Chloe's tired form lay on her bed taking deep breaths relaxing from the long day. She had the regular school, work and then training with Alek and Jasmine. She went about her normal routine of checking her email, replying to Amy's text, and then glanced at the clock; 11:55. She found it weird that no one seemed to mention that tomorrow was a very special day, or even made any hints that they remembered her birthday. Compared to before things were calmer. Things have seemed to quiet down over the past year, the Mai had cut some of the ties in the Order, so they had been scrambling to regain their power, and for the most part, left her alone, at least that is what she was told. She found it funny for being the so called Uniter, it seemed like she was left in the dark for the most part.
It had been a year and a half since Brian's death, the community was still very hush hush on the matter, but you could still hear whispers here and there. She still received glares from some people because the rumor was that she rejected him and then he committed suicide. It wasn't like she could explain the real reason behind his death, so she had to deal with what the rumor mill was turning out.
Valentina's death was hard to handle to say the least. There were days that Chloe just lay on her bed bringing back all the past memories of her and the advice she gave her. She knew that Alek felt especially guilty because he didn't get back to the apartment faster. She never talked to him about the subject just because of how touchy it was for him. Jasmine was lucky to be alive, but with that came a lot of responsibility, since Jasmine was in the direct line, she gain the title of Pride Leader, which caused an up roar between the Mai. So far she had been seeking advice from older Mai, but she was handing it the best she could. Which meant most of her training sections was just with Alek which didn't help Chloe's concentration.
She still had Amy and Paul thank goodness; otherwise she didn't know how she would keep her sanity. Both had dabbled in the relationship pool, but it never lasted. Chloe couldn't help but wonder if it was because they still hadn't fully dealt with their feelings for each other. Sure they "tested" it out, but any relationship is hard work, and with their first break up Chloe had a feeling that some things were left unsaid. It wasn't like either one of them made a move to tell the other that they still had feelings for them, which left Chloe awkwardly in the center of things. She at first thought it was like being a third wheel, but this was worse than that. Chloe didn't like to see her friends hurting let alone in denial.
And then there was Alek. Even after two years of knowing him, she couldn't make sense of the boy. Obviously he had feelings for her, but even after Brian died he didn't act on the feelings. Her mind raced with all the possibilities, but she couldn't bring herself to pick just one. Alek had even stayed clear of the dating route, which gave Chloe relief, she didn't even know if she could stand another whinny Mai clawing her way into Alek's heart.
Midnight passed like a whisper between the wind and the trees.
Chloe let out a sigh of relief, it was hard growing up in general, and she didn't even add all the pressures of being the Uniter. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath and exhaled. A familiar voice startled her.
"Happy birthday Kitten." She tried not to let the corners of her mouth shift up into a smile too quickly, otherwise he might see what kind of effect even his voice would have on her.
"Alek, you didn't have to come all this way just to scare me have to death."
"Sorry, habit." He smirked and then flopped down on her bed. Chloe crossed her arms against her chest and glared at Alek.
"You can't stay here; my mom will skin you alive if she finds you, then she'll come after me."
"Please, your mom loves me." Alek replied nonchalantly.
"Until she finds you in my bed." Chloe finished.
"She won't find me." He argued. Without warning Alek grabbed her and brought her on the bed next to him. Chloe instantly felt the warmth that his body provided; she snuggled right next to him. Her eyes fought to stay open, but she finally gave in to sleep that was calling her sweet name. Alek's eyes didn't leave her form as her body rose and fell with the pattern of breathing. He still loved her dearly, but ever since Brian's death, things had been different between them. He wanted to give her space; after all she lost someone that she had loved. He hated losing, especially to him. He let his anger for them consume him and stormed off leaving Chloe unprotected. Because of his anger he had lost Valentina, almost lost Jasmine, and Chloe lost another one of her lives. He had many mistakes that night that he wished he could take back. As his eyes started to close he felt Chloe snuggle closer to him. He half smiled and then let sleep take him as well.*
Chloe's eyes fluttered open with the smell of pancakes and bacon from the kitchen. Her senses were alert, and the first thing she noticed was the Mai that was laying next to her earlier in the morning was no longer there. She rubbed her eyes changed her clothes and headed down stairs. Her mom had a plate with pancakes and bacon awaiting her at the table.
"Hey Kiddo, eat up." The pancakes were warm and fluffy as her taste buds took in the flavor of the syrup,
"What's on the agenda today for the big 18?" Meredith leaned against a nearby counter watching her daughter eat. Chloe shrugged.
"I have to talk to Amy and Paul." She finished up the food on her plate and then grabbed her backpack hanging on the chair.
"Love you!" Chloe's mother yelled out.
"Implied." Chloe replied with a smile.*
As Chloe walked closer to the front of the school she saw Amy and Paul were waiting for her.
"Hey Chloe!" Amy ran up to her and wrapped her arms around her in a hug.
"Hey Amy." Chloe smiled.
"We should probably head to class." Paul interjected. Chloe's lips tugged down in a little bit of a frown. Did they not remember what today was?
"So what are we planning on doing tonight?" Chloe said hoping that was the only reminder that they needed.
"My grandma is sick and I'm being forced to go see her." Amy pouted, not because she disliked her grandma, but she hated the home that her family had put her in. It had old men that tried hitting on her and it smelled funny.
"I have to work on this project, and if I don't get an A on it, my mom will kill me." Paul frowned; his mother was super strict when it came to school. Before Chloe could even comment on either of her friend's excuse, the warning bell rang.
"See you later Chloe." Amy waved as Paul and Amy walked to their class. Chloe let out a sigh, the frown very evident on her face.
"Guess it is another quiet birthday this year." Her pace to next class reflected her mood, her mind was racing trying to comprehend that her two best friends in the world had forgotten her birthday.*
Her phone read 5:30 before she even attempted to head home. She knew once she got there she just subjected herself to the fact that she would be alone on her birthday. She went to the pier after school and just walked along it. She tried to call Alek to hang out, but he didn't answer his phone. She had gotten a hold of Jasmine, but she said she had an important meeting with all the Mai tribes. She would go out, but she really had her sights set on hanging out with her friends, besides a night on the town is better when your friends go with you. She reached her house too soon if you had asked her opinion, but maybe she would have a nice family birthday if her mother didn't work. She opened the door to compete darkness and suddenly the lights flickered on and a multitude of voices yelled,
"Surprise!" Chloe was shocked and couldn't move for a second. Her eyes scanned the room, Amy, Paul, Alek, Jasmine, and a couple other Mai that she had become friends with. Chloe's heartbeat started to accelerate from the surprise.
"Are you surprised?" Paul blurted out. Chloe's smile grew.
"Yes." Her eyes landed on Alek and he smirked.
"You had something to do with this, didn't you?"
"Guilty as charged." He held his hands up in defense. Amy ran up and grabbed Chloe's arm.
"Come on Chloe, let's get you out of these clothes and make you look like the adult you are."*
When Chloe came back downstairs, she felt all of the eyes on her. She tried to conceal the blush that was forming on her cheeks.
"You look beautiful Chloe!" Meredith raced to the front with a camera. "My baby girl is growing up." She snapped a shot.
"Mom." Chloe blushed and turned away from her mother, only to find Alek in the direction in which she turned. She noticed that his eyes had been on her since she walked in. The music started to flow through the house and people started to dance. Chloe bit her lip almost flirtatiously, but in reality she was just really nervous.
"Do you want to dance?" She asked feeling as if her heart would beat out of her chest.
"I don't dance." Chloe's lips formed a pout.
"For me?" Alek just laughed and held out his hand. Unfortunately before Alek could lead her to the dance floor, Jasmine intervened.
"Chloe, can I talk to you for a minute?" Her tone was a little more on the serious side that what was normal for Jasmine, which slightly worried Chloe, but she agreed. The two went outside where the noise was muted for the most part. Chloe was the first one to speak.
"Jasmine, what's going on?"
"You know how earlier you called and I said that I was at a Mai meeting, that wasn't just a cover." Chloe was now extremely interested in what Jasmine was about to say.
"They uncovered a new part of a prophecy about the Uniter." Jasmine took the silence as an opportunity to continue. "You know how we always thought the prophecy was uniting the humans and the Mai race? We always said that because it's what we assumed. It turns out that the Uniter must unite all of the different races before they can even attempt to connect back to the humans."
"How in the world am I supposed to do that?"
"There was something that was purposed, a tournament a couple of people from each race would compete, for the right to be your mate." Chloe's heart dropped.