Chapter Twenty Two.

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Songs for this chapter are:

Afire Love- Ed Sheeran

Even My Dad Does Sometimes- Ed Sheeran

I See Fire- Ed Sheeran (I'm clearly in an Ed mood lol) 


When I walk into the store, the bell rings and Ellen barely glances up from the thick textbook in front of her.

I walk down the aisles and grab a bottle of aspirin and take my time to get to the coolers. I should call my mom when I get back upstairs, she had a doctor appointment today and I want to check in with her and my baby sister.

When I reach the cash register, Ellen looks as entranced in her book as she did when I walked in. She finally looks up at me when I sit the Gatorade on the counter in front of her.

"You ready for your birthday?" I ask her.

She smiles but shakes her head. She's wearing a thin headband and her short hair is curlier than usual.

"Oh come on," I tease her. "You'll be eighteen. Practically a woman."

"I'm already a woman." She brings her hand up in the air and waves it like she just don't care and I laugh and she laughs and finally, finally- Ellen is acting like a teenager.

"Well then," I laugh, "You told me."

She softly laughs and rings up my Gatorade and aspirin. The cash register she's using is so old that she has to type in the prices. The keys beep with each touch and the paper crunches out of the top of the machine. The counter is cluttered with a stack of textbooks and papers. I briefly wonder if she does anything outside of working and studying.

"Did you get any gifts for your birthday yet?" I ask her.

She shakes her head. "No. But it's fine. I don't like gifts."

My heart sinks.

"Everyone likes gifts," I press.

"Not me. Gifts are pointless. Like when people buy each other flowers and then they die like two days later. It's a waste of money and time."

Good thing I didn't get her flowers.

"What about books? Or movies?"

She shakes her head again while she places my stuff in a paper bag.

"Hmm, are you still working tomorrow or having a party?"


She's frowning now and I feel like I shouldn't have pushed it so much. Does her family not celebrate her birthday?

"Well, I hope you have an easy night. You deserve it, okay?"

She frowns further, but I feel as if it's forced and that makes me feel a little better.

"Okay," she agrees.

I swipe my debit card and she tells me to have a goodnight.

"You too, Ellen."


When I get back upstairs, Dakota is still sleeping. She's now laying on her stomach and her hair is a wild mess of curls against the leather couch. I walk into the kitchen and put my Gatorade away, only briefly thinking of Nora's dislike for my favorite drink. I haven't seen her in a few days, she's probably avoiding me.

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