"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Sarah…"
She couldn't believe she was finally fourteen. Almost a month had passed since Elyse had divulged her secret to Sarah, a secret Sarah had promised to not tell a soul. Sometimes she felt like she was only hurting Elyse by not telling anyone, but she didn't want to betray her cousin. In a way, she felt "grown up", knowing Elyse trusted Sarah enough to tell her such a big secret. In recent weeks, her attention had been focused on someone completely different: someone new who had entered her life after the holiday break; he was just another secret. How many secrets could Sarah Glass handle?
Sarah's attention focused on her own birthday. Her parents brought out her birthday cake, which was soon to be devoured. But for now, the candles were lit and it was all hers.
"Make a wish, Honey," a mother's loving smile toward her daughter spread across her mother's face.
Sarah closed her eyes, thinking about her plans for later that night. She glanced at Dena and Leah, her best friends. Both had wide smiles on their faces. That night they were planning on having a slumber party, and it was fixed to be a blast.
She closed her eyes, preparing to blow out her candles. The image of someone who was not present came to mind. If only he could be here, she thought, knowing her parents didn't even know he existed. And if they did, they would never approve of him.
"You're barely fourteen," they'd say, "which is too young to be dating." …And especially if said person wasn't Jewish.
She could already hear it, and after what had happened to her Aunt Elyse, Sarah knew that she would not be allowed to date until she was thirty.
I wish we were allowed to be together, she thought and blew out her candles. Everyone began clapping, and her six-year-old cousin Elijah blurted out, "So what'd you wish for, Sarah!"
She rolled her brown eyes. "If I told you, then it wouldn't come true!" she threw at him.
"Yeah, Dumb-o, it wouldn't come true!" Elijah's ten-year-old brother, Jeremiah, nudged him.
"Hey kids, be nice," Elijah and Jeremiah's dad, Sarah's Uncle Ruben, warned his sons. He held his youngest son, three-year-old Rafael, in his arms.
Ruben was her father's closest-in-age brother, though he was five years younger than her dad. He and his wife, Anna, lived in Georgia with their three boys. They had so kindly surprised Sarah for her birthday. Since her family was plastered all over the globe, Sarah rarely got to see her relatives other than at Hanukkah. Since Ruben and Anna had visited in December, Sarah was surprised that they'd made the trip up to New York so soon again.
"I am being nice!" Jeremiah protested, rolling his eyes.
Ruben looked over at his wife Anna. She sighed, shaking her head.
"Yeah, whatever," Elijah mumbled and looked toward Sarah's mom. "Aunt Rosina, can you please cut the cake? I'm hungry!"
Sarah's mom laughed and looked toward her husband, Sarah's dad. "Richard, I don't suppose you could hand me a knife?"
Her father's eyes widened largely. "I don't know if that's a good idea, Honey. Can you be trusted with a knife?" Sarah's mom lowered her hands on her hips and raised an eyebrow. Richard laughed, "Kidding, kidding…now stand back, kids." His eyes were specifically aimed at Sarah, Jeremiah, and Elijah.
Richard Glass opened the drawer and pulled out the biggest knife they had in the house. Carefully, he handed the knife to his wife. Slightly annoyed, his wife grabbed the knife from her husband's arm. Sarah caught herself gazing at the knife's blade. Rosina pointed the sharp blade downward, edging close to the cake. The room went silent, as the entire family gazed.
She sliced the thick blade into the fluffy cake. Instantly the small ones reached out for their pieces. "Now, now, let's have the birthday girl have her piece first," Richard laughed, patting his daughter's curly hair.
Sarah blushed. Her mother smiled, nodding in agreement with her husband. She handed the first piece to her only daughter. "Happy birthday, princess," Rosina whispered, kissing Sarah's forehead, and handing the cake to her.
An overwhelming embarrassment took over Sarah, as she felt all eyes on her.
Sarah knew that she was loved, but sometimes she felt so empty. Why did she feel this way? She had a mother and father who loved and adored her, she had two amazing best friends, and she family who cared enough about her to come visit her on her birthday, despite the states that separated them.
She looked at her Aunt Elyse, who was a mother at sixteen. Her family had practically disowned her, and the only reason she was allowed to live in her parents' house was because her mother, Sarah's grandmother, wouldn't hear of placing her child on the street. If it had been up to Elyse's father, Elyse would have been kicked out of the house. Sarah could sense the tension in her grandparents' eyes whenever she saw them. It was no wonder Elyse had been lead to where she was now.
Sometimes Sarah felt so selfish. Here, her parents only wanted to protect her, but Sarah took everything for granted. She looked at her best friends. Dena and Leah both had already kissed boys, and Sarah hadn't even done that. Sarah couldn't imagine bringing a boy home because of how her parents would react. Didn't they realize that by protecting her they were only hurting her? There were days Sarah just wanted to run away and become someone else.
At this moment in Sarah Glass's life, she had no idea how perfect her life really was. In just a few short months, Sarah will give anything to go back to this moment.