Thursday 26th February 2009

by Tina

There are only a few days in the year that I consider “sacred”. Other than the Holy Days of Obligation that I observe, there’s also the Feast of the Sacred Heart, my parents’ wedding anniversary, my mom’s death anniversary and finally, birthdays. I think birthdays are just as important as any other holiday, and so I make it a point to celebrate birthdays, especially my loved ones.

So it just really bummed me when I couldn’t take a leave from work for my best friend Pia’s birthday. Pia and I aren’t related by blood, but we’ve been friends since we were little kids and she’s been with me in every single thing that happened in my life, so she counts as family. I have been planning to take a leave for her birthday and spend time with her and do our birthday traditions, but as luck would have it, work got me caught up up until late that night. It wasn’t until ten in the evening that I finally managed to get free.

“Whoa, where’s the fire?”

I skidded to a stop right at the elevator lobby, punching the down button in haste, even if it was already lit. I found Ian waiting there, hands in his pockets, looking worn out yet still quite cheerful.

“Birthday. Have to go. Very late.” I said in between pants. I shifted my bags on my shoulder so none of them would fall off, and tapped my foot impatiently as I waited for the elevator to arrive.

“Whose birthday?”

“Pia’s,” I replied, taking a deep breath. “And if you’re planning to pass by any other floor than the ground floor, I would ask that you get another elevator because I am seriously late!” I shot him a glare, which Ian just laughed at.

“Don’t worry, you can go ahead,” Ian said, giving my shoulder a squeeze. The elevator arrived and liked the gentleman he tries to be, he held the door open with his hand as I rushed in. He waved at me just as the elevator doors closed.

Ten minutes later, I got home, parked my car, rushed up to our unit to leave my things and get my gift for Pia and then rushed a couple of floors down to their unit, using the fire exit instead of the elevator to get to their place faster.

I rang their doorbell and then leaned on the wall beside the door to catch my breath. It wasn’t new to Pia or her mom that I’d be barging at this late time, and since it was Pia’s birthday, I knew she would be up until past midnight, so that gives me about…well two hours of hanging out with her or so.

“Ruth! Hi!” The door opened. I looked up and saw Angelo, Pia’s boyfriend and my friend. He had the door open halfway, and I could only see his head and part of the living room. I could hear their TV from the outside, as well as some more people talking, probably their relatives.

Now, Pia and Angelo have been together for a few months now, and I like Angelo. He’s been a friend since after we graduated from college and he’s basically passed the best friend seal of approval. However, having Pia with Angelo courting her is different from Pia and Angelo as a boyfriend. Angelo is now a more permanent fixture in Pia’s life, and she has been spending more time with him lately. Well, of course he’s the boyfriend so that was just right, but sometimes I wonder if Pia still remembers me. We haven’t been able to spend much time together because I was busy and she was busy and whenever we both have free time, she’d always be with Angelo, and it’s just not the same.

“Hey Gelo, is Pia there?” I asked, still breathing hard. I blinked and then added, “Well, duh, Ruth, of course Pia is there. Can I come in?” I walked closer to the door so I could get in but Angelo didn’t budge.

“Yeah, she’s here,” Angelo replied, then hesitated. “But…uh…well, Pia’s already asleep.”

What? Already?” I asked, incredulous. “It’s only ten! How can she be asleep?”

“Well, it was a long day,” Angelo said. “She’s been awake since early this morning…I treated her out to breakfast, and she was at the restaurant too…”

“But there’s still two hours of her birthday!” I said, laughing. “Come on, can you wake her up for me? I haven’t even talked to her yet!”

Angelo smiled and then finally he moved, but just as I was about to go in, he closed the door slightly. I frowned, but didn’t force my way in. Is this some kind of a boyfriend-girlfriend thing that best friends aren’t supposed to get?

Their voices were muffled, but I could hear Angelo saying, “Pia…wake up. Ruth’s outside…come on, wake up.” I strained my ears to try to hear Pia’s laugh, or even a groggy Pia voice, the one she has whenever she just woke up. I heard some murmuring, and then finally footsteps coming to the door. I stepped back and smiled, waiting for Pia’s face to pop up at the door.

But it was still Angelo. He smiled at me apologetically and said, “Sorry, Pia’s really out. I’d let you in, but it’s a mess inside because they had some people over earlier and Pia cooked for them too, so she’s just beat. Sorry, Ruth.”

Who am I? Another person? A stranger? I’m her best friend, doofus! I don’t care if the place is messy — I’ve messed that place up before! And can’t I even see her or something? I wanted to scream my thoughts at Angelo.

But I didn’t. Instead, I just nodded understandingly and smiled. “Oh well, I guess she’s just really tired. I’ll just drop by tomorrow, I guess,” I said, trying to sound nonchalant. “Can you give her this, though?” I handed Angelo my gift.

“Yeah I will,” Angelo said, giving me that apologetic smile again.

We stood there awkwardly for a few more minutes, waiting for someone else to say something. I finally spoke up. “Well, good night. Thanks, Angelo.”

“Good night, Ruth.”

I left, feeling like a total stranger to my best friend.

[1043 words]

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