Linley’s thirteenth birthday arrived quickly. She’d spent the past two weeks getting to know Craig, as did Chelcie and Skyler, and finally worked up the courage to ask him to attend her party. Craig agreed, much to her delight.
Linley was so glad she was able to turn off her mind so that her parents couldn’t read her thoughts. She wanted to keep her very first crush a secret. She didn’t bother with a diary either, since locating one in her room would be all too easy with vampire parents and siblings. Besides, she could lock up her mind easier than a diary with a long-lost key. She didn’t bother blogging about it either, nor did she mention it on Facebook or Twitter. She didn’t need the entire Internet world knowing her business.
As if on cue, while she was on the Internet the day of the party, Braden and Jaden barged into her room, acting rambunctious.
“What are you guys doing?” she demanded as she spun around in her chair. “Don’t you know how to knock?”
“Don’t you know how to lock the door?” Braden retorted. He and his twin brother were running around with their arms spread wide, attempting to be airplanes. Sometimes Linley wished they actually would fly off into the stratosphere, just to give her some peace and quiet. It was no joke or picnic, having 7-year-old twin brothers.
Linley looked heavenward and sighed. “Come on, go play somewhere else. I have my party later today and I have to get ready. That means I have to get dressed. Now get out.”
“Make us,” Jaden challenged, though he had a playful grin on his face. Linley stood up and pretended to shift into a wolf. She knew her brothers feared her like this, since a werewolf bite was deadly to a vampire, but she’d never intentionally hurt them. Still, it was a handy tool to get rid of them.
When they left and slammed the door behind them, Linley walked over to her armoire and dug through her wardrobe. She wanted to look grown-up, not just because she was no longer a child, but also because she wanted to look nice in front of Craig.
Sometimes she felt like she was in heat thanks to her wolf genes, since she thought about Craig so much. It was sickening, really. Why couldn’t she just concentrate on being his friend and leave it at that?
When she picked out an outfit and put it on, she looked at herself in the mirror. She had to admit, she liked the way she looked.
Just then, the doorbell rang. Linley dashed downstairs just as her father opened it to reveal Chelcie, who was carrying a bag that contained her swimsuit (Linley had invited everyone over for a pool party since the weather was so nice) and a package.
“Hi, Mr. Deitrech,” she said politely.
“Hello, Chelcie. Glad you could make it.”
“Chelcie!” Linley exclaimed as she dashed toward the door. The two embraced in a friendly hug as Xavier made his way back to the kitchen, where he and Allanna were working on the cake.
“You look great,” Chelcie said as she looked at Linley’s outfit.
“So do you.”
“Is anyone else here yet?”
“Not yet, but they shouldn’t be too long.”
“Hey, you know what we should do? We should play Spin the Bottle!”
Linley glanced over her shoulder, hoping her parents didn’t hear that. They’d never let her have another party if she played Spin the Bottle on her thirteenth birthday.
“Chelcie, I think we need more than four people for that,” she said instead. “I mean, there’s going to be two guys and two girls, and that’s it. Not much of a variety.”
“I guess I’m just looking for any excuse I can to kiss Craig. He’s so cute!”
“Yeah…but let’s not turn my birthday party into a make out party, okay? My parents would kill me.”
Chelcie chuckled as the doorbell rang again. Linley opened it this time to see Skyler standing there, holding a present out to her.
“Happy birthday!” he said cheerfully as he handed the box to Linley.
“Oh, you didn’t have to get me anything, Skyler,” Linley said as she took the box with a smile. “But thanks so much!”
“You’re welcome. Hey, Chelcie.”
The three friends then went into the den. It was decorated with balloons, though it wasn’t as big as the living room. But because the weather was relatively nice, Linley planned to move her friends outside after the cake was cut. Her parents wouldn’t be able to stand outside that long, and she didn’t need them spontaneously combusting into a fiery inferno at her party. So it was decided that, until it was time for cake and presents, she and her guests would hang out in the den.
“This is an awesome house,” Skyler commented as he looked around. He’d been to Linley’s house a few times before, though not nearly as often as Chelcie, but he could never get over how extravagant it was. Linley had been so worried about bringing friends over to her house before due to her full-blooded vampire family, not to mention how intimidating the house might appear to some. But her friends had loved it, since it was so much bigger than their own, which made games of hide and seek even more entertaining. Not to mention the outdoor play area and kitchen plus a pool house so that even when it was raining they could go for a dip. And thankfully, Linley's family had behaved themselves around her human guests.
As Linley turned the TV on and switched to a music channel, the doorbell rang a third time. “I’ll get it!” she shouted as she ran toward the door. As she expected, Craig stood behind it with a smile on his face and a box in his hand.
“Hey, birthday girl,” he said as he stepped inside. “Hope I’m not too late.”
“No, you’re right on time. Thanks for coming. Did you have any trouble finding the place?”
“Not really, and I have to say, this is some house. I’ve seen smaller museums!”
Linley blushed, embarrassed about her swanky residence. Most people in Morningside, or in any town for that matter, had more family-oriented houses. Even if they had three bedrooms, they didn’t contain bathrooms for each bedroom nor did they include a large laundry room, den, and outdoor kitchen with pool house. And Craig hadn’t even seen the backyard yet.
Linley led Craig into the den where he greeted Chelcie and Skyler. Linley didn’t miss Chelcie standing up straighter, exerting her developing chest toward Craig as he walked in. She also didn’t miss the aroma of her perfume, which she’d undoubtedly put on as soon as she’d heard the doorbell announcing Craig’s arrival.
As the friends conversed, Braden and Jaden dashed into the room with toy guns, making loud, obnoxious noises.
“I got you!” Jaden declared as he fired his fake gun at his brother. “You’re dead!”
“No I’m not!” Braden retorted as he jumped up and down on the couch (with his shoes on, no less). “You missed me! This couch has an anti-bullet shield!”
“Guys!” Linley cried, exasperated. “Get out of here!”
“This is our fortress!” Jaden said in response. “You get out!”
“Yeah!” Braden added as both boys threw their guns down and made silly faces at their sister.
Linley didn’t want to be a tattle tale, but this was ridiculous. Knowing her parents would hear, she screamed, “Mom! Dad!”
Allanna came into the den to find out what all the ruckus was about.
“Boys,” she said sternly, “go play in your room or somewhere else. This is Linley’s party. What did we tell you?”
“But the den’s our fort!” Braden protested.
“Then consider your fort taken over. Now get in the kitchen, it’s almost time for cake.”
The boys began grumbling but in the end, they lost the battle. They grabbed their guns and stomped toward the kitchen. Linley turned back to her friends.
“I am so sorry,” she said earnestly. “They can be such a pain at times.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Craig said. “I’ve got a little sister of my own, so I know how it feels to be the older sibling.”
Before Linley could respond, her father’s voice called from the kitchen, “Cake time! Come and get it!”
So the four friends made their way into the kitchen, where Xavier, Allanna, and the twins were gathered with party hats and noise makers in tow. Everyone sang happy birthday, even though Linley had insisted that they didn’t need to do that anymore. When the song ended, she looked down at her cake and thought long and hard.
What could she wish for? Most thirteen-year-olds probably wished for something like becoming famous or rich, or even marrying their celebrity crush. For Linley, all she’d ever wanted was to be completely normal. Which wasn’t easy, considering she was a hybrid, the only one of her kind in existence. But she’d been able to adapt to that lifestyle so well over the past few years that she hadn’t given it a second thought. It was who she was, and there wasn’t a way to change that.
But that did give her an idea. Happiness was one of the most important things in life. Why not wish for a lifetime of happiness? Yes, that sounded right. So she bent over the cake, closed her eyes, said the wish in her mind, and blew out the candles.
Everyone clapped and cheered while the twins blew on their noise makers, filling the kitchen with a shrill squeal. Xavier then cut the cake and served everyone a slice. When they were finished, it was time to open the gifts. Everyone went into the den where Linley was handed gifts one by one. Even her brothers had put their allowances together to get her something nice. They even insisted on going first, though it was probably just so they could get back to their game.
Linley opened the box and found a little pair of stud earrings in her favorite color, turquoise. Her parents had gotten her a new iPod with its own dock, Chelcie got her a cute new shirt, Skyler gave her a necklace, and Craig got her a copy of one of her favorite books that she’d kept telling him about.
Once Linley properly thanked everyone (and gave several people hugs), she and her guests headed outside. Craig raised an eyebrow in an impressed stupor as he took in his surroundings. Most kids would probably brag about having a house as fancy as Linley’s, but she felt a little embarrassed. She didn’t want to come off as a rich snob who thought she was better than everyone else, nor did she want to come off as one of those people who had everything so shopping for gifts was impossible.
But she needn’t have worried. Her friends enjoyed themselves in the outdoor kitchen, and before long, they changed into their swimsuits and ran toward the water slide. Linley wasn’t the least bit surprised to see that Chelcie had bought a brand new bikini for the occasion. Still, she had one of her own that she wasn’t shy to wear. And she wore it with pride as she and her friends took turns on the water slide before going to the pool house.
Linley had to admit, for a thirteen-year-old, Craig had some pretty well-chiseled abs. Poor Skyler still looked like a boy compared to him. Still, that didn’t deter the latter from shouting, “Cannonball!” as he dove into the pool, splashing a startled Chelcie, who was sitting on the edge with her feet dangling in the water.
That announcement got everyone into the pool. They took turns with breath holding contests and Marco Polo. They also darted between the pool and hot tub.
When it began to get dark, the boys were picked up, while Chelcie stayed to spend the night. After the boys were gone, Linley and Chelcie sat on the lounge chairs next to the pool to have a little girl talk.
“This was a great party,” Chelcie declared as soon as they sat down. “I had a lot of fun.”
“I did too. And oh my God, my parents got me an iPod! I can't wait to try it out!”
“Me neither, it'll be so awesome!”
After chatting for a while longer, the girls headed back inside. They saved time by bathing in the downstairs bathroom (Linley took a bath while Chelcie took a shower – it was nothing to them, since they had to do the same thing in gym class), and then headed up to Linley’s bedroom. The girls took full advantage of the new iPod and blasted out one of Katy Perry's albums without the hassle of using a CD.
“I freaking love this song!” Chelcie shouted over Katy singing "Hot N Cold".
“I do too!” Linley yelled back.
Then, there was a hammering on the door. The twins barged in, demanding their sister turn her iPod down.
“That song’s stupid!” Jaden hollered over the music. “Turn it down!”
“Yeah, we’re trying to play Mario!”
“What’s going on in here?” Xavier asked as he barged in. He took one look around and rolled his eyes. “Boys, get back to bed. It’s too late to be playing any games. Girls, please turn down the music. It’s loud enough to wake a hibernating bear.”
Chelcie got a chuckle out of that one as Linley reluctantly turned the volume down. Katy Perry’s voice faded out and the boys were ushered back to their bedroom. The girls watched a little TV before at last, they crawled into bed and kept chatting about the day’s events. Linley promised to wear her new shirt tomorrow and before long the two turned off the lights and burrowed under the covers.
Before Linley went to sleep, she thought of how good the day had gone. She also thought about the wish she’d made when she blew out her candles. She’d wished to be happy in her life, and she’d already transitioned into a whole new part of her life. So far, it was looking good. Thirteen was a time for changes, or so it was said, and she was ready for them. She’d be ready for whatever got thrown at her, and she’d also make sure that her wish came true.