Preface

My grandmother gave me this journal to write in. She says that all the girls in our family get one at our age that look like this. I am terrible about writing in journals. I just don't see the point in writing about a boring day.

Don't be surprised if you see large gaps in the days. The last one I had collected dust before I remembered to write in it. I will try to fit this in my bedtime routine. So before I begin this I'm apologizing. Today was my birthday and as you will see a lot of things happened.

Chapter One

A normal day? Not even close.

Wednesday, June 6th

"Ugh why can't I just get back to sleep," I complained to myself as I wrapped myself back up in my favorite quilt. I wasn't exactly happy being woken up from the wind chimes from the patio. As the cool spring breeze from the window pushed the white lace curtains around, I laid there wondering what Mom had planned for me today. Today is my sixteenth birthday and she never, and I mean never lets anyone get away without celebrating.

The oak tree that was outside my window hiding the golden morning sun rise that held a few puffy clouds reminded me I had a long day ahead of me. I stayed in my warm bed debating whether or not to get up. According to my alarm clock it's six in the morning. Last night was a haze between asleep and awake.

I woke up in the middle of having a weird dream and I wanted to go back to sleep to try to continue it. I dreamed that I was with my best friend Jenny Barnes and her brother Michael. He was driving their father's convertible with the top down on the highway. I remember we were picked up from school to head to the local mall and I was sitting in the front seat as my long light brown hair blew in the wind.

I looked back at it and I knew there were a few things wrong with it. First, Michael wouldn't be allowed to drive Alan's car. It was a collector's car and he spent a lot of time restoring it. Second, Michael couldn't pick us up from school. He's a senior at a private school in Washington State. His school was near his best friend who happens to be my older brother Ricky's private college. I haven't seen either one since spring break a few months ago.

Not only was today my birthday, but it was the last day of school. Since I couldn't get back to sleep I got up early so I can prepare for the traditional birthday kidnapping. I knew Jenny would be here soon to follow through on her plans. Our tradition was to make each other go to school in pajamas on their birthday. One of us would arrive at the other's house early in the morning, not giving you get the chance to get dressed.

I got Jenny pretty good this year. Her parents Katie and Alan joined in on the joke by having her sleep in late. She was wearing a set of baby pink footed pajamas. Katie conveniently forgot to wash her pajamas. She changed into her gym clothes for class and didn't change out of them. As Alan would victoriously say, "The king of pranks strikes again." I didn't know who had more fun with the joke, me or Alan.

This year I had a different plan. I would be waiting in a set of pajamas that would be decent. Last year I fell back asleep and I ended up going to school in my flannel night gown, rollers in my hair, and an avocado mask she added at the last second. I made it to the locker room before first hour for gym class and changed into gym clothes. Today I would be ready wearing my blue sweat pants and tee shirt from my favorite rock band. I thought hiding another set of clothes in my back pack would be my best defense against total humiliation. This year I was prepared. If all else failed I could change into my gym clothes again.

Something weird happened during my shower. The shower head was leaking again making the water distribute unevenly. I got really annoyed when I was having a hard time rinsing my hair out. Like many things in the house Dad was procrastinating on fixing it. "I wish this stupid shower would just fix itself," I said. Right after I said it there was a flash of light in the bathroom. I couldn't tell where it was coming from because I had my eyes closed. It was probably the sun reflection off a car driving by. Then out of nowhere it happened; the shower was working perfectly. If my Gran was here she would tell me it was just simple birthday luck.

When I got dressed my so called pajamasand my clothes were in my back pack I knew I was ready for the day. I sat down at my vanity and started reading my favorite book. Dad makes fun of me and thinks I don't pick up any new books. Sometimes the classics are worth reading over and over again. This was my second copy of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and the pages were starting to fall out. I was just starting to read Topsy's antics when a knock at the door made me feel as if I was jumping.

When I answered the door I wasn't surprised to see that it was Jenny. When she came in she wished me a happy birthday. I noticed she had a new haircut. She now had shoulder length brown hair. It framed her face nicely making her blue eyes stood out in contrast. We both looked at my backpack at the same time. "I wish my clothes were in my locker at school," I muttered to myself. Jenny picked up my back pack. I tried to grab it from her to avoid her looking in it. We played a tug of war with it for a moment. Knowing she was stronger than me I gave up knowing she would win. I always had gym clothes as a backup. She opened it up and looked for a change of clothes. "No," I gasped as Jenny laughed at me.

"I got you this year. So are you ready for your birthday make over?" I looked in the vanity mirror I noticed the circles under my dark blue eyes gave away that I had an uneven night of sleep.

"I'm still in my pajamas and I don't have the night gown and avocado mask any more. I threw them out after last year," I told her with a smirk. I was hoping she wouldn't remember the rollers. With the way our families are always playing pranks on each other, I wouldn't be surprised if she had something else in mind for a backup.

"You're no fun," She said before sticking out her tongue at me. I threw a pillow at her to make her laugh. "Come on your mom says breakfast is ready." I grabbed my back pack walked down the hall to the kitchen. The long narrow hallway was filled with pictures of my brother and I growing up. Mom used a new kind of glue that made the pictures stick to the walls. She said only a special solution would remove it. If it were up to me all of the pictures should be thrown in the fireplace and burned.

"Good morning honey. Happy birthday, I made some biscuits and gravy. If you want I can whip up some bacon and eggs," Mom offered as she poured a glass of juice for herself. With the wonderful smell of the food lingering in the kitchen I couldn't wait to eat.

"No Mom this is perfect, this looks great. Thank you." Mom handed me a plate as I went to sit down at end of the table near the sliding glass door. She was dressed for appointments at the clinic in her lab coat over her clothes. Her long blonde hair was pulled back in a bun showing off her dark blue eyes.

"Good morning everyone, happy birthday Princess," My dad's booming voice and Welsh accent filled the room. He was wearing a pair of jeans and a brown polo shirt that matched his eyes. Fridays were a casual day at the office for him. I could never tell if he was in a better mood on Fridays because of the arriving weekend or that he didn't have to wear a suit. My parents moved here just after my brother was born. Mom is a doctor here in Bellevue, Nebraska and my dad is an F.B.I. assistant director in a top secret specialty field. It's funny how two people from different ends of the world come together.

Mom was from Peabody, Massachusetts and Dad was from Cardiff, Wales. He came over to the United States as a foreign exchange student and married Mom right after high school. Visiting my dad's side of the family is an annual spring break tradition. Despite the long flight and customs hassles was always worth it. No matter where I was in Wales the view was always breathtaking. Nothing compares to beauty of the rich rolling green hills of The British Isles.

"You made my favorite, you didn't have too," Dad kissed Mom before he grabbed his food. She pulled something off of his thick light brown goatee. "Thank you Lovey," he said smiling at her while he walked to the table.

Biscuits and Gravy was one of Dads favorite things to eat. I was told when he first heard of biscuits and gravy they were on a double date with Alan and Katie at the Fort Crook diner. Dad freaked out wondering why Americans ate gravy on biscuits. In Wales they call cookies biscuits and biscuits scones. Mom had to explain to him the difference between them. Once he tried them and it has been his favorite breakfast ever since. Whenever Dad is eating cookies around him, Alan asks Dad if he wants gravy for it. It has been a running joke for several years. Dad says it's because of Alan's love of laughter is why he keeps the joke going.

Living next door to my best friend is the coolest. Her Dad Allen is the President at a private school system and Katie is a writer and teaches writing courses at the community college in Omaha. Like my parents they are from different parts of the country. He is from Louisiana and Katie is from here in Bellevue. Just like Jenny and I, Katie and Mom have been best friends all of their lives. Over the years Alan and my dad have become good friends. For the longest time our brothers didn't like each other but a few years ago that changed. I don't know what happened between them but Mom says it was a miracle.

While Jenny and I were eating Ricky showed up. I was surprised to see him. "When did you get back from school," I got up to give him a hug. To look at my older brother you can clearly see both of my parents. He looked exactly like Dad but had Mom's hair color. I didn't know who I took more after. I've never seen a picture of her, but everyone on my Mom's side of the family says I look just like one of my ancestors on the Mc Gill side from a few hundred years ago.

"Hey Squirt I got back late last night. They wanted us to stay another night, but Mike and I wanted to come home early together." His college graduation is this Sunday afternoon. "Mom, are you still planning on the flight to Seattle for Sunday?"

"I'll get back to you later on that. Grab something to eat before it gets cold." Ricky laughed at her as if there was a joke I was missing as he sat down to eat.

Mom dropped us off at Bellevue West High School on her way to the clinic. When we got there Jenny looked at me and started to cry. "I remember when we moved next door to you. It's nice how we became close friends living next door to each other," Jenny started to tear up. The school was busy with parents dropping off their kids and wishing them a good day. The other kids walked by us as if we didn't exist. I could only focus on Jenny. I hated to see her so upset. I was wondering what was wrong with Jenny and I'd better ask before we got inside.

"Ok spill it, what's wrong, it's the last day. Don't forget we will be the first to graduate Obama Senior High next year. You should be excited."

"I can't tell you," she sobbed. "I mean I promised my parents I wouldn't, tell anyone not even you. They said you would find out in time, but it's really big news. It's just you and I trust you with everything. You have to promise not to tell anyone I told you."

"I promise now tell me," I begged her.

We both stopped in front of the flag pole. The J.R.O.T.C. students were putting up the flags for the day. Their chrome helmets and blue Air Force uniforms made them stand out from the other students. "Alright, my parents told me back on my birthday I would be going to different high school than Obama High. All I know is it's a private school in South Dakota. That's all I can tell you because that's all I really know."

"Wow I can't believe it. South Dakota. There's nothing up there but Mount Rushmore," I said with a light laugh. I was trying to make light of the situation. I knew there was something she wasn't telling me. I didn't want to push it because she was already upset.

We walked past the bike racks that were full of chained up bicycles. Some kids were running in to the building trying not to be late. We were casually walking through the oversized gray double doors when the school diva Bethany Willingham snuck up behind us. Bethany thought she was better than everyone else when all she was just a bully in a dress. I don't know why but since we first met in kindergarten we've never gotten along. I guess some personalities just don't click. In a way I'm glad were not friends. There's no way I could hang out with someone as mean as she is. "Nice outfit, where did you get it, the thrift store?" She and her little minion crowd of friends laughed. As usual I ignored her as we kept walking to class.

"Well at least you won't have to deal with her next year," I whispered to Jenny.

We rushed through the increasingly crowded hallway to our lockers. When I finished fumbling through the combination I opened my purple locker door. The clothes I hid in my back pack earlier were folded in my locker. This was weird and I had no idea how they got there. I knew I put them in my back pack. I took advantage of the situation. I quickly closed my locker most of the way so Jenny didn't see them.

"Hey Jen I will meet up with you in History. I have to go to the bathroom."

"Okay don't be late, and no changing into your gym uniform like you did last year. Besides you know how cranky Mr. Oliver gets when someone is late."

I waited until she was out of sight when I stuffed the clothes once again into my back pack. I held the back pack in front of me to make sure my clothes didn't disappear again. I rushed to the bathroom and changed clothes in one of the stalls. Once I was dressed I looked in the mirror. I pulled out a hair brush and hair tie and pulled it back as the warning bell rang. I ran down the now near empty hall way to my American History class. Mr. Oliver looked like he was not surprised to see me barely make it in time. The young teacher with very short brown hair was a favorite of most of the girls. "Miss. Miller once again you skated in just in time not to be late." I sat at my desk behind Jenny in the back of the room. She looked at me annoyed. I could hear her mumble something about me being a cheater.

The classroom walls were bare. Just a yesterday they were filled with maps and weekly trivia assignments. It was all gone; even the chalk board was clear. The oversized globe that sat to the right of his desk was also was also missing. I thought was prepared to do as little as possible on the last day of class. The class hour was the typical last day of school routine. In exchange for the books, Mr. Oliver would tell us our grades.

I did better than I thought I would in this class. I expected a b or c. "Another A plus for Miss. Miller," he told me loud enough for the class to hear. When I sat back down Bethany shot me a resentful look. I think she was jealous.

"What's with the change of clothes Sarah," Bethany asked dryly.

"Number one, to be more comfortable, and second to disarm you from tacky jokes all day," I answered her in the same tone.

"May I have your attention students," Mr. Oliver started pacing in the front of the room. I thought he was going to be giving us a lecture. "Now that business has been taken care of, some of you may have heard I will be leaving here to take a teaching position at Obama Senior High. I am sorry to inform you the rumors were wrong and right. I have taken a position at another school. However it is in another state and I won't see you as you had anticipated at Obama. "Some of the girls gave a disappointed sigh." Because it's the last day for all of us relax, and chat amongst yourselves." Jenny and I talked with some of the other students about general things. What seemed to be only a moment later the bell rang and all of us said good bye to Mr. Oliver.

"Jenny, last chance for the prettiest girl at Bellevue West to go out with me before the year ends." I heard a squeaking boy's voice behind me as the class left.

"Conrad Ullman I wouldn't go out with you even if you paid me," Jenny responded to a boy who was slightly taller than me with brown shaggy hair. This was about the hundredth attempt from Conrad asking Jenny out. I could tell he was trying his hardest to think of a comeback.

"Well as I have said before, I don't think it would work out; there are all those girls who will do anything to go out with me and…,"

"Can it with the movie quotes," Jenny interrupted. "I have been telling no since the fifth grade and my answer will stay the same." She sighed. "To quote the same movie; I just don't think you can handle going out with a classy woman such as me." She patted Conrad on the back. Conrad shook his hair away from his light brown eyes and turned to go to his next class. As he walked away I could see the color in her cheeks brighten while she was hiding a smile.

The rest of the day was similar to first hour. We cleaned out then turn in our books, found out our final grades and just talked with our friends. Most of us talked about normal last day of school stuff. The best part about the last day of school was it was an early dismissal. One o'clock was here and we said good buys to all of our classmates. Some we; I mean I, would see next year and others would be staying here at Bellevue West Senior High School. We cleared out our lockers and threw out what we needed to. Jenny threw everything out of her locker except a picture of us when we were in the sixth grade at a camping trip in California.

My backpack felt much lighter than usual. When we left the littered hallway we felt like we were racing all the other students trying to leave the building. I was thrilled that I was now finally on summer vacation.

As we got outside the school door we were greeted by a tall muscular junior wearing his purple and gold letterman's jacket. Jesse Silver became the popular athlete after Michael transferred to his private school. Jesse towered over me by at least half a foot. I was the fourth chemistry tutor he had this year alone.

"Hey Sare-bear, I just wanted to say thanks for helping me pass chemistry class. If I didn't pass coach said he would take me off of the team." I hated him calling me that. No matter how many times I asked him to stop, he wouldn't. I was glad he would be staying here at West while I transferred to Obama. His military style haircut enhanced his brown hair and hazel eyes. He was hitting on me constantly since Delia's family was stationed in Hawaii last month. When they moved here about four years ago and Jenny and I were instantly friends with her. Her old house was across the street and it was still for sale. Since she moved it's been kind of hard on Jenny. Katie always referred to us as the three amigos. We both miss her and try to email her pretty much every day.

He's so annoying. Even if I did want to go out with him I wouldn't feel right. You just don't date your friend's former girlfriend or boyfriends. Jesse's the guy most of the girls wanted to go out with him since Mike left. They can have him as far as I am concerned.

"Thanks, so how did you do," I asked him. I was trying to be polite, but inside I wanted to run away as fast as I could.

"I got a c, can you believe it. I've never gotten a c in anything before. My dad's going to be proud. I never would have gotten even a d if it wasn't for you. Thanks for not giving up on me like the other tutors did." He came over to give me a hug. He squeezed me so hard I couldn't breathe.

"Jesse put me down I'm suffocating," I said gasping for air.

"Sorry," he said putting me down. "So how is Mike doing these days?"

Jenny jumped in to save the day. "He's fine. I will tell him you asked about him," She answered. "We got to go, our ride is waiting for us," she said rescuing me from another attempt of him asking me out.

I recognized it our ride right away. Jenny's brother Michael was sitting on the hood of their dad's 1964 Mustang. I noticed his short sandy blonde hair didn't change from the last time I had seen him. He had the same baby blue eyes as Jenny had. I couldn't believe what I was thinking. I remembered he was good looking but whoa baby. Not only is he buff but he's a full blown hottie. As he greeted us my heart feel like it was skipping a beat. This was something I totally didn't expect.

"I'm surprised Dad let you touch his precious car let alone drive it to come and get us," Jenny commented. I could tell she was envious by the tone of her voice.

"It's not Dad's anymore, he gave it to me for a graduation present," he said with a smirk. The crowd of kids admiring the classic car didn't seem to bother him. I always dreamed of riding in it. Alan only drove it once a week to a classic car show on Sunday afternoons. I remember when we were kids Michael and Ricky climbed in and pretended to drive somewhere when Alan was not home. If he ever knew they played in the car they would be in a lot of trouble.

"No fair, I can't believe he gave it to you," Jenny said as she went to sit in the front seat.

"Sarah should sit in the front." He surprised me by holding the door open for me. When he held the door open Bethany and her little crowd of friends stared at me.

"What about me," Jenny pouted.

"You have sat in the front seat a hundred times with Dad driving. This is her first time in the convertible. It wouldn't be fair for her to sit in the back seat." Jenny walked around to the other side of the car to get in. I sat on the white vinyl bucket seat in the front. It was more comfortable than I expected.

"Okay. But I got shotgun next time," Jenny said while climbing in. Mike started the engine announcing its presence. He revved up the engine just before he left the parking lot. He took off just before Mr. Lennon the principal came over.

I immediately noticed he was driving in a different direction then home. "Where are we going," I asked.

"The Willow Creek Mall," he responded. I never noticed it before but there was something about his voice I found to be smooth and velvety. I could talk to him all day long.

"Is there any reason why we are not going home? I think I already know, it's a way to stall for the birthday party for me right?"

"Your parents asked me to bring you two to the mall and let you two shop until five," he answered with a mischievous grin. I wasn't sure but it looked like the grin that meant trouble. I don't know how but I knew he wasn't lying but he was hiding something from me.

When we got to the mall it was only one thirty and we had a few hours to shop. Jenny and I went to see the fourth of "The Traveling Diary" movies. When it ended we walked around the slowly crowding mall and did some shopping. We went into our favorite fashion store "The Alabaster Pot" to look around. The dimly lit store was packed with the newest clothes. The store was neat and in pristine order as usual. As soon as you walked in you can smell the cologne or perfume they sprayed everywhere. Jenny and I went straight to the clearance section to see if they had anything good on sale. I loved their clothes but I could never afford them on my minuscule allowance.

After three or four outfits we tried on, we settled on what we were going to buy. When we checked out the store manager rang us up. The tall, blonde manager was always nice to us. I was always envious of her. Kelly looked like she could be a model for these clothes.

"I notice the two of you in here a lot. I hope you don't mind, but how old are you two?"

"Sixteen," We said at the same time.

"Wonderful, I was hoping to offer you two part time jobs now that summer is here. Anyways here are your items and your change. I gave you an extra ten percent off for customer appreciation. When you ask your parents if you can get part time jobs come and see me. The best part about working here is fifty percent off new items."

On our way out of the mall we stopped at an antique store. The grandfather clock chimed reminding us we only had fifteen minutes left. This was one of my other favorite places in the mall. It was a small but crowded and not a space left empty. Mr. Jakes filled it with things I only saw at my grandmother Miller's home. There were swords, shields, tapestries and paintings on display. A full soldier's amour that stood six feet tall always reminded me I was short. But then again five and a half feet tall isn't that short. Nothing caught my eye today until I saw a necklace in the locked case by the register. It was exquisite. The blue background and white rose was set with a silver chain was a masterpiece that would not be cheap.

"Sir how much is this necklace?"

"Nineteen ninety five My Lady," Mr. Jakes replied with his Scottish accent. He always had nice manners and treated everyone as if they were royalty. "I just got her in yesterday. Quite the beauty she is." He pulled the necklace out of the case with his aged and shaky hands to show me. "Do you know much about cameos," he asked me.

"No, sorry I don't," I answered.

"Each one is unique. True cameos are created by hand and it is near impossible to duplicate such craftsmanship. Would you like to try it on?" I put on the necklace and admired it in the mirror. It was a perfect fit. "Would you care to purchase this one today my lady?" I couldn't afford it after the hoodie I just bought. I contemplated for a moment on returning it.

"I will just have to see if it is here after I get my next few allowances," I told him as I took started to take the necklace off.

"Such a shame, she seems to be a good match for you. Well, I hope she will be here when you can take her home. If it she's meant to be yours then she will be here the next time."

"It's time to go." I jumped as I heard an expected voice. Michael caught me off guard. My heart started to race for no reason. I wondered how long he was watching us. Turning to look at him I nearly blushed.

"How long were you standing there," I asked him trying to scold him. No matter how hard I tried it didn't work.

"Long enough to see you were really into the cameo story, but sorry we need to go now."

"Thank you," I said to Mr. Jakes as Jenny grabbed my arm and we walked to the car.

We didn't pay much attention until we got to the car, but Michael wasn't there. I looked back at the mall entrance for him and I didn't see him. "Where did he disappear to? Should we wait here or go looking for him," I asked.

"Let's wait here, he probably met some pretty girl and decided to talk to her," Jenny responded. The thought of him talking to a pretty girl made me envious of whoever she was. I couldn't even come up with a reasonable explanation of why I would be jealous.

We waited about five minutes before he Michael got to the car. "Sorry I had to… make a quick stop." He quickly closed his phone and placed it in his pocket as if he was hiding something. "Now let's go home."

Jenny sat in the front seat. The traffic was almost nonexistent. It was strange for Friday rush hour. I sat behind Michael and the wind blew the scent of his cologne in my direction. It was the best cologne I have ever smelled. I didn't know what it is about it I liked so much. I sat back and let my hair blow in the wind during what seemed to be a short ride home. I didn't let it bother me because I couldn't stand slow traffic. There nothing more obnoxious than when you can walk faster than the car is moving.

When we arrived home there was no hiding the cars from us. There was an empty spot waiting for us in the Barnes' driveway. As I tried to move the seat up so I could get out, Michael's hand stopped mine. His warm hand sent goose bumps up my arm. "One Minute let me open it for the birthday girl," he said smiling at me. I could feel the blood rush to my cheeks. I wanted to smile back at him but I don't want to send the wrong message. I wasn't sure if he was flirting or being nice. I didn't want to assume anything when he doesn't feel the same way about me…I think? I took a deep breath to compose myself. It didn't last for long. I tried to distract myself by thanking him as he holding the door for me.

I reached for my shopping bags noticing he already had them. Turning around to thank him for carrying them for me the intoxicating fragrance of his cologne caught me off guard again. It smelled so good it distracted me. Again I wondered if he was flirting or being nice. I had to be rational about this. There's no way he could be flirting with me. He's Jenny's brother and he's only being nice. It's just his way of stalling my arrival. I know my Mom pretty well and I know she can't bear to have a birthday without throwing a party.

Walking into Jenny's house I could smell the overpowering hickory from the barbeque pit from the back yard. We walked up the short flight of stairs into the house that was identical to mine. When we got inside I noticed nobody was inside. "Maybe they are in the back cooking out. It smells like your dad is burning a cow again," Jenny suggested.

As we walked to the sliding glass door. I could see the backyard was filled with people. "Okay let's go and get this over with," I groaned. When I walked through the sliding glass door everyone yelled "Surprise!" Standing on the patio made me feel like I was on stage. Looking out at all of the people I knew I needed to join them so I didn't get nervous. Several years ago our families decided to take down the chain link fence between our back yards making it one big joined yard. Behind our houses was the forested area. It made events like this nice because we didn't have to worry about disturbing the neighbors in the back of the house.

The tables decorated with pink and white and balloons. If Delia were here she would say it looks like a pink party threw up all over the back yard. The cake was three tiers high with white and pink smooth fondant and icing flowers on it. I didn't think turning sixteen would be such a big deal. I don't even think my brother's college graduation party last weekend was this big.

My grandmother McGill was the first to greet me. Her red hair was pulled back into a roll beautifully showing the little grey strip of hair on the side. She looked like a manicured older version of my Aunt Vickie. "Happy birthday Sarah," she looked around then started to talk to me in a lowered tone. "I know today is a big day for you. I was wondering if anything out of the ordinary happened today." This was a weird question to ask. But then again I always thought my family was a little on the…abnormal side. I wanted to tell her about the clothes in my locker this morning but she would think its way to strange. Now that I think about it, the dream I had about Michael came true. I probably overheard someone talking about plans for today and forgot about it. It took me a few seconds to get the courage to tell her what happened today but Dad came to the rescue. This was one time I was glad he butted into my conversation.

"Would you let the girl enjoy her party," He asked her with a laugh. "Happy birthday Princess, you know your mother gets. Once she starts she can't stop," Dad said as he hugged me.

"What's the big deal with sixteen," I asked him.

"It's not every day you turn sweet sixteen. There is more to it but we will all sit down and have ourselves a chat over tea later," he said tapping his index finger on the tip of my nose. I thought this had to be something big. It felt like I was about to get bad news and this was the build up to it. I had to put my pessimism aside and greeted everyone. It felt like I hugged what felt like a hundred people.

I felt a small set of cold hands cover my eyes. I could tell they were my cousin Mary's. This was her favorite way to greet me. Although she lived in Sioux City, we are pretty close for cousins. "Happy birthday, guess who?" I turned around.

"Mary," I said loudly.

She hugged me excitedly. "It's so good to see you again. How long has it been a week? Oh and I never got the chance to thank you for going to my party last weekend. Thanks for the pen you got for me. I love it." Her long dark brown sleek hair hung perfectly past her shoulders. She was wearing a brown shirt that matched her eyes perfectly. This was the fourth party in the last two weeks our family has either had or gone to. Between Ricky, Mary and Michael all having their graduation parties and now my birthday party, I'm was sure she is just as tired of attending parties as I am.

"Thanks. I'm glad you liked it. Mom picked it out a few months ago. I think she knew the USB drive on the end of the pen would come in handy." Mary and I continued to talk about general things. Within a few minutes my uncle Paul came over to say hello to me. I was happy to see him here. He was one of my favorite relatives.

"Happy birthday Sarah, it's nice to see you've grown into a beautiful young lady." He hugged me and I could tell he forgot his strength again making my back pop. I had to push myself away from his near suffocating bear hug. One bear hug a day was more than enough. He was a few inches taller than I am with dark hair and eyes.

He was different from most of my family. He owned a restaurant in The Bronx. Dad never liked him for being on what he called the wrong side of the law. He said Uncle Paul is no good and if his wife Connie wasn't my mom's sister he would find a reason to lock him up. I didn't think he was a criminal or anything. If he was he didn't make it known to the rest of the family. "Thanks I'm surprised Dad isn't throwing a fit with you being here. The last time you two were here he forbade you to step inside of the house. Where is Aunt Connie? I want to say hello," I asked. All of us cousins were pretty close in age. I think our mothers decided to be pregnant together.

"She is at home making sure Rosie is studying for her finals. The kids don't get out of school for a few more weeks there. I'm not breaking any rules, not inside of the house technically. I noticed one of the boys here has his eye on you." He looked over at Michael. "Are you dating anyone? 'Cause if not I can set you up with one of the boys that work for me."

"Who Michael," I asked in complete shock. "No he just lives next door. Thanks but no thanks. You live in New York and I'm here. It would be little hard to date someone with all of that distance. I'm not sure if I am ready to start dating yet."

"Boy I wish your cousin Rosie was more like you and Saul. She has dated I don't know how many boys. She says hello. I wish she would study books more than boys."

"Hey how's Saul doing these days? Aren't he and Pauli Jr. graduating this year?"

"Yes they are graduating this year from the same school as I went to in upstate New York. Pauli, he is going to be working with me. He is running the restaurant while I am here. Saul's decided he is going to be a minister. I think that's the reason he doesn't want to date anyone. He says he wants to help others before himself. He's too much like his mother's side of the family.

He's at the restaurant working on straightening out the payroll for me. The accountant I just fired made a mess of everything. If he wasn't going into the ministry he would be a great accountant. I keep telling him all he's got to do is get on the internet and he can be license in a few minutes. He wants to go to school and do it the hard way. I better not monopolize the guest of honor. Happy birthday and don't be a stranger. Come by and see us sometime. We would love to have you over for dinner."

I wondered why he invited me over for dinner as if I live next door. It would take several hours to get to New York. He must be forgetting he is here in Nebraska. "Umm alright, thanks for coming," I told him just before he walked away.

Mom came over to me and guided me towards the cake. "You need to blow out your candles and make a wish," Mom called. Dad lit the candles and I could not think of a wish. I looked around for some ideas and I saw Jenny standing there. I couldn't help think about how much I would miss her. How hard it would be going to school without her. She was more than my best friend, she was like a sister. It was then it I knew what to wish for. I squeezed my eyes tight and imagined us going to the same high school.

"I wish Jenny and I could graduate high school together," I said to myself as I blew out all sixteen candles everyone clapped and cheered. After I cut out the first piece I noticed this was the best chocolate cake I've ever had. Mom took over cutting and serving the cake as I sat down and enjoyed my piece.

The next thing to do was open the presents. The table was over flowing with wrapped boxes and envelopes waiting to be opened. Grandma McGill handed me a black gift box with a gold ribbon around it. "This is something that all girls in the family get at your age," she told me just before I opened it. It was a beautiful burgundy leather bound diary. There was a golden oak tree on the top and the roots were woven together in a Celtic knot. I recognized the symbol right away. It was the same tree that my mom was on her favorite gold necklace. I remembered that Grandma and Katie had the same necklaces.

I thought I opened all of my gifts when I noticed there was another one. It was a small lavender box with a silver bow wrapped around it. There was no label as to who it was from. I opened it and it was the cameo necklace from the shop in the mall. I knew right away who it was from. I looked for Michael and he had a smile on his face giving himself away. "This is from the Barnes family," He said once I found him. I thanked him and all of Jenny's family while fighting blushing again.

Mary pulled me aside and began whispering to me. "What was that all about? Is there something going on between you two," she asked.

"He was behind me when I was looking at it at the mall and was the only one with the opportunity to get it. And no there isn't anything going on between us nosy." I pulled up my hair as Mary helped me get it on.

"I don't know, I think someone may have a thing for you?"

"Would you quit? First Uncle Paul, now you. Were just friends and besides he's probably going out of his way to be nice because it is my birthday."

"Oh come on, that boy has had it bad for you for years now. Whenever we are here for holidays he is always smiling at you when you are not looking. I can tell he likes you more than you think. I wouldn't be surprised if he asks you out."

"It's just not like that between us. He's my best friend's brother and Ricky's best friend. I've known him all my life and he's always been a brat to me. The stories I could tell you about what he's done to us would give you nightmares. Besides he probably has a handful of girlfriends stashed away somewhere. I highly doubt he likes me in that way." Mary rolled her eyes at me like she couldn't believe what she was hearing.

"Okay well when he does as you out, don't be surprised to hear me say I told you so." She laughed.

"I will believe it when it happens. Besides it's not like you have any room to talk. I noticed you aren't seeing anyone. What's up with that?" I playfully mocked the way she said it to me.

"Nothing, literally nothing, well there is this guy back home I've known for a while and we keep in touch with each other. Lately he has turned into of my best friends. He's been working on his master's in education and starting a new teaching job this fall. He has little time to spare. He couldn't make the party last week because he had a final that day. Other than that there isn't anyone I am interested in. So now you know everything."

"Alright so when he asks you out, don't be surprised to hear me say I told you so too."

I was so busy between talking to guests and dancing the night flew buy. After escaping another dance from my clumsy cousin Kevin, I managed to make my way over to the cooler for a soda were Jenny, Ricky and Mary were hanging out.

Alan came over to talk to us as he was hanging up his phone. Dad says if there isn't a phone attached to his ear something is wrong. "Ricky, I just got official notice that Mr. Swain will not be returning in the fall to The Olympic Academy. They will be taking applications for a teaching position. With this being your strongest subject I thought you may want to put in your application for the position. If you would like to use me as a reference I would be happy to give you one." Ricky was excited to hear this news.

"Thank you I will put in the application online as soon as I can," Ricky said trying not to overreact. Alan got a phone call interrupting their conversation. He excused himself to take the call.

When I turned around to go and talk to more people. I noticed Michael was walking over to me. Everybody wanted to dance with the birthday girl today and I had to turn some of them down. It's not because I didn't want to dance, it was because my feet were already hurting. But Michael, he's the one person I would have made an exception for. I kind of wanted to talk to him and find out why he was being so nice to me.

Jenny came into view from out of nowhere surprising me. "Well happy birthday again," she said handing me a box. "I know Mike picked out the necklace at the last minute but I did get you something myself." I opened the box and it was a hard bound set of "The Traveling Diary" books we have been reading. I opened it and there was an autograph from the author K. Nichole Andersen on all four books.

"Wow this is so cool, when, how?"

"Mom helped me get it from an online auction. I knew once I saw it you would like it."

"Thanks Jen this is the best." I gave her a hug. "So long have you known about all of this?" By now Mike walked over and started to talk to Ricky. He's the one person I would have made an exception for.

"Mom told me about the party last night. I don't think she can trust me keeping a secret from you." She looked off to the other side of the party and out of habit I turned my head to see what she was looking at. It was someone I never wanted to see again. Matt Wheeling the neighborhood bully. His blazing red hair matched the terror he inflicted on us as kids. He was dressed in a military uniform walking towards us. I wanted to be polite and thank him for showing up but I also wanted him thrown out of the party. "Loser alert," Jenny said while rolling her eyes. "I wonder what he is doing here," I heard her mutter as he approached us.

"Happy birthday, I won't stay long. I wanted to talk to the both of you. I want to apologize to both of you. I was mean to you two and everyone else in school. There is no excuse for how I behaved. I know I can't take back what I did, and I don't ever expect you two to forgive me. I just wanted to say that I am sorry." His small and narrow eyes looked like they were full of evil. For some reason I don't believe him. This apology felt like it was out of obligation and not remorse.

I looked over to our brothers and Mike was watching as if he was being protective of Jen as usual. He had a look on his face as if he was angry with Matt and he could easily snap him in two. "Thanks but you might want to go and talk to the guys and tell them what you told us, by the way nice uniform."

"Thanks, I just graduated from military school today and I will be leaving in two weeks for basic training. I decided to continue with the military and join the Air Force." He stepped closer to me. "You look nice too." I took two steps backwards away from him. There was a moment of awkward silence. "So Sarah, are you going out with anyone?"

Okay this was way too weird. First he terrorized me as a kid and now he's asking me if I am going out with anyone. "No I'm not. I am in no rush to start seeing anyone either." I could see the disappointment filling his eyes. It looked like I got my point across.

"Oh, well when you want to go out with me just let me know. I should get over to there and talk to them." He turned around in a military pivot turn and walked away showing off. I made sure he was out of listening distance before I said anything to Jen.

"Okay now that was weird. I can't believe he had the nerve to ask me out just after apologizing to us. He honestly thinks I want to be with him? Why is it when you don't want to date you are being asked out from guys you don't want to be with? Even if he wasn't mean to us I wouldn't go out with him. Ugh," I said shivering in disgust.

"Well at least you don't have someone chasing you. Conrad has been asking me out for a long time and he won't get it that I don't like him like that." Jenny said. I knew her taste in boys pretty well. If he cleaned up, I could see her going out with him.

Jen and I went over to the chairs that were set up by the table and sat down. I was exhausted from everything and enjoyed sitting down. "I wish I could find someone like my mom found my dad," she said.

"Me too, I don't just know the first thing about dating. I just wish that when I find mine I won't have to look far. I'm sure I will meet my knight in shining armor sometime."