"HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOUSEYYYY!!!!" Leo screamed on the top of his lungs.
Mouse's eyes shot open, "What the hell man? Can't you see I'm trying to sleep? Damn it, Leo!"
Leo grinned stupidly, "But it's your birthday, Mousey!"
Mouse looked around the room, "Oh, is it now?"
Leo nodded, "Yep, February 14th. You're sixteen as of today."
Mouse eyes widened, "T-that's not my birthday! Ha ha! Silly boy...."
She put her covers over her head.
Leo grinned, "Oh, I'm pretty sure it is."
He called down the hall, "Hey, Jessica!"
Mouse grabbed Leo's hair, "Shut it, Leo! Don't!"
"Is today Mouse's birthday?" Leo hollered.
Leo's mom called back, "Is it the 14th? Yep, happy birthday, Hun!"
Mouse gritted her teeth, giving Leo a shove. "You moron! Do you have to spread the word?"
Leo sang out loudly, "And do you know what else happens on February 14th?"
Mouse said through clenched teeth, "Leo, don't..."
Leo continued, "Valentine's Day!"
Mouse grabbed his shirt and ran him against the wall, "Shut up, Leo!"
Leo grinned, "What's wrong, Mousey? You seem a little tense. How can I help?"
Mouse shoved him toward the door, "I'll tell you how. Get the hell out of my room!"
Leo pouted, "I'm sorry, I should let the birthday girl sleep." He gasped, "But, it's a school day...."
Mouse gritted her teeth, hesitating, "Fine, I'll get up." Leo smirked and Mouse shoved him into the wall as she passed.
Mouse sat at the kitchen table, wishing she could just crawl into a hole and leave all the freaks singing Happy Birthday to her to sing by themselves. Leo, Mouse's mother, and Leo's little sister, Mary, were singing on the top of their lungs, "Happy biiirrrthdaaaaay dear Moooooouseeeee! Haaappppy biiiirthdaaay toooooooo yooooooooouu!"
"In French now!" Leo hollered and they started singing in French.
Mouse slumped down in her chair, hating her life, hating her family, hating her birthday.
Mom put plates of eggs in front of Chris and I and said, "So, is there anything special happening today?"
"Well, I believe it's Mouse's birthday, but I'm not sure." I said, my mouth full of toast.
Chris raised an eyebrow, "Is that so? No one told me."
I shrugged, "I guess they didn't think you'd care."
Chris sighed wistfully, "I still can't believe that thing is older than me...." Chris is fifteen; He's supposed to be a freshman, but he skipped fourth grade and has been in the same grade as me ever since. He's pretty smart, I guess, but my theory is that they got sick of hearing Chris scream 'ANGIE!!!!!!' every time he was upset, which is a lot. So they decided to move him so he could cry onto my shoulder instead of bothering the teachers.
I filled my mouth with more food and said, "Age doesn't matter, Chris." Mom smiled at me proudly and I continued, "You will forever act like a five year old until further notice."
"Angela!" Mom scolded. I started laughing hard and got eggs up my nose. Gross.
Chris sighed at my 'immaturity', "Oh, Angela. When will you learn not to talk with food in your mouth?"
"When will you learn that most fifteen-year-old boys don't still believe in leprechauns?" I said, smirking.
Chris's eyes widened a little and he looked at Mom in surprise. "You knew?" He said, his voice cracking. Geez....
She shrugged and said gently, "Sorry, Honey. Leprechauns aren't real."
Chris turned to me in disbelief, looking hurt. I glanced nervously at Mom and said to Chris, "Should I have let it go on a few more years?" I shrugged, laughing nervously.
Chris shook his head and stood up, "I'm going to bed." He said, walking to his room with his head down.
Mom and I exchanged looks and she called to him, "Um, Sweetie? You have school today.... Honey...."
After a moment's hesitation, Chris returned to the kitchen and we left for school. I turned to Mom and whispered, "I'll handle this."
At school, Alice glanced at Chris and said, "Hey, Ange? Is something wrong with Chris?"
I shook my head, "Nah, he's just depressed 'cuz this morning Mom and I told him that leprechauns aren't real."
Alice gasped, drawing her hand up to her heart, "Oh, poor kid...."
I shrugged, "Don't worry about him, he didn't cry as hard as he did when he found out about Santa Claus."
Alice nodded, glancing nervously at Chris. "Oh, I hope he'll be okay...." Chris is the kind of person that stays upset about things for a long time and Alice knew how hard life without leprechauns would be for him.
"He'll get over it." I said cooly.
It was pretty weird to see Chris not being ecstatic on Valentine's Day, so I started to kind of get worried. Soon enough he came around, though.
A few cheerleaders sat in the bleachers and the team captain, Stephanie, was blabbering to the newest girl. "So, any guys you think are cute?"
The new cheerleader, Lydia, shrugged. "Oh, n-not really."
Stephanie and the other cheerleaders exchanged glances and laughed nervously.
"Wait, are you serious?" Stephanie asked Lydia, "None?"
Feeling that she had done something wrong, Lydia quickly said, "Um, n-not yet! B-but I'll p-probably notice someone soon..."
"Girl, it's Valentine's Day." One of the cheerleaders, Gwen, said stupidly, "I can't believe you don't have a date."
Stephanie pursed her lips, studying the school grounds.
Lydia half expected her to stand up, grab a random boy, and bring him over, saying, "Here's your date, Lydie!"
But no, Stephanie said instead, "What about that kid? Chris Harper, A lot of girls like him. He's good if you like the helpless type."
Jenny, another cheerleader, cackled maniacally and said loudly, "Oh, my gosh! You two would be perfect together!"
Jenny laughed more and Lydia shook her head distastefully.
"No, n-not my type, I-I need someone who can take care of me s-so I won't need to d-do anything." She lied, smiling uneasily, "P-plus, I think he's gay."
Stephanie chuckled, "That doesn't stop Kathy."
All the cheerleaders turned to watch as their fellow cheerleader broke into a run and attacked Chris from behind, jumping onto his back and screaming, "HI CHRISSY!!! HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!!!"
Chris then screamed, "Angie!!! Kathy's on meeeee!!!"
A blonde girl ran up to him and pulled Kathy off his back.
Chris was in tears now, the girl patted him on the back said, "Oh, it's okay, Sweetie. Shh..."
The cheerleaders laughed at the pathetic sight.
"So pathetic. Did you see how Kathy just attacked him? That kid can't even handle a girl like her!" Stephanie laughed.
One of the other cheerleaders hooted, "'Ahhh! There's a cheerleader on my back! The short skirt, the flowing hair, oh, the horror!"
"You got that right. Those things are awful creatures." A voice came out of nowhere.
The cheerleaders all jumped, whirling around to find the source of the voice.
Mouse stood on top of the bleachers, taking a bite of the red apple in her hand. "Hey, what's up, Fembots?"
Stephanie put her hands on her hips, "What are you doing here, Butch?"
Mouse shrugged, "Avoiding my step-brother."
Lydia grinned, "Oh, Chris? Yeah, h-he looks annoying."
Mouse snorted, "No, he's not my step-brother, but I agree with the 'annoying' part. That kid drives me nuts."
She sat down near the cheerleaders, "You know, he was all depressed this morning 'cause his sister and his mom told him leprechauns aren't real."
The cheerleaders laughed.
"Oh my god, are you serious?" Jenny cried, laughing loudly.
Grinning, Mouse nodded and stood up, "Yeah, there's a lot more where that came from!"
The cheerleaders giggled excitedly and Mouse said, "Last summer, when we went to camp, Chris got bullied so much by the boys that he had to sleep in the girls' cabin! Which, of course, didn't bother him at all!"
The cheerleaders roared with laughter.
Seeing the commotion, some football players and other kids came by the listen.
A huge grin broke across Mouse's face and she went on, "A-and one time Kathy snuck into his bedroom through the window and sat on his lap and he woke up and screamed 'AAAAANGIEEE!!!!'"
The crowd laughed hard and a cheerleader called out, "Is that his sister?"
Mouse nodded, her eyes gleaming, "Yep! One time at the burger joint downtown, when me and Angie and Chris were there, Jesse- Jamie Wright's friend- he came in and Chris stared at him like 'oh, he is sooooo hot!' And then he spilled pop all over himself and went 'oh no! Hide me, Angie!'"
The crowd irrupted with laughter again. "That freak! What is with that kid and his sister?"
Mouse shrugged innocently and said with sweet voice and a fake lisp, "Oh, I don't know, I guess little Chrissy just has some separation anxiety."
Mouse nodded again, grinning, "Yeah! And at Angie's birthday last year, they were playing Spin The Bottle and Chris kissed my step-brother!"
The whole crowd broke out in furious laughter and Johnny Thomas called out, "Hey, who is your step-brother?"
"Leo! Leo White!" Mouse answered, laughing.
The crowd laughed harder.
"I bet he liked it, too!" One of the cheerleaders chirped.
"I bet they both did!" Another called out.
Mouse beamed proudly, she had gotten an entire group of high schoolers laughing their asses off.
I got Kathy off of Chris's back and had mostly calmed him down by the time we heard an enormous rupture of laughter come from the bleachers. Chris and I turned to see what was going on. To our surprise, Mouse was standing on top of the bleachers, her hands in the air and a crazy grin on her face.
I strained to hear what she was saying that made the crowd so excited. I heard my name, I heard Chris's name, I heard mocking comments....
Gesturing for Chris to come with me, I started walking towards the bleachers.
"Hey, Mouse!" I called out.
The smile faded from Mouse's face and she got a little pale.
Seeing the eyebrow raises from the crowd, she started grinning again.
"Hey, what's up, Ange?" She bent down to Chris and said, "And how is my little Christina today?"
The crowd laughed and Chris scowled at Mouse, who laughed loudly, "Oh, I'm sorry. Did I hurt your widdle feelings?"
She pursed her lips, shaking her head, "I guess I shouldn't be telling these stories about you, but hey, it's my birthday and you're just so easy to make fun of!"
The crowd laughed and Mouse pinched Chris's cheeks, saying, "Yes, sooo entertaining! Look, buddy, you're making all these people so happy!"
I clenched my teeth, taking a step toward Mouse, "Stories? You were telling stories about
Mouse's face paled and I got the feeling that she thought we had heard her and already knew. She glanced around nervously at the waiting, mumbling crowd. She swallowed and said, "Oops."
Her face paled more and the crowd snickered.
Mouse sighed and put a grin back on her face, "Don't be so sensitive, Angela."
"Don't be such an ass, Mouse!" I shot back.
The crowd oohed sarcastically as I grabbed Chris's hand and stormed away.
Once we were far away, Chris cleared his throat and said, "Don't listen to her, Angie. She's just trying to be 'cool'."
I huffed, blowing my bangs out of my eyes, "Yeah, by backstabbing us!"
Chris looked a little surprised.
"Backstabbing. Hmm..." He rolled the word around a few times and said calmly, "That's a new one."
I sighed, sitting on a bench nearby, "Mouse is just so.... stupid."
Chris sat down next to me, pursing his lips. He said honestly, "It's her birthday, you know."
I stared at him. Was he joking? "Dude, did you seriously just say that?"
Chris shrugged, "You tell me to cut her some slack sometimes-"
I laughed hollowly, "Ha! Yeah, 'I'm sorry I got mad at you for talking about me and my brother behind my back. My bad!'"
Chris sighed patiently, "Angie, I don't think we need to bring sarcasm into this-"
"Stop being Therapist Chris, man! You're freaking me out...." I burst out.
Looking kind of offended, but still calm, Chris stood up, holding his hands over his head in surrender. "Sorry, sorry...."
Seeing his lower lip tremble a little when I didn't respond, I sighed, "I'm sorry, buddy. I... I'm not in the best mood."
"Clearly." Chris mumbled.
I gritted my teeth and Chris crossed his arms.
"Just try to ignore Mouse, okay? It's her birthday and on top of that, Valentine's Day. Just try to forgive her," He smiled warmly, "For me."
I looked at my brother like he was crazy, "Hypocrite."
Chris sighed, looking tired and older than usual. "I'll see you later, Ange."
Mouse watched Chris and Angela leave the field as the crowd watched her curiously.
Mouse took a deep breath. Do I go after them?
She shook her head at the thought. No, I will not upset my audience.
She put the grin back on her face and said, "So, you think that's funny?"
The crowd cheered and she went on telling them about how stupid her friends were.
After she finished and the crowd broke apart, Stephanie snapped her fingers, "Girls, conference!"
The cheerleaders gathered into a group and started whispering so that Mouse nor anyone else could hear them.
"I don't know, I k-kind of like her."
"Yeah, she's funny."
"That girl sure can raise a crowd."
"But, is she really cheerleader type?"
The cheerleaders all turned to look at Mouse and said in unison, "No."
They turned back to their conference and Mouse shrugged.
The group broke apart and Stephanie said, "Mouse, um... is that really your name?"
Mouse nodded, clenching her teeth.
"Yep." She lied. Mouse hated her real name and preferred the rather unflattering nickname that she had gotten used to.
Stephanie sighed and said, "Okay.... Mouse."
Mouse nodded, waiting for her to get to the point.
Stephanie sighed and said, smiling tightly, "How would you like to become a part of the cheerleading squad?"
Mouse burst out laughing, not caring if she was making the cheerleaders uncomfortable.
"Are you freaking serious?" She laughed.
The cheerleaders nodded and the grin melted off Mouse's face. "Wait- really? Why?"
Stephanie said through clenched teeth, trying to smile, "Because, Mouse, when you make fun of people, it's funny. Making the lesser kids feel bad about themselves is a big part of being a cheerleader."
This didn't sound right, even to Mouse, but she let Stephanie continue, "You can walk around with us, torment the freshman, wear the uniform...."
Stephanie paused, eyeing Mouse distastefully, "Date the football players....."
Mouse rolled her eyes, tossing her apple in the general direction of a trash can, "Look, Princess, the whole girl-clot-going-around-making-the-newbies-cry scenario really isn't my thing...."
Melonie, one of the prettier cheerleaders, walked up and stood in front of Mouse, so close that Mouse could smell her perfume.
Mouse took a step back.
"Look, we think you would be good for the squad. Why won't you join?" Melonie fluttered her eyes innocently.
Mouse eyed her uncomfortably, clearing her throat and her face flushed a little, "Um... don't you do other things as a cheerleader? You know, like cheering?"
Melonie barely smiled and said, "Yes, we have cheering routines for the football games."
Mouse nodded, stepping back and still blushing a bit. "So, what's in it for me?"
Melonie smiled at her and Mouse really hoped she wouldn't say what she thought she would. She didn't.
"Why not?" Melonie said.
Mouse was getting irritated now, "I told you, it's not my thing!"
Suddenly, Lydia spoke up, "I dare you."
Everyone turned and looked at her.
"What?" Mouse said.
Lydia nodded, "I d-dare you to join the ch-cheerleading squad."
Mouse gritted her teeth, this girl was good.
Mouse never in a million years pictured her self joining the cheerleading squad, but this was a dare. The thing about dares is if she said yes, they would hopefully leave her alone. If she said no, she would be a chicken. Mouse was no chicken.
"Fine." Mouse heard herself say.
Looking a little surprised at first, the cheerleaders smiled evilly and Stephanie said, "Coolness. You can pick up your uniform in the gym after school tomorrow."
With that, all five of the cheerleaders flipped their hair, spun on their heels, and left Mouse standing alone, wondering if this was a bad dream.
She sighed, thinking to herself. I hate my birthday, I hate Valentine's Day, I hate my life, I hate Mondays.