Birthday Girl

By: Penelope Douglas

“Addicted to Love” by Robert Palmer

“All She Wants to Do Is Dance” by Don Henley

“Bad Medicine” by Bon Jovi

“Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen

“Guys My Age” by Hey, Violet

“Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp

“I Love Rock ‘n Roll” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

“I’m on Fire” by Bruce Springsteen

“Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield

“Pity Party” by Melanie Martinez

“Poison” by Alice Cooper

“Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard

“Run to You” by Bryan Adams

“The Girl Gets Around” by Sammy Hagar

“The Distance” by Cake

“When you grow up, your heart dies.”

-Allison Reynolds, The Breakfast Club


He’s not answering. This the second time I’ve called in fifteen minutes, and I’ve been texting without any luck, too. Was he planning on still remembering to be here at two?

I end the call and glance up at the clock above the bar, seeing it’s nearly midnight now. Still two hours before my boyfriend thinks I’m off work and need to be picked up.

And here I thought we got a lucky surprise tonight, me getting off early.


I need to get my car running. I can’t keep relying on him for rides.

The music fills the air around me, customers laughing to my right and one of the other bartenders filling the cooler with ice to my left.

Unease pricks at the back of my neck. If he’s not answering, then he’s either asleep or out. Both could mean he’ll remember me after it’s too late. He’s not always unreliable, but this wouldn’t be the first time, either.

That’s the problem with making your friend your boyfriend, I guess. He still thinks he can get away with murder.

I grab my shirt and school bag out of the cabinet underneath the taps and slide my phone into my pocket. I pull on a flannel over my tank top, button it up, and tuck the front of the hem into my jeans, covering myself. I’ll dress a little sexy for tips, but I’m not about to walk out of here like this.

“Where are you going?” Shel asks, peering at me as she draws a beer.

I glance over at my boss, her black hair with blonde chunks piled on top of her head and a string of tiny hearts tattooed around her upper arm.

“There’s a midnight showing of Evil Dead at The Grand Theater,” I tell her as I close the cabinet and slide the strap of my leather satchel over my head. “I’ll go kill time and wait for Cole there.”

She finishes pouring her beer and looks at me like there are a million things she wants to say but doesn’t even know where to start.

Yeah, yeah, I know.

I wish she’d stop looking at me like that. There’s a good possibility Cole won’t be here at two a.m. considering he’s not answering the phone right now. I know that. He could be three sheets to the wind at some friend’s house.

Or he could be at home sleeping with the alarm set to come get me at two and his phone left in another room. It’s not likely, but it’s possible. He’s got two hours. I’ll give him two hours.

Besides, my sister is at work, and no one here can leave to drive me home. Work is slow tonight, and I got cut early because I’m the only one without a child to support.

Even though I desperately need the money just the same.

I grip the strap of the bag over my chest, feeling like I should be older than eighteen.

Well, nineteen now, almost forgetting what today is.

I take a deep breath, pushing the worry away for tonight. A lot of people my age struggle for money, can’t pay bills, and have to bum rides. I know it’s too much to expect that I’d have everything figured out by now, but it’s still embarrassing. I hate looking helpless.

And I can’t blame Cole, either. It was my decision to use what was left of my student loan money to help him fix his car. He’s been there for me, too. At one time, we were all the other one had.

Turning around, Shel sets the beer on the bar in front of Grady—one of the regulars—and takes his cash, shooting me another look as she enters the sale into the register. “You don’t have a functioning vehicle,” she states. “And it’s dark outside. You can’t walk to the theater. Sex slavers are just looking for hot, teenage girls with blonde hair and shit.”