Short Stories – R

I am R. Today is my 18th birthday of this life and that means it’s the end of it.

Ever since I could remember, I can never live more than a single day when I reach the 18th birthday of any life. This happens for a very long time until I lost count on it. Although I have only 18 years on each of the bodies, I’m able to remember what happened in my past lives. Not all, but most. I don’t know how and why it happens but it just did.

My parents in current life are busy preparing stuff for my birthday party. They’re always loving and caring. Never stop giving me the love I deserve as their only child. And as their sole descendant, they have a very high expectation on me to inherit their multi-million dollar corporation after I graduate from university (if I’m able to attend any). I wanted to tell them I couldn’t but I don’t know how to do so. They simply wouldn’t believe me or they might think that I’m using it as an excuse to escape from the family business.

“Rachel dear, would you please come down and have a look at the decoration?” That’s Mom, always sweet and graceful. As far as I know, she never gets angry with anyone. I wonder if she really doesn’t have any temper at all.

I hear footsteps outside my bedroom, then a knock on the door.

“Rach, are you okay? Mom’s calling you to check out the party decoration,” says Dad outside my room. They respect me in every way even though I was a kid. So they will never intrude my privacy without my permission. Despite the stress in inheriting the family heirloom, everything is perfect. My life as Rachel is perfect and I don’t want to lose it. But no matter how hard I try, I just can’t escape the fate.

I reluctantly stand up from my bed and walk towards the door. I take a deep breath before opening the door to face Dad, whom I can’t see again after tonight. Squeezing a smile, I lie to him, “Sorry Dad, just trying to finish a book. You know, it’s easy to be lost in books.” I finish it with a wink.

“It’s okay, dear. Come, your mom needs you at the garden. Today is your big day and we have something important to announce,” says Dad as he plants a kiss on my forehead. If possible, I don’t want it to stop. I don’t want to lose them.

In one of my past lives as Ritchie, I had an abusive alcoholic dad. I didn’t go to school, all I need to do every day was to work at a nearby restaurant as a dishwasher so he could have money to buy booze. If I didn’t manage to bring back enough cash for him, it was as good as hell. My head was slammed into the wall, lost a few teeth from his punches and sometimes broke a few ribs. That time, I wished my life was shorter. Or better yet, I wished I was never born.

My heart weighs a ton when I’m stepping down on the stairs. I had enough of these lives, be it good or bad. I remember there was once I asked my mom when I was Rhonda whether she remembers her past life, she just shot me a glare and told me I read too much until my mind was messed up. I wished I was crazy too but I wasn’t.

When I reach the garden, tears start to roll down my cheeks uncontrollably. I see party tables arranged nicely and there are garden archways decorated with my favorite flower – Lavender standing at the entrance of our estate. An elegant lady who looks like the party organizer is busy coordinating her staff in preparing the party and Mom is standing beside her. I’ve had birthday parties in other lives and as Rachel too but not as wonderful as this.

Mom turns around and sees me standing by the glass door with teary eyes. She runs towards me and immediately hugs me. “Oh my dear Rachel, what happened? Why are you crying? Is there anything that upset you?”

I hug Mom tightly in fear of losing her. Then I force myself to at least say something not to worry her, I want her to always remember the happy Rachel, her Rachel.

“I’m okay, Mom. Just feel touched with all these arrangements. They’re so great. Thank you, Mom. I love you,” I kiss her cheeks after she wipes off my tears. Dad joins in to hug me and Mom and says, “I love you two so much! You’re the gems of my life. Rach, we want you to know that you’re very precious to us and we love you so much. Happy birthday, dear.” Oh gosh, with that I can’t even stop crying.

I tell Mom that I want to dress up a bit and apply a little bit of makeup for the party which is starting soon. In fact, I wish I could hide in my room and freeze the time by not celebrating my birthday. No birthday means no end of this life. I wish I can cheat death or escape my fate like this but I know I can’t.

Last night, Dad asked me about my ambition like what I want to be once I graduated from university. I told him I wanted to work in his company and learns from him on managing his IT business. I told him so because I know it’s right to say so and I know both him and Mom wished to hear that too. But deep down inside, I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut or a space venturer. I always wonder if I’m able to escape my fate by leaving this planet. Am I able to find eternity in the space? I simply feel tired and sick of being a new me every 18 years. Sadly, I know it’s impossible for me to achieve that. I could have only if I can live longer in each life.

It’s 1 PM and all the guests have already arrived and helping themselves with the expensive appetizers and sparkling champagnes. The party organizer aka emcee starts the ceremony by inviting Dad on the stage.

“Ladies and gentlemen. Welcome and thank you for attending the 18th birthday of Rachel, daughter of Herman and Shirley Freeman. Before we start the feast, I hereby invite Mr. Freeman for a birthday speech. Let us welcome Mr. Freeman.”

Dad walks confidently onto the stage and shows his ever-so-charming smile while holding the microphone.

“Thank you. Thank you for coming. Well, Shirley and I have been preparing this since the day Rachel was born. As we always tell her, she’s the gem of our life. Always so precious and perfect. We are proud to have Rachel as our daughter, who is kind and loving. And she saved us from a lot of trouble from having to worry about any teenage issues. She is…impeccable. On this very special day of her, we wish to make a special announcement.”

At this time, Dad is looking at me.

“I hereby announce that Rachel will now be in the legal possession of all our assets including my ownership of the shares of my business, H Corporation.”

Chattering sound fills up the space. A gentleman behind my back is wondering if that means Dad is retiring and I’ll be taking over his roles in his business. I guess they’re worried about the share market more.

I’m literally standing as still as a rock. I don’t know how to react and what to do. How can I let them know that I will no longer around after tonight to accept the gift? I can’t disappoint them now, knowing that this will be the last moment that I can make them happy.

I gather myself before stepping on the stage and stand before Dad. When I see Mom who is now standing beside Dad, holding his arm, one hand covering her mouth with tears rolling down her cheeks, I can’t control myself anymore. I hug both of them and start sobbing like it’s the end of the world. Well, it is indeed the end of my life today.

Dad lets go of me and Mom to continue his speech, “Business will be as usual in H Corporation and I’m still holding the position as the Chairman of the Board.” Then he turns to me and says, “Rach, we just want to let you know that we’re so proud of you and we love you. Happy birthday.”

Then, the crowd starts to applaud and everything goes blank to me. All I know is everyone coming to me, shakes my hand and congratulates me. To me, I don’t want any of these today. I just want to spend the last moments with Dad and Mom. Seeing them busy entertaining the guests makes my heart ache.

The party ends at about 10 PM, that’s two hours left. I quickly wash up, grab my pillow and run to Dad and Mom’s bedroom. I wait patiently after knocking their door. Dad opens up and looks surprise to see me with my pillow.

“What is it, Rach?”

I peek into the room, Mom is not on the bed, probably still in the bathroom. I hug the pillow tightly and ask Dad, “Dad, can I sleep with you and Mom tonight?”

Dad looks shocked at first, then he laughs showing the crows feet at the side of his eyes. I didn’t notice Dad is already having gray hairs on his sideburns. Even though I literally count down my days since I was born, I didn’t notice that time is showing their presence on Mom and Dad too.

“Come, Rach. Let’s snuggle up tonight,” says Dad when he wraps his arms around my shoulder.

When I’m in the bed, Mom is walking out from the bathroom. Her eyebrow raises and says, “Oh my dear Rachel, a sleepover tonight then?”

I used to sleep with them when I was a lot younger. Sleeping beside them give me a sense of security. We talk and laugh on the good old days, how we used to spend time together at the park during weekends and how I spilled the milk on Dad when I was four. Without realizing, Mom and Dad are already asleep. Guess they’re exhausted after the party. After one last look at them, I close my eyes to welcome the end.

“Aw! She’s so pretty!”

I open my eyes to welcome my new life. Two unfamiliar faces looking at me with great affection. One of them who should be my dad carries me in his arms and says, “Let us name her Regina, shall we? She’ll be our queen from now on.”

This story was originally published on Wattpad on 6th June 2016.

Photo by Aaron Mello on Unsplash

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