(Once AGAIN I find myself indebted to a wonderful cartoon by moringmark for my inspiration behind this story. PLEASE check him out on tumblr and deviantart. And now, on with the show!)
What did YOU do on your birthday?
Go to the cinema?
Have a few friends round?
Or just have a quiet day with your parents?
Me? I got woken up by two servants playing 'The Northwest Family Anthem' on party whistles (Yes, we have one. Sad, I know)
Yes, it is I Pacifica Elise Northwest. Heiress to the wealthiest family in Gravity Falls. Party crown champion. Four time winner of mini golf tournaments. Bleached blonde Valley Girl Stereotype Extraordinaire. And now, spotty teenager.
Not that those dreaded blackheads will ever show. My mega-expensive skin creams imported from Kuala Lumpur would see to that. Wouldn't want to tarnish the family name... by appearing less than Vogue-cover perfect in public now, would I?
So anyway... Here I am... At the start of my journey into 'the wonders of puberty', that obnoxious tune blaring into my head, teddy bear by my side. My parents said I should have 'thrown that old thing away YEARS ago' but why should I? After all, it's the only thing around here that lets me hug it.
I take a sip from the glass of mineral water on my bedside table, before it was time to get dressed. I wanted to wear something casual today, but my mother wouldn't hear anything of the sort. "OH NO" She remarked we're expecting some VERY illustrious guests. You must wear one of your BEST frocks. Off you go... Marjorie and Bethany will help prepare you.
At least she lets me wear my Lake Foam green dress, rather than that Sea Foam monstrosity. Be grateful for small mercies, and all that.
I'm made to stand there like a mannequin while the two overworked maids primp my hair, smother me with make-up, clip my nails, shave my legs and even tighten a CORSET around my non-developed chest. Geez, ladies... Last time I checked, I wasn't exactly obese. If it was any consolation, they didn't look too pleased with the task at hand either. This whole ritual takes all morning... There goes their tea break. Shame.
So, FINALLY, after Ms Cheerful and Mrs Smily have squeezed me into my gown, and even plonked a pathetic little party hat on my well coiffured bangs (as if that makes me feel any better), it's time to meet and greet the VIPs. With my mother to my left and my father to my right, we descend the stairs to a burst of rehearsed applause from those in attendance. Oh, joy. What fun we shall all have.
My dad had already warned me if I 'played up' like the last time there was a big celebration here full of visiting dignatories, then he'd 'get the bell out' and embarrass me in front of everyone. "This is our chance to restore our tarnished family name " he explained, " So any funny business from you young lady, and you can start looking for a new home...
Why did that threat not carry with it the same potency as it used to? And if by 'playing up' he meant saving the life of everyone in the mansion... Then I wouldn't mind misbehaving again.
First up was of course, the cutting of the cake. It was an ambitious creation, for sure... Three tiers of what were the finest ingredients available... Whipped up by award winning chefs who'd baked for lords and ladies, dukes and duchesses, queens and kings alike, the world over.
So why didn't I feel very hungry? Probably because of my dad giving me 'the eye' from the corner of the room, one hand placed threateningly on his suit pocket where a small instrument of terror was kept.
Focus, Pacifica. Focus. Play the part, that's all he wants you to do. Then, he'll leave you in peace. For now, anyway.
As for how it tasted, the small sliver I was allowed seemed okay. You see, I was on a very strict diet, set up by my personal trainer. No more than 500 calories a day. Can't have any heifers in the Northwest clan.
Next up was the opening of the presents. There were small gifts. Big gifts. Some that were far too big to be wrapped. Even a few that were ALIVE, so it would have been unethical to imprison them in a box. Not that that mindset has stopped my parents.
The presents themselves were the usual. Priceless vases. Golden jewellery. The best homemade cider. Golf clubs 'as used by Tiger Woods'. (So they're endorsed by a philanderer who isn't even ranked in the world's 100. Whoopee.) And even another peacock to add to my collection.
Seriously, why do we even have those things? All they ever do is leave feathers everywhere, peck at you if you get too close, or provide an obstacle to trip over. I wanted to keep pigeons instead, but my mother told me 'those scruffy rats with wings aren't NEARLY regal enough." So I guess I'm stuck with the narcissitic, shallow, squawking creatures... Oh, and the peacocks.
What I wouldn't have given for a Xbox. Or, even... A PS3. But, of course... The Northwests don't waste time on such pointless pursuits. Unfortunatly. Sigh.
Finally, the evening has arrived... And now it's time for everyone to mingle. I'm left on my own at last... My parents are too busy hob-nobbing with the rich and famous to bother with me, and here I am, stood in the middle of the polished-to-perfection hall, a servant pouring me a glass of cider (Damn it, I'm sick of that stuff) with a glazed expression on my face which I've worn virtually since the second I got up this morning.
Not that anyone noticed, of course. As long as I look great and say all the right things, what else matters?
Suddenly, my eyes glance to the right at the ornate clock. It reads 9:00 PM.
My heart almost leaps out of my chest.
It's time to go.
You see, dear reader, I haven't been entirely honest with you.
The fact is, I DO have something to look forward to today.
Two things, actually.
Their name are: Mabel. And Dipper.
They come from an irrelevant family line, known as the 'Pines'. Mabel is a crazy granola girl who loves to knit sweaters, play with her pet pig and watch awful boyband movies on VHS. Dipper is a puny nerd who spends half of his life with his nose stuck in a dumb book, and the other trying to prove how 'cool' he is to his peers. He never succeeds.
My parents would never approve of them in a million years. My parents think people like that are just serfs who are put on God's Green Earth to serve them. My parents...
Can go jump off a cliff.
They are the only REAL friends I've had.
I didn't have to bribe them.
I didn't have to impress them.
I didn't even have to resort to blackmail (like I did, that one time with... Never mind)
They looked past my snobbish act. They forgave my past transgressions. They understood the situation I was in with my 'devoted' mother and father.
Or should I say, my puppeteers and prison wardens.
They got to know the real me. The one they affectionately call 'Paz'. I like girly things and stickers, like Mabel. I like adventures and video games... Like dipper.
Oh, and I absolutely LOATHE mini golf. And peacocks. And apple cider. Did I say those last two already?
Thanks to them, I know how to share. To be kind to others. To be my own person (Though not with my parents around... I'm still working on that).
Basically, my life would have been a LOT duller, and much less fun if it weren't for those goofy twins coming to Gravity Falls on vacation this summer. Without them, I'd probably still be walking around with my posse of mean girls, criticising everything without a care in the world.
They opened my eyes.
Aside from my new attitude shift, I even went on a few adventures with them occasionally... I've already nearly had my foot bitten off by a Multibear, fallen down a bottomless pit and even been chased by hormonic gnomes.
And that's just in ONE week.
But you know what?
I simply don't care.
I'm having the time of my life... And not in a corny, Dirty Dancing way either.
All good things must come to an end...
And they're going back to Piedmont in a few days.
And this'll probably be the last time I get to see them, before...
No, Pacifica... Don't think about it...
Just enjoy tonight...
I hike up my dress, and creep towards the window... Glancing at my parents on the way. My dad's doing his whole 'lampshade on his head' routine. Hilarious. NOT. Still, the assorted sycophants, lackeys, toadies and yes-men clustered around him find it funny enough. Perhaps, I'm missing something.
As for my mom, she's flirting with one of the visiting princes from the Middle East. As soon as she gets a better offer, she'd in all likelihood dump my father and go off with her new beau. 'Upgrading', she'll call it. Ugh.
Still, who cares. They can do what they want. My singular focus is sneaking out... undetected. I climb onto the window pane, tie a pre-prepared rope made of blankets and jump outside, taking special care not to rip the delicate fabric of my outfit. If I did that they'd WANT to know how it got torn. And they have certain 'methods' of getting me to spill the beans...
There I go again. Overthinking everything. This moment is about ME, and my new friends. I cast all negative thoughts aside, and glance around for the light Dipper said he'd shine in the forest. There it is. And there's the dufus himself, with an awkward grin on his face, waiting to greet me. Like most boys his age, he's not the best in social situations. That's something I'm trying to help him with, seeing as how him and his sister have done so much for me already.
Speak of the devil... There she is. Wearing a sweater with a big heart emblazoned on it, and smiling like a certain cat from a Lewis Carroll novel. She gives me a quick wave, before darting over and enveloping me in the most loving of embraces (Get it, braces? Hardy ha ha). "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PAZ!" she gushes, and I can't help but laugh with her. After the sterility and organised boredom of the day so far, this is a beautiful, genuine moment.
We part, and Dipper starts to walk away, "Follow me, Pacifica. I'll show you where we've set it up." Nearby was a tent. No doubt full of all manner of creepy crawlies. Freezing cold. With horrible creatures roaming around outside. A total sea change from the austere surroundings I'd just abandoned.
I couldn't be more pleased.
Mabel grabbed my hand and pulled me in under the canvas, just behind Dipper. It was just as tatty inside as I'd imagined. No decorations. No fountains. No tables full of unpronouncable food. No fancy waiters. No pretentious guests. No in-house band playing classical music.
It was absolutely perfect.
Well, there was ONE thing. A single cupcake, with one candle lit, stood in the centre of the tent. Dipper ushered me and Mabel to sit down, as we all stared at the flickering light.
I was mesmerised by it. I couldn't help but think, that the flame was like my time with the twins this summer. Something so small, so full of life, and wonder... But soon to be snuffed out.
I wouldn't even have the chance to celebrate their own birthday with them, as they were heading back to California the day before. Life sucks, sometimes.
I've discovered what it is to have TRUE friends for the first time in my life. People who care about you, regardless of how hefty your bank balance is. People who'll be there for you, if you're related to the town founder or not (And I'm not... But that's another story). And people who let you be yourself... Who have no expectations about how you behave, or how you dress... They simply want you to be happy.
And now... I'm expected to give all that up? And revert back to who I was, to please my parents?
Can I do that?
Do I WANT to do that?
"Erm, Pacifica"... Suddenly, I saw a couple of fingers clicking in front of my line of vision. I looked over, and it was Dipper, looking concerned. "Are you alright? I thought we'd lost you there for a minute. You seemed to be in another galaxy." I blushed, and apologised. "Sorry, it's been a LONG day. I've had a lot of my mind recently, as well."
Mabel's eyes started sparkling for some reason, and she pulled a face, which was somewhere between a smile and a grimace. "Dipper, tell her about some of the stuff YOU'VE had on your mind lately too. Like, your crus... OW!" Dipper elbowed his sister in the shoulder, with a flustered expression on his face, while I felt just as confused . "SHE DOESN'T NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THAT! Ignore Mabel, I think she's been at the Smile Dip ... Tell you what. You make a wish Pacifica, then I'll cut the 'cake'. Does that sound like a good idea... YUCK!"
Mabel had recovered from her nudge, and was seeking her revenge by licking Dipper's earlobe. He responded by pushing her off him and pinning her to the ground, and there then followed a spirited, yet harmless skirmish between two 'loving' siblings. Dipper was trying to sit on her, while Mabel was attempting to use her tongue as a lethal weapon.
Eventually, when it looked like the tent was in danger of collapsing due to all the fidgeting, I decided to put a stop to the arresting spectacle. "ALRIGHT, YOU TWO! Settle down. I'm about to make my wish."
"WHAT?!" Mabel immediately scooted off her brother and sat adjacent to me. Dipper, looking somewhat dazed, followed suit (No prizes for guessing who had the upper hand in that little confrontation).
"GO ON, PAZ! THEN TELL US WHAT YOU WISHED FOR!" Mabel was so excited, she looked ready to burst. Dipper rolled his eyes "Er, Mabel, if she did that it wouldn't come true." Aww, not fair said Mabel, looking crestfallen. "Oh, I've got an idea! If you write it down... And show us later... D'ya think that'll count..."
"SHHH... I'M TRYING TO THINK!" All I wanted was a little peace and quiet. This was going to take some deliberation. What exactly DID I want? I was the richest girl around. I could probably afford to have the Statue Of Liberty packed up and transported over here... Lock, stock and barrel. What was possibly missing from my life that I couldn't...
Then, it hit me. The one thing money couldn't buy. The greatest gift of all. Something the twins had unknowingly bestowed on me. I smiled... And blew out the candle.
Mabel appeared ready to shriek with excitement. Dipper just grinned in his gawky way. I glanced at both of them, and for the first time that day... There was a feeling of hope.
Because if my wish came true... Perhaps it wouldn't be such a long goodbye after all.