there are no other bakeries open and we don't have time to bake anything for ourselves and…you must have some a leftover cupcake or something in the back for us. Please. We'll even pay extra for it!"
The elderly woman's pale blue eyes looked past Blair towards me. I tried to resist the shiver that wanted to run down my spine and instead offered her a small smile and a helpless shrug as I motioned towards my sister.
"Please. It's tradition!" Blair continued to plead and pout.
The elderly woman kept looking from Blair to me to Blair in silence. I was beginning to feel a bit awkward and glanced down at my fresh pedicure that peeked through my new Jimmy Choo's –both were an early birthday present from Evelyn.
"Alright." I glanced back up at the woman's voice. "It's my granddaughter's lucky 13th birthday and I had baked her a Gypsy Birthday Cupcake…but she'll already have a cake so I suppose it would be alright if I gave you two the cupcake instead. I'll be back in a moment." She turned around and headed back into the kitchen. Blair pulled a twenty-dollar bill from her bra –she left her purse at home- and was flattening it out just as the woman came from the back room.
"Thank you so much! Awe, there's a candle in it and everything! Do you happen to have a –perfect!" She exclaimed as the elderly woman pulled an old matchbook form her purse and handed it to my sister. She handed the woman the twenty-dollar bill. "You can keep the change."
"Thank you." The elderly woman still held the cupcake and my sister stuck her hand out, impatiently waiting for the dessert. The woman hesitated to hand over the cupcake and Blair frowned.
"Was the twenty not enough? I'm sure my sister has some money on her-"
"No, no…it's just…" She quickly handed the cupcake over to my sister. "This is an actual Gypsy Birthday Cupcake…with a real Gypsy Candle and everything, so make your wish count."
"Oh, I always do," Blair assured the woman before she turned to face me. "And now it's five minutes to midnight so we should head out and make our wishes before its not longer our birthday! Thanks for all your help!" Blair called behind her as she dragged me out of the bakery. I glanced behind me to wave goodbye the to old woman, but she was already gone and the lights were off.
We only walked for few seconds before Blair decided that, time wise, we were cutting it close and she struck a match to light the single blue candle in the cupcake. There was silver tin foil liner around the cupcake and plain white icing decorated the top -the cupcake was nothing too special but it was more than enough for our tradition.
"Alright, I get to make my wish first-"
"Since you're older by fifteen minutes, yeah, yeah, I know the drill. Just get on with it," I rushed, "Were running out of time!"
"Right! Okay. Go. Okay…oh, I know. I wish Pierce was the way he had been when we were teenagers…fun, crazy, irrational...instead of the safe, play-by-the-rules guy he's turned into. Life was more fun back then," Blair finished with a longing sigh. She was silent for a moment before she smiled, shook her head and looked at me. "Alright, you're turn!"
I looked at the burning candle, bewildered.
"Uhh…uhhh…I don't know…"
As I stared at the cupcake, I tilted my head when I noticed that the candle was burning, but strangely enough it wasn't melting. The flame wasn't dancing and there was no smoke drifting into the air.
Huh. Must be a trick candle.
"Aubrey! You only have, like…a minute left!" A minute? I need a wish! I hate being rushed because then I make silly wishes and Blair spends the whole year making fun of me until our next birthday when I have a chance to redeem myself. "Oh my god, we've been gone for half an hour! I can't believe we left our own birthday party for such a long time!"
Birthday party. Club. All our family. All our friends. Evelyn. Blake.
Evelyn and Blake.
Blake and Evelyn.
And suddenly I had a wish.
"I wish that Evelyn wasn't engaged to Blake," I whispered aloud and I ignored the sad look Blair flashed me. "I wish that they weren't engaged…that this whole ridiculous night had never happened…I wish I could completely re-do the last year of my life and have Blake fall in love with me. If I knew what I know now, I would have fought for Blake. That's what I wish."
And then both Blair and I each took in a small breath and together blew out the candle.
When I end a story (Hit & Run) I usually like to start up another in its place. Thoughts on this one?