Chapter 31- Sad Forever

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"Hey, you okay?"

Jordan's head jolts upwards, the sun above her burning her eyes. Poppy looks back at her, leaning over on her bucket.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"You sure? Sidney says he could find something for you to sit on so you could join us."

"You don't have to do that. It's okay. I promise."

When Poppy sees her eyes fall back to the floor and a frown grow on her face like poison ivy, she motions to Sidney and mouths, "Get her a bucket. Something." When he hesitates, she says, "Go."

Sidney rushes off and returns with a cracked wooden box.

"I know it's not great," He says, panting, "but it's the best we can do on short notice. Better than sitting on the floor though, right?"

"Yeah," Jordan replies with a half-hearted smile. "Better than nothing."

"Come on, we still have some stuff left."

Slowly, Jordan stands to see that there was still plenty of food left. Her friends' smiles were just as bright as they were before, if not brighter as she sits down. Suddenly, a feeling washes over her as Noah passes out the last bit of the food. Only deserts are left. A wide array of mini chocolate cakes to sweet drinks are passed around. A small chocolate cake ends up in front of Jordan. Together, they cheer and eat. Together, they laugh and cry and live. Together, everything is different.

"I'm sorry I didn't notice you were sitting out like that. We should've gotten something for you to sit on." Noah says quietly, underneath all of the laughter.

"It's okay. It really is. I know you mean well."

"Still..."

"Everybody makes mistakes. We're good. In fact, we're great. Let's just enjoy this moment for a minute, yeah?"

Noah nods and focuses on the milkshake before him. Jordan glances down at the pre wrapped slice of cake before her, the colorful frosting still bold against the brown background. Parts of pictures remain there, along with scribbles of what could've been some heartfelt message. Images made of sugar greet her eyes and she remembers.

"My parents, they made a cake that night. For me? No, for my mother. That's right. It was her birthday. Well, her birthday was in two weeks. Why were we eating it early?"

She begins to see the smiles of her parents inside the smiles of her friends.

"You know what? Does it even matter? I don't wanna be sad anymore. I don't wanna be sad forever. I've done my time missing them. They're gone, and no amount of tears is gonna change that. I'm done being sad. I'm done living for a tomorrow that'll never come. I don't wanna be sad. I don't wanna feel that pain. I don't wanna remember them. I don't wanna be sad forever, but how can I forget?"

The light in their eyes fills the space around Jordan. She grins and begins laughing too, a certain joy bubbling up inside her. Smiles and faces of frosting will always remain in her memories.

"I promise, no matter what happens to me, to us. I'm not gonna forget you. I'm not gonna forget any of you. Ever. I'm done losing family. I'm done losing friends. I'm done wondering if everything's going to be okay. Because for the first time, I wanna live for today. I wanna live for you. I might suffer for me, I might suffer for those I've lost, but I'll smile for you. That, that's what I promise you."

Jordan glances upwards, seeing if anyone heard her silent confession. For the first time in a long time, her smile was real. Her joy, her happiness, all of it was real.

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