Annelise came down the stairs to breakfast expectantly. Last year, Aunt Marie had made her a birthday coffee cake and homemade hot cocoa. But lately it had seemed like she had become invisible. None of the special things that she had come to expect were happening. Aunt Marie used to wake her up in the morning with her “wakey wakey eggs and bakey.” She hated it at the time, but a few months ago Aunt Marie simply bought her an alarm clock.
Uncle Vern was acting differently too, for years he had taken her on tractor rides in the field every Saturday morning. He said it was just to see how the fields were coming along, but they both knew it was because she enjoyed the tractor rides. But a few months ago Uncle Vern hadn’t woken her up when he left on foot to check the fields. When she asked him about it he replied, “Oh I thought you might be getting too big for tractor rides.”
Not only that, they had stopped asking about her homework. Aunt Marie always knew when report cards came out too, but this time she hadn’t asked to see it. A week later when Annelise was starting to wonder if she had truly become invisible she asked her Aunt Marie if something was wrong, because she hadn’t asked to see her report card. All she said was, “Well honey, you’re almost eighteen, you are responsible for your own grades.”
Now she had begun to worry, The Eighteenth Birthday, the birthday when everything changes was here. Would she be kicked out of her home and expected to fend for herself? Was she no longer wanted now that she was “older?”
As she walked down the stairs she pushed those thoughts aside and tried her hardest to smell coffee cake. Nothing. She saw her Aunt and Uncle reading the paper and drinking coffee. They looked up and said “happy birthday,” but then went back to reading. She made a bowl of cereal and stared at the Cheerios floating around in the milk.
She began to wonder if things would have been different if her parents had lived. If the car crash had never happened would she be happier or in worse circumstances. Aunt Marie looked up from the paper. “Is something wrong Annelise?”
“No,” she lied.
“You don’t look very happy on your birthday, and you haven’t touched your food,” noted Aunt Marie.
Uncle Vern glanced at her worriedly.
“Well,” Annelise began, she knew an explanation was necessary, “it has kind of seemed like since I’ve been getting older the little things that I used to expect no longer happen.” All of the little things that had changed poured out of her at once, and her fears about what would happen after today tumbled out as well. When everything was out she looked at them and drew in a deep breath.
Aunt Marie looked somewhat surprised, “well rest easy, we aren’t going to throw you out now that you’re eighteen. All of those little things that you mentioned were just things that we thought you might want to stop now that you’re an adult. We don’t love you any less. It has been hard for us to let all of those things go. We’ve been telling ourselves over and over, ‘she’s almost an adult now.’”
Aunt Marie looked at Uncle Vern and he said, “We probably should have warned you that some things might be changing around here, we never meant for you to get so worked up about it.”
“Come here sweetie,” Aunt Marie said just like she used to, and Annelise rushed into her arms.