I always found it hard to fit in, so I never imagined pretending to be her would even be easy.
I watched from the corner of my eye as Betty came rushing into the living room, her wild red hair emphasizing the brightness of her personality. I didn't utter a word as I sat in a corner by the adjoined dining area, pretending to focus on my studies instead.
“Linny! Come and meet my friends! We're going to the park today!” Eyes bright with innocence, Betty tugged at my sleeve, urging me to tag along.
“I'm busy.” Shrugging away her tiny hands, I stood up to get away from her but instead saw the disappointed look on her face.
“Maybe.. next time?”
I had already looked away the moment I saw the beginnings of hopefulness in her eyes, trying not to acknowledge the prick of guilt that I would feel at what I was about to say next, “Don't count on it. There won't be a next time.”
The moment when I stopped feeling bad for her, would be the moment that father said I'd be free...
I should be grateful for the downy sheets and soft bed, but this simple luxury only made me lonelier as the day slowly came to an end.
The gentle rasping from my door caught my attention a moment before it opened, revealing a tiny floating light—no, it was actually a candle, slowly giving light to the darkness of my room as it sat atop a cupcake.
I could only stare at Betty's beaming face as she carefully hopped towards my bed, holding out the tiny pastry with its colorful frosting as she whispered excitedly, “Happy birthday, Linny...!”
I remembered how father only gave me a quick pat on the head this morning, greeted with the same words as he handed me my present of yet another book about “the art of politics”, but here was Betty—the cheery cupcake in her hands perfectly capturing the enthusiasm exuding from her, “Well? Go on, make a wish!”
Wisps of smoke from a forgotten wish mingled with the steady steam coming from the respirator as I slowly emerged from my act of reminiscing, focusing instead on the young woman laid out on the hospital bed—her bright red hair a striking contrast to the snow white sheets as she lay there almost as though she was asleep—save for the tube placed through her mouth.
If wishes were truly made to be real, then you would have remained safe, Betty.