Lily

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A/N: It's quite late over here, but I really wanted to get this up for you all haha, I've been building up to this chapter for quite a while now, though not in the way you might have expected. ^O^

As of three hours and forty-five minutes ago, I had turned sixteen. The pop culture myths that underpinned teen 'coming of age' movies had left me with the impression that upon turning sixteen, everything would change. Some wisdom otherwise withheld would appear in my mind. I'd wake up and suddenly life would begin. But I felt no different, aside from realising my own naivety.

Perhaps it was this realisation that dulled my mood, or Dad's exuberance made my own attempts feel half-hearted.

"Look at you, all grown up. Sixteen already," Dad said, again, with another wistful sigh.  He probably went on to muse over how sixteen years ago he was pacing hospital corridors. I listened the first two times, but now could only feign interest.

Instead I watched the bustle of the Elevenses. Elderly couples making their coffees last a whole morning of reminiscing, young families keeping their children preoccupied with the huge milkshakes, and a few students half-hidden behind their laptop screens.

Keeping myself preoccupied lasted all of a minute, until my gaze fell onto the table that I'd been avoiding. It was occupied by a pair of older women. But to my mind I was sat on one side. Taylor on the other, unable to resist grinning as they opened their presents.

The proprietor was even coming down the aisles, just as I remembered. I couldn't quite tell what she was carrying. Until she got closer, and Dad had started singing happy birthday.

"You must be the birthday girl, Lily," the lady said as she placed a cake that glistened with candles between Dad and I. For a horrible moment I thought that she might remember me from last November and remark that I'd celebrated someone's birthday then. Or worse, ask about Taylor. Then what would I say? That I'd hurt them, let my friends ruin their life, and that everything was too much of a mess to dare speak to Taylor again.

"Go on then Lil', blow out the candles," Dad was urging me. The orange flames that had merged into a haze flickered and divided back into sixteen candles. Around me, the cafe carried on as normal, its owner back at the counter serving someone.

"Are you alright? You weren't embarrassed were you? It's not like you to get shy."

"No, it's fine. Really," I said, trying to smile.

The breath that I took in was too shallow to blow out all the candles, leaving the wish without any chance of coming true. As if wishing could change anything.

"So, got to be back by six then for this party? I'm amazed Natasha is letting a bunch of teenagers have free reign over her house," Dad said, between sips of coffee.  "Or is she staying upstairs and coming down every so often to keep an eye on things, claiming to be getting a glass of wine for herself?"

Admittedly, that sounded precisely like the sort of thing Mum would do.

"She won't be there," I said.

"What do you mean? She's going out? With work friends...or something?"

My neck heated, and I kept my gaze upon the cake that I was carefully cutting up. "Yeah, kind of."

"Lily?"

"Okay, so she's going out on a date. Some client of hers. I haven't met him yet," I said, sliding a slice across to Dad.

He made a low hum, though I wasn't sure if it was approval or disapproval. I could sense a slight tension beginning to build in my chest as I awaited the onslaught of questions- if only Mum and Dad could act like adults and not use me as the middle man.

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