Nara played with the seams of the couch, waiting in the house that was painted dull. Her friends were chatting happily in their group chat, while she was... Someone walked up to her and gently patted her shoulder. "Are you enjoying this birthday party?" She let out a sigh. "It isn't even my birthday yet, Aunt Elise." Aunt was just a title for show. The only blood relation between them was the blood that stuck on Aunt Elise's designer skirts when Nara scratched her knees for the hundredth time in the past. I wonder where the time went...she thought. "Oh, nonsense." She laughed that ridiculous twinkling laugh she had. Then, she looked at Nara's phone. "Phone again?" She raised a shapely eyebrow. "That's rude, Nara. You should celebrate your birthday properly." "It's not my birthday," she said, firmer this time. "Come along now." Aunt Elise patted her back. "Let's meet some of your uncles and aunts." Oh, you mean those stuck up, business d-- "Here we are!" She showed Nara off at the large dining table and announced, "Here's the birthday girl, everyone!" While the crowds of living mannequins dressed in either suits or sparkly dresses clapped and cheer, her blank gaze fell on the table. A 'cake' of signed documents and pie charts. Substitute 'candles' that were expensive-looking pens. No happy birthday signs or sing-songs. No spaghetti that would make you shove your whole face in it because it was too delicious. No genuine gifts. Nothing. Nara felt...nothing as the sound of talking blurred in the background. Thought nothing, except... Except of the wish that her mother was still here. ..... Strabeby: r u going now??? ~Rat~: Yes. Chill, please. On the day of her actual birthday, Nara found herself staring at the glass door of the small resto. The two buildings that tucked it in a corner were bustling with people, but that wasn't what had Nara worried. What did have her worried was that the room inside was...still dark..? I wonder if Nana hadn't opened the resto yet? She peeked inside, then checked her phone. She instantly dismissed her earlier thought, since it was 9:36 am. With the ungodly hours the Masiya family would wake up, they should be opened...right? She peeked some more into the glass. To the hell with it. She pressed her hand against the glass, pushing it gently. Stepping in, she called out, "Hello...?" "Surprise!" The lights flashed on. Confetti rained down on her. On the wall straight up were balloons. One balloon was a wrinkly 'happy birthday' while the other two below it was a '2' comically large compared to the '1'. Right in front of that wall was a small dining table filled to the brim. Paper plates, spoons and forks, different kinds of cakes, and spaghetti. Warmth bloomed in her, filling up her chest. Her queerplatonic partner, Sam, went up to her with a grin on her face. "Well? Good?" That warmth filled her chest too much, which burst out from her into tears. She hid it by resting her head on her partner's shoulder. "It's the best...thank you." "Ha! If we made you cry, then it is the best!" Ethan, with his willowy figure and weirdly long arms, came right beside Nara and Sam. He clicked his tongue while rubbing his chin. "I knew my excellent planning skills would come in handy." She quickly wiped her tears on Sam's shirt to glare at him. "I'm not crying, you doofus." She kicked in his direction, which he successfully dodged. "Samantha!" Then Nana yelled something in their dialect from the kitchen. "Coming!" Sam turned to her and made Nara sit on one of the chairs. "Relax, relax," she said. "I gotta go now, since I'm the one cooking." While she was walking away, Nara said loudly, "You're cooking?!" She took an exaggerated sniff at the air that smelled like chicken and cheese. "No wonder why we get rotten food here!" "Rotten!" Everyone else shouted, and Sam had to laugh. It wasn't as if Sam's cooking was bad, they just liked to tease her with it. Especially after the whole ham-and-cheese-'OH WAIT ITS NOT SUPPOSED TO DO THAT?!'-pizza. It was a, err, memorable experiment, to say the least. But god forbid an outsider dared to actually insult her cooking. Then, they'd all drown out the parrot cry of the sad bastard by crying out how Sam's food was 'basically manna from heaven'. If they took it too far, well... After a plate of chicken cordon bleu was served at the too-full table, everyone seated around it. Nana stood up, helped by Sam, and urged everyone who was Christian to do sign of the cross. Nara respectfully kept quiet, though didn't follow suite. "Dear Lord," she said. "thank you for bringing our young birthday girl, Nara, into the world. Thank you for..." The birthday girl in question grimaced. While Nana was lovely (half the time), her prayers were basically a hundred miles long. That meant that everyone would have to wait for the old woman for...about half an hour. If they were lucky enough. If. Sam, right beside Nara, chuckled at her expression. She clasped her hands tighter and quickly said, "And thank you for bringing her into my life--into all of our lives. May we have a wonderful party, amen!" She quickly did the sign of the cross again and clapped her hands. "Alrighty! Let's dig in!" Nara giggled, which she tried to cover up. When she sat down and her eyes met with Nana's, Nana rolled her eyes with a smile that said, "Oh well, I'll let you youngsters off this time." "Oh no, sorry--I'm sorry." Nara looked up to see another one of her friends: Mar. He bumped into more people with more muttered apologies until he reached where Nara was. He hesitated then asked, "Um...can I sit here?" "Yeah--" "It's okay if you don't want me to," he said. "I mean, there are no other seats available so I thought I could sit here, but if you're saving that for Sam, it's fine. I can ask someone else, or sit on the ground, or just stand around. I mean, it's fine if I would go home with my food too." He scratched his head. "Um, sorry, this was too long, I'll get out of your hair--" "Mar," she said softly. "It's fine. I already said yes." He nodded his head too many times before he plopped down to hard, making the table shake. "Sorry, I--" He held it steady. "Sorry." Nara grabbed a paper plate, and started piling up spaghetti and cordon bleu on it. After a moment, she heard Mar mumble something. "Uh, sorry." She turned to him. "I didn't hear you. What?" "Um--" He fumbled with his hair. "Happy birthday and um, nice outfit--ah, pants you have..." Knowing his mental illness and how he acted in social situations, Nara had a tiny estimate of how hard that was for him. Even that tiny estimate said 'a lot'. Wanting to acknowledge that, she asked, "Hey, can I touch you real quick?" Again with the too-many nods. At this point, he might actually turn into one of those bobbing head toys. She patted his back gently. "Thanks, dude. You have a pretty cool jacket yourself." He stared at her, brows furrowed in pure confusion. "Um? I--um? Thank you, I guess..?" She laughed again, though not unkindly. "Don't worry," she said. "You'll get used to compliments one day. Take your time." Afterwards, the amount of spaghetti she shoved into her face...well, it was between her and her non-existent god. When she got too stuffed, she nibbled on the cordon bleu while her gaze wandered. Then landed to the wall. The wall, which you would see the pink paint under it if you somehow managed to peek at one of the gaps. For the most part, it was covered with generations and generations and generations of the Masiya family who ran this very resto. Even though half the pics were either sketched with charcoal or taken in black and white, their enthusiastic smiles lent enough color to each and every one of them. "Hey." Ethan snapped his fingers right at Nara's face, making her flinch. "Were you even listening?" She rolled her eyes. "Alright, continue." They laughed until Nara was sure she would burst. Afterwards, Sam pulled her up from her seat. "Picture time!" Of course. She rolled her eyes with a smile while she was dragged away. "Nana!" she said, waving her polaroid camera around. "Where are you?" Nana was walking inch-by-inch with her cane in hand, grumbling. "I don't know how to work those...glow-y things." Sam groaned. "You just have to press this biiiiig white button here," She showed her. "and it should take the picture." Nana muttered a few words under her breath that Nara couldn't understand while she took the camera from Sam's hands. "What do you say in these things?" she croaked out. "'Say Feet', was it?" Everyone went silent. They all stared at each other, then burst out giggling and laughing. Nara was clutching her chest while nodding. "Yes, Nana. That's exactly what you say--" "Okay." She raised the camera. "Is everyone ready?" They huddled together in a group: Ethan and Mar were sitting on the ground while Sam and Nara were standing behind them. Instantly, Nara's spine tingled when something soft and warm wrapped around her waist. Her cheeks grew warm as she took a deep breath. "Okay. Say 'Feet'!" They all grinned while suppressing their laughter. "Feet!" After a few clicks and pics, they separated while Sam took her polaroid camera. Three pictures fell on the ground and Sam also took them. Ethan was sifting his fingers through his hair. "I swear, all of us do look good in those pictures." He grinned. "Yeah--" "Hey." Sam pulled Nara's arm. "Come with me a sec, won't you?" They stood in front of the wall of the pictures. Nara didn't dare reach out her hand to touch, even though it was tempting. The memories stuck here were important to Sam and her family, after all... "Here." Sam handed her a picture. Nara took it, and looked at it closely. There was Ethan over there, raising his head and leaning back with a lazy smile on his face. Mar also had his legs crossed too, but by how his shoulders were nearly sticking to his ears, he probably wanted to get away. His smile looked really happy, though. There was Sam, failing to cover up her laugh. Dimples stuck out on her dark skin. Finally, there was Nara with her cheeks tinted in pink. Hands nervously clasped in front of her because of the arm wrapped around her waist. Brown hair slightly messy, which was probably Ethan's fault. "Thanks," Nara said. "I'll keep this safe. I promise." When she was about to pocket the picture, Sam held her wrist. "No." Then, she gestured her head to the wall. Realization hit her. Her eyes burned. "I--I can't. That's for your family only." "Yeah." She placed a roll of sticky tape on Nara's palm and held her arm. "And if I have any say of it, you're a part of it now," she said. "All of you are." She sniffed. Wiping her eyes, she nodded and faced the wall. One taping and five minutes later, Nara stepped back and looked at the wall. Now, she had a real family again. ..... A/N: This whole time I was writing this, I was like, :insert plankton sweating meme here: DON'T YOU DARE RHYME THOSE WORDS. DON'T YOU DARE-- Can you see my struggle? :sob: Anyways, once again, thank you for reaching the end of my story. If you have any thoughts, feel free to comment them down below!