I began to tear up as the clock ticked closer and closer to the number eleven. My throat seemed frozen, aware that with one swallow, the dam I’d so carefully built up during the last hour would come crashing down. Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
“Mom, why isn’t Dad coming,” I whispered. The cake was starting to collapse into itself, and Cartoon Network had been running on adult swim for a full two hours.
“He’s coming,” she said unsympathetically as she did the dishes. My sister had already resigned herself and had retreated into the bedroom with her own My Little Pony set, but I still had hope that he would come before the day could end. It didn’t match my idyllic childhood.
My family was perfect. We ate out together almost every week, and my sister and I got whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. We went on jet ski trips every summer, and went snowboarding to Mammoth Mountain every year without fail. I was covered, head to toe in matching glittery brand-new Juicy Couture tracksuits, perhaps with a single missing button or mismatched leg lengths, but I didn’t really mind. My favorite tracksuit was the pair only I had; neither my sister nor my mom had it, so I held it as my most prized possession. Along with my starfish voice-automated diary of course. I had all the newest gadgets that all my classmates only dared to dream of. I was spoiled.
My parents were gone most of the day, but I was happily living with my grandma and my sister. I was always told that they went to work, but I didn’t really know what that meant because I was always either at home, school, or at the basement of my mom’s work watching cartoons and snacking on ice-cream. All I knew was that my mom was an owner of a video store called Minky’s that everyone loved, and my dad a fashion designer. When my dad went to work every morning and came back at midnight, I imagined him to be working on a ruby red velvet chair, doing nothing but drawing his heart out. Because that’s what fashion designers do right? He would be ordering his subordinates around, eating only the classiest of foods. Sometimes, he would bring buckets full of these bedazzled tracksuits home; dramatically flinging the trunk open just for my sister and I to stare at the glimmering clothes in absolute awe. We would dig through them for half an hour, trying to salvage what we can before either one of us takes the one with the more sequins. It was our own personal Black Friday. And my dad and my mom would silently recede into the kitchen; my mom holding a mysterious check, and my dad fuming. But I didn’t notice, for I was too busy trying to rip out a velvet headband from my sister’s unrelenting grip.
My family never celebrated Christmas, for some unknown reason. The festive songs and cold weather present during the season were only taunts to remind me of all the fun I was missing out on. So that year, I had barely convinced my parents to rent a Christmas tree. Friday night, my sister and I climbed up on chairs and completely covered, and yes I mean completely drowned, our tree in sparkling ornaments and tinsil our mom had grudgingly bought on sale in the 99 cents store. Tonight would have been our first Christmas celebration, but of course, our dad was missing. Then suddenly, like an angel rising from the darkness, the phone rang. After a few moments of staring at my mom expectantly, she finally spoke: “Your dad has something for you downstairs. Oh, and get your sister.”
I don’t think I’ve ever ran that fast before in my eight years of living.