It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since the release of The Ilia Stone. And as I tried to think of what to write for this guest post, I figured why not write something to celebrate? Now the following scene is not something cut from the original manuscript. I wrote it just for fun and even though it may not fit perfectly, those who have read the book may be able to figure out when this may have taken place. Whether you have read The Ilia Stone or not, I hope you enjoy!
When a knock on the metal loft door came, Gabriel looked up from his laptop with a groan. It wasn’t because he loathed unexpected visitors or because of his well known aversion to hanging around people in general, it was the knock to the beat of The Beatles Birthday Song. It told him two things.
It was Dex on the other side of the door and his assistant — heavy on the ass part — had decided this year, today would be Gabriel’s birthday.
After a year of Gabriel’s refusal to divulge his actual birthday, Dex had taken it upon himself to select a day at random each year they would celebrate another year of his existence. He had long ago stopped keeping track of how old he was. When years turned into decades without any real friends or anyone in his life to care if he was around for another year, it became more of a depressing reminder of what he was rather than a day to be celebrated. Normally though, he would grudgingly put aside those dark feelings and play along. It became one of those things like doing taxes or traffic in winter, something he couldn’t avoid. Besides, it seemed to make Dex happy and it stopped his pestering for Gabriel’s real birthday for at least another eleven months.
However, this year was different he thought as he looked over to where Nia was curled up on the couch across from him. He nearly laughed at the sight of her. Her beautiful green eyes were wide in alarm. A blanket was wrapped around her and her light brown hair was disheveled from the hours she had spent laying around watching a marathon of Clash of the Gods on The History Channel. She winced and covered her ears when another flurry of knocks to the beat of the song ricocheted through the loft. Although she had been getting better, Nia was still getting used to her heightened senses from her transition.
“Not a good time, Dex,” he called out. Gabriel didn’t even bother trying to hide the irritation in his voice. It wasn’t Dex who would have to deal with Nia’s crankiness. Even though he did find irritating her highly amusing.
From behind the door, Dex warned, “Fine, if you’re not going to open up, be sure to hide your naughty bits because I’m coming in!”
Nia jumped up from the couch and looked around. For what? Gabriel had no idea. A hiding spot maybe? He wished her luck because he knew there was no getting out of this.
“I’m…um…going to just…” Without completing that sentence, she hurried into Gabriel’s bedroom just as the loft doors rolled open.
“Boss-man,” Dex announced grandly as he stepped into the loft. A ridiculous cone-shaped children’s party hat was perched on top of his buzz cut. The pink design on the hat matched the wrapping paper on the box propped between his bicep and chest. It made Gabriel wonder if maybe he had been wrong. Perhaps Dex was just stopping by real quick on his way to some child’s birthday party.
Even though he shouldn’t have been surprised, he was when Dex was followed by Brynn who carried a cake and an arrangement of ‘Over the Hill’ helium balloons. If they only knew how far over the hill he really was. He couldn’t help but snort a laugh at the thought as he pushed to stand and walked over toward him.
“I’m not — ,” Gabriel began but was quickly was cut off.
“A real boy,” Dex finished helpfully in a mock Pinocchio voice.
Gabriel sighed and said a silent prayer for patience.
“Nia,” Brynn called out before she dashed across the loft to his bedroom doorway Nia had just emerged from.
Gabriel watched as Brynn wrapped her up in a hug. When she pulled back, she began petting Nia’s hair. One might think it was an affectionate gesture. But with the way Brynn always appeared so pulled together with not one lock of her raven hair out of place, he wondered if she was at least in part trying to casually tame Nia’s wild waves.
“Now…” Dex interrupted his thoughts and pulled his attention back the confusing birthday scene he invaded his home with. He dropped the pink box on the kitchen counter with a heavy thud then patted the top. “This is because you kinda act like a bitch sometimes.” He grinned then motioned toward the box. “Open it.”
As the girls made their way over, he hesitantly did just that. Gabriel tore away the pink wrapping paper to reveal what appeared to be a case of whiskey.
A case of whiskey which also had an inventory label on it from Rossi’s.
He looked over to Dex and raised a questioning brow. What he received in response was a casual shrug as if it was no big deal he had gifted him a case of booze from Gabriel’s bar. A case of booze he technically already owned.
“Hey, I have no time to shop. You keep me too busy,” Dex explained before shoving the balloon arrangement into his hands. “These are because you act like a geezer. Seriously, how old are you? Twenty-five or ninety?”
A choking sound came from behind him just then. When he turned to look, Nia had her head bowed and her shoulders shook in silent laughter.
“You think that’s funny?” he challenged.
Nia looked up and bit her lip as she tried to school her features. “No,” she said before she cleared her throat and shook her head. But a moment later another laugh erupted from her. “Okay, I kind of do,” she admitted through her laughter. The sound made his lips twitch as he tried to suppress his own grin.
“So how many candles do I need to put on this thing?” Brynn’s question made him look over to the cake she was hovering over with a box of candles in her hand. It looked as if she had already placed most of them into the white frosting.
“That’s plenty and nice try,” he accused as he shot a glare at Dex. “You’re still not getting my age. Older and wiser is all you need to know.”
“Well you at least need to make a wish and blow out the candles,” Brynn insisted as she lit them all.
“Happy Birthday to you…,” Dex began to sing obnoxiously.
The girls joined in next. But as they sang, he thought about his wish. Wishing was something he had given up on a long time ago. It was pointless. Thinking about things he couldn’t have only made him miserable and take for granted what he did have.
He glanced over at Nia and took in the sight of her beautiful smile. He hadn’t seen very many moments where she seemed relaxed and happy. And this was one of those moments. It made him wonder what she would wish for. Then he realized he already knew. She would wish to have her normal life back. The thought made an uncomfortable and very much unwelcome feeling rise in his chest.
He continued to watch Nia sing until the song came to it’s end. Hadn’t he thought earlier he had stopped celebrating birthday’s because he had nobody in his life who would care if he was around for another year? He lived a life of secrecy because it had to be that way. Nobody could know what he truly was. But now, there was somebody who knew. Maybe his wish had already come true and was standing right in front of him. A wish he hadn’t even realized he wanted until just then.
As he thought all this, Nia’s smile faded away before she glanced over to the cake. “Aren’t you going to make a wish and blow out your candles?”
A smile tugged at his lips before he nodded. “Yeah, I think this year I will make that wish,” he said as he turned back toward the cake.
“Finally,” Dex said in dramatic relief as he slapped Gabriel on the shoulder. “You always make these birthdays so…unfun. Maybe this year will be different.”
“Let’s hope so.” With that, Gabriel drew in a deep breath and blew out every one of the candles.
R.J. Loom was born and raised along the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio, where she still resides with her husband, two teenage children and two spoiled dogs. She loves books, music, travel and anyone with a great sense of humor. When she’s not writing, she can be found with her nose in a book, looking for more books to add to her “to-be-read” pile or spending time with her family.https://www.facebook.com/