Vhairi Mulgrew: From Me (You) to You (Me)

The 8th of April, 2000. 20:22, precisely.

Mina was waiting beside the grandfather clock, like she did every year. Except this year, she was all alone.

With each year that passed, her birthday had slowly dwindled to become a party of one. First, her cat died, then her dog, then her grandmother, then her other dog, her father, then, in January, her mother. Not to mention that her grandfather was in the hospice and her sister was in a boarding school in Germany.

As in many aspects of life, she was totally alone. Sad, but at least the fact that she was used to it softened the blow.

Mina had given up on wishing. Specifically, blowing out her candles and hoping upon a miracle that this year wouldn’t be as bad as the previous one. Instead she had resorted to a scornful remark as every year she grew older. Eventually the birthdays seemed to blend together, and she wasn’t sure if it was her twelfth or twenty first.

Mina saw that the sun had begun to make its sad journey to the bottom of the hills, signalling the end of another day. To the majority of the seven billion other people out there, it was just another Thursday. They didn’t even think it was someone’s birthday today, and they probably couldn’t care less if it was. Taking an opportunity to bathe in her own pity, Mina decided she would blow her candles out while enjoying the slow sunset, acting as though she were the only person alive. So, she stepped outside, laying her cake on the patio and sitting down next to it, waiting a few moments, allowing herself to take in the cool breeze which was painting her face.

Then she brought the cake closer to her face, and without thinking too much about it, stated her wish out loud.

‘I wish this year… I had someone to spend it with.’ That was it; that was the wish she made, as her weary breath dissipated the lonesome flame into the atmosphere, her hope subsiding with every particle which vanished before her eyes.

As she walked back into her house, carefully ascending the steps so as to not drop the only thing she had, she found humour in her statement. What was she thinking? She was perfectly fine by herself. She didn’t need someone at her party. Just her, and her cake. That was fine. She liked cake.

Just as Mina set her cake on the kitchen counter, there was a vigorous knock at the door. And that was odd; she had a doorbell. Even more odd, there was someone at her door. That only settled in Mina’s head as her feet shuffled along the hallway and her hand reached for the handle of the door. Gently, she pulled it open and was surprised to see a girl standing there.

She had a poorly-wrapped box in her hand, and as Mina scanned her face, she realised she had no clue who this was. However, what struck her was the remarkable resemblance this stranger bore to her own features. In fact, her entire body was almost a mirror image of Mina’s own. But something was older in her face. More mature. The girl spoke, without any prompt from Mina.

‘I’m here to hang out.’ The girl walked in without invitation, her expression mostly unmoving, totally calm, with just a slight essence of a smile on her face. Mina was rather taken aback; who was this person and why had she walked into her house? Finally, she had to say something, after she was taken out of her state of shock.

‘I’m sorry, who are you?’ The girl turned on her heel and for the first time, the two really shared eye contact.

‘That’s a good question. But it has a very long story to go along with it.’ The mystery woman waltzed nonchalantly through the house, as though it was her own. Then she paused suddenly and pushed the gift towards Mina.

‘Oh, I almost forgot. This is for you. Happy birthday, kid.’

Mina’s brows knitted and her mind filled with questions.

‘Me? How do you know me?’

‘I’m still trying to decide how to phrase that.’ The girl responded to Mina’s confused expression with an even more perplexing answer.

She opened her mouth to speak, then closed it, second guessing herself. Finally she said,

‘You’ll understand one day.’ She glanced around the kitchen before speaking once more. ‘Well look. I’d love to stay for cake, but I’m not a big fan.’.

‘Wait, but what was your name?’

The girl sighed inwardly, not answering, then produced a crumpled piece of paper from her jacket. She handed it hurriedly to Mina, whose eyes widened with confusion at the object.

‘Don’t open this until I’m gone. Or ever really, you don’t need to. Just, it’s important: don’t open it until I’ve left.’

And with that, the second Mina glanced at the gift, she had left, ambling out the door, prompting Mina to follow. She called after her, desperately not wanting to be alone again. Mina stopped at the door frame, staring longingly at the girl who now stood outside in the middle of the road, waving with an almost disappointed disposition.

Then, Mina blinked, and the girl had gone. Her mind’s creation had vanished before her very eyes, just like those flames did. Gone, almost in an instant. As the lonely feeling sunk in, Mina felt her eyes prick with tears, but she didn’t let any come out. It was her birthday after all. No one should be crying.

But she began to. Without her consent, tears came trickling down and soon her cheeks were stained and her eyes were blotchy and itchy. That feeling of loneliness was even more heart wrenching. It had more impact, the absence of someone.

At least, she thought, still blinking at the spot in the road she had just watched the female disappear from, at least she had gotten her birthday wish.

It was then her memory sparked, and she remembered the note the girl had given her and told her not to open until she had left. Mina rushed back inside and found it. She unfolded it gently, revealing the text across it:

‘You’re going to be fine. Ana will come back from Germany, bearing good news that she’s coming back to the US permanently. Sadly, grandpa doesn’t make it. He died peacefully, in his sleep, and you at least get to visit him one more time before he passes. This is your last lonesome birthday, I promise.

See you soon (literally). From Mina (you).’