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The Forgotten Gift
“It’s your birthday,” whispers Jenna. Her fingers pick at a thread in the couch. “You can have my blue shirt if you want.”
I don’t, and I wouldn’t take it from her. “Nah, it looks better on you.” I’m rewarded by a beam of relief.
“Birthday hug?” I fold her into my arms, all legs and elbows and bones.
“I’ll go tell Mom.” She scampers off before I can warn her, so I follow.
Mom slumps against the doorframe wearing a sweatshirt I’ve never seen before.
“It’s my birthday,” I say. She nods, like she remembered.
“Damn,” she says, and my hands twitch to cover Jenna’s ears, but she’s heard worse. “I forgot to get you a present.” She trails off, expecting me to say what I’ve said for 7 years, ever since Jenna was born. She watches us, eyes flicking back and forth.
“Don’t worry about it,” I spit out.
“Birthday dinner, then,” begs Jenna, bouncing at out feet. “Or lunch? Please?”
Mom shrugs. “Mo’s is closed Wednesdays.” She tugs her door closed but I slip my foot in. The splintered wood scrapes my bare skin. I don’t say a word, just stare at her bloodshot eyes. I try to sear my thoughts into her mind, how I deserve to have a real birthday with a real mom.
“Next year, your birthday’ll be on a Thursday, I think,” she says. “Mo’s has a steak special from 3 to 5.”