BIRTHDAY.

That morning, I was (foolishly) excited to go to school. I knew Gigi had attempted to make cupcakes for me the night before, complete with manly chocolate sprinkles and vanilla icing that had sat in the back of her fridge, the crinkled foil top peeled back – letting the frosting face the cold, solidifying. When she handed me the orange container, clear plastic lid opaquely revealing her confections, I tried not to wince or draw back or do anything that would let her know I'd rather jam a pocket knife—tiny scissors open and gleaming—into my eyes than eat one of her devilcakes.

"Thanks, Gig," And I kissed her.

This event, this birthday, this memory I'm describing to you all took place on a nice November morning in eighth grade. That's important to know, because A) the kiss was rather chaste, because it was eighth grade after all, and B) my birthday is in November. November 5th, to be exact.

Birthdays in my family were always small affairs consisting of cake, whatever relatives were nearby, and maybe a trip to Olive Garden. I never told the waiters it was my birthday, because I didn't like being sung to in public.

When my sisters were born, my mom decided it would be fun to throw me a huge birthday party at someplace classier than Olive Garden. The first one took place at Chili's. When my sister's were old enough to speak, they sung to me, off-pitch, loudly. Publicly.

"I didn't tell anyone," Gigi said to me, her huge blue eyes glittering with ideas ('That Josh, he trusts me to keep his birthday a secret! Tee-hee, giggle').

Not wanting her to think me reclusive, I explained again that I just didn't think it was that big of a deal, that every day people had birthdays. There was probably someone at school right then, receiving his or her own cupcakes and thinking about past birthdays and stuff.
She obviously didn't understand it. Gigi was the sort of girl who squealed when she talked on the telephone in a restaurant, thinking that the people at the other table were curious to hear about her discussion. "Whatever you want, Josh. It is your-,"

I walked away, counting the number of dots in each floor tile as I went and averaging the dot percentage rate. The tiles were 30% dots, 70% scuffed space, and…

I collided with a figure.

I say a figure because I had no idea if it was a man, woman, girl, boy, dog, whatever. All I could see was a swirl of cloak and a mask, smirking at me like a god who was obviously amused and displeased at the same time. Cheeks were pink and the hair that poked from the corners of the mask was a soft, ashy, natural black.

The figure registered the impact, also. As quickly as it had come into contact with my chest it tore away, shoes stumbling for purchase against the dotted tiles. Then a hand grabbed the back of it's shirt and ripped the mask off and that was the first time I saw Metis.

His own face was flushed from the run across the school, sweat in the hollows beneath his eyes, forehead a pink so different than the yellow of the Guy Fawkes mask. There was this, this proud glitter to the corner of his dark eyes, and for a second he stared at me without seeing me at all. He was living completely in his moment of triumph.

When Metis looked at the principle, his eyes were groveling and his toothy smile was gone.

"Charles," He gasped. "Charles made me do it."

The principal looked at the mask in her hand, then at Cadmium Red spray paint bottle in his hand. The verdict was clear.

Guilty, guilty, guilty.

"We'll just have to talk to both of you. My office, now."

When she let go out of his shirt, Metis rolled his shoulders and loped away. Eventually, he turned a corner, and I realized I'd stared at his back until I couldn't anymore, and I still had my birthday cupcakes in my hands.