By: Amy Murray

My entire life, I’ve feared I would end up like her. That one day sanity would elude me and ten kinds of crazy would make me blind to everyone I knew and loved. My father assured me it wasn’t likely, but as a child, and later as an adult, those words were far from comfort. Even if he was a psychiatrist. Even if he was my dad.

Whatever illness had stolen my mother’s memories had yet to destroy mine, but everyone knew crazy was hereditary. Even now, as I woke on my twenty-second birthday, three months after my mother’s funeral, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was still me.

I was still me.

“Abby, are you ready?” Gracie—my best friend and roommate—called from inside her bedroom.

“I’m not going.” I walked in the apartment and threw down a stack of newly purchased textbooks and supplies.

“Didn’t you get my text?” She appeared in the living room, perfectly made up, and slipped into a pair of turquoise stilettos. Her dark hair hung in loose waves around her shoulders. Her wide, slightly slanted eyes were heavily shadowed and gave the only hint of the Japanese heritage gifted by her grandmother.

“Yes,” I said as I dropped my bag on the floor and fell across the couch. “I got all fifteen of them. And no, I don’t care if it’s my birthday. I’m not going.”

Gracie hurried to my side. “You’re going. I’m not celebrating your birthday by myself.”

“I didn’t ask you to. Besides, it’s my birthday. Don’t I get to spend it doing something I want to do?” I asked as I pressed a pillow over my face.

“Yes, of course.” She pulled the pillow away. “But choosing to do nothing doesn’t constitute doing something. It’s proven. And besides, I haven’t had a major regret in about a month, so I’m due.” She smiled widely, showing off her perfect teeth.

“What if I don’t want to make mistakes? What if my only wish on this day is to lie right here and watch mind-numbing television until I pass out?”

“That’s stupid. Nobody wants that.” Her eyes twinkled with mischief as she pulled me to my feet and pushed me toward the bathroom. “You’ve got thirty minutes, and tennis shoes are not an option.”

It only took fifteen. I twisted my pale blond hair into a knot on top of my head and changed into one of Gracie’s barely there dresses she swore wasn’t too revealing. I begged to differ.

Gracie whistled when I walked out. “You look amazing,” she said.

The black dress was all see-through mesh and carefully placed elastic. “Shut up. I look ridiculous.”

“Ridiculously hot, maybe. Let’s go.” Gracie winked and opened the door.

I rolled my eyes, but couldn’t keep the smile from my face. I’d never admit it to Gracie, but the truth was, the dress made me feel good. Different, like I could forget who I was and where I came from, even if it was just for a night.

Outside was cold. I shivered in the January air and pulled my black leather jacket to my chest as we walked to my car. Life hadn’t been kind, and these last three months without my mother had been the worst, but through all of that, I couldn’t ignore the feeling of promise in the air.

The bar was packed, and the music was ear-splitting loud. It was everything I needed, because it was impossible to think of anything else.

“Happy birthday!” Gracie screamed over the music as she handed me a shot of something lime green and fizzy.

I clinked my tiny glass to hers and dropped it back, regretting it when the sweetness of the shot combined with the horrible bite of vodka. The sides of my tongue tingled and my stomach clenched.

“That was awful,” I said, putting the shot glass on the bar.

Gracie laughed. “Then have another. It won’t be as bad the second time around. I promise.”

I took a deep breath, drank the second shot, and chased it with a beer.

“You’re so wrong. That was just as bad.”

“But it will make you feel so good.” She hugged me to her side and signaled the bartender for another round.

It wasn’t long after that my insides warmed. I laughed until my sides hurt and drank everything that was handed to me. The music pulsed in my bones and fed my limbs a rhythm that moved my hips and had my hands in the air. Maybe it was the alcohol. Maybe it was because it was my birthday. Maybe it was because for the first time since my mother’s passing, I felt light, like the guilt I’d been harboring was finally beginning to lift.