The Best Birthday Party Everis one of many stories that have spun from Cindy Davis’ novel Zipacna’s Legacy. As an author and psychic, she strives to help adults connect with this sometimes-confusing always fast-paved world. As children, we often have questions our elders cannot answer. We wonder about the person in the corner of the bedroom that no one else can see. Or why something we dream about comes true a day or so later. These aren’t things to fear. They are normal. They are part of your awakening.
The Best Birthday Party Ever
“This is dumb.” I slapped my journal—a book where I document everything going on in my life—on the table and got a scowl from my mother in return. In a ridiculous moment of inaction, we watched my pen roll over and over, thud to the floor, and roll a few more times. Neither of us moved to pick it up. “Why do I have to go with you? It’s not fair.”
“Zipacna.” She said my name as if she was sucking lemons.
But, even knowing the consequences of arguing with her, I wasn’t ready to let this go. “For gosh sakes, what will I do for a whole day?” When my parents dragged me to these things before, it lasted from morning until late at night.
“You can play with the children,” she said.
Right. Good idea. “Just how do I play with six year olds?” I tried to say this in a normal tone, not the sarcasm I was feeling, but the sarcasm got hold of me. “Want me to whoosh down the slide with them?” I flew my arms into the air and dipped like I was sliding. “Or play tag?” I covered my eyes with my hands and peeked between two fingers. “One, two, three, you’re it.” Then I got serious. “Mom, I’m fifteen years old.”
“You aren’t acting fifteen, Zipacna.”
Actually, I was acting exactly my age. Weren’t teens supposed to be rebellious and rude to their parents? The trouble with that was, I usually did whatever they said, without much argument. It wasn’t as though they asked many things from me. They pretty much let me be who I was. Until today when my father’s boss invited us to a birthday party for his six year old twins. I’d look, and feel, as out of place as a—what’s the saying?—cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
“What are you grinning at?”
I didn’t think she would appreciate my internal joke so I just shrugged and looked away. Then, as if in one motion, she picked up the pen, set it on top of my journal, dropped in the chair where I’d sat earlier, pushed back her dark bangs with one hand and tilted her head to look at me. “Do you like to eat?”
What kind of question was that? I played along, knowing her discussion was going somewhere but having no clue yet. “Sure.”
She tugged the sleeve of my new plaid shirt. “Do you like nice clothes?”
Okay, now I got it. “Sure.” Next she would ask how I got all those things. We both knew the answer, but I let her go with it.
“Where do you think those things come from?”
Probably the answer wasn’t the store, so I offered: “Money.”
She nodded, her hair flopping into her face. She grabbed a rubber band from the pocket of her apron and tied it into a ponytail. I thought that was useless because it was her bangs in her face, not the rest. “Your father is about to get a big promotion at the construction company. We need…we need to…”
Probably it wouldn’t be good to say kiss up. This time I said, “To look like a happy family.”
That wasn’t the answer she expected either. I could tell because her lips flattened into a line so straight I could have used it as a ruler.
“We aren’t a happy family?”
I shrugged. “I guess we are.”
“What I wanted to say was that—“
“We want to keep the boss in a good mood?”
Now she was getting exasperated. She handed me the pen and journal then waved me away. “Be ready at eleven.”
I held in the gush of irritated breath that tried to push from my lungs. Got to make the best of a crappy situation. I showered, all the while, a vision played in my head: a hundred screeching children—okay, maybe only a dozen—wearing shiny black shoes racing around a bright green lawn. One of them wearing what I think is called bobby sox tripped and fell on her face. The others helped the crying girl sit up. Blood flowed from her nose all down the front of her bright yellow dress. I closed my eyes to the scene, which did no good because it was in my head and would only stop when it was ready, or another one took its place.
As I dressed, another vision did come: it was set in the same yard as the children. A man wearing a yellow button shirt and brown loafers was shaking Dad’s hand. He had a skinny mustache that made him look like Clark Gable. Except I was positively sure Mr. Gable was more than five feet tall.
Shaking off the images, I laid facedown on my bed writing in my journal, that I’d just finished binding in hand-cut strips of llama leather, about the injustice of having to spend the day with little kids. Maybe I could make it count. When the yellow-dress kid fell, I could clean up the blood. Or, came a voice in the back of my head, you can heal her broken nose. Hmm. I replayed the vision and, sure enough, she had broken her nose.
Dad’s footsteps echoed toward my room. Deep inside I kept wishing he’d told Mom I really didn’t need to go. But no. 11:22. He knocked, then opened the door. No need for him to say anything. I got up and followed him down the hall.
At the back door he took my journal from my protesting fingers and pushed two pink-wrapped packages with giant frilly bows at me. “Give these to the girls.”
Internal chuckle. I sure didn’t think they were for me. We stepped outside. I scanned the neighborhood, up, down, and around. If any of the kids from school saw me, my reputation would be trash—not that I was very popular anyway. Sure enough, Martín was out working in his front yard… This must be my punishment for arguing with Mom. I gave a wistful glance back at the house and followed them, shuffling my feet enough to let them know my unhappiness but not enough for them to yell at me.
The boss’s house was big and fancy. The lawn went on forever over a small hill. Nice place to play baseball; on second thought, no, every Saturday I’d be mowing instead of running bases. A lot of noise came from the back of the house: loud kids’ music, squealing girly voices. And the smell of cooking meat that made my stomach to happy somersaults.
I couldn’t see through the fence so I had no idea what waited on the other side, except penetrating humidity and intense boredom. I sucked up my courage and followed my parents through the gate. The prison door clicked shut behind me, locking me in for the day. Just a day…but a day that would feel like years.
Two very short people turned from a smiling group of laughing men and women and hurried toward us. In the background was the big, baseball sized lawn.
Dad made introductions—Mr. Chavez with the teeny mustache, and his wife. I shoved the packages—maybe a little too eagerly because Mom frowned at me—into the woman’s arms then did the polite thing and shook hands with them both.
Mr. Chavez thanked us for coming. He and Dad chatted about work. Over Mr. Chavez’s shoulder: a bunch of children, pretty sure it was all girls, chased each other in circles, ribboned pigtails and lace-edged dresses flying. From a distance their game might look like tag, I didn’t see anyone catch anyone. They just ran around and around giggling. I shot my mother a told you so! look which she ignored. Her thoughts came through loud and clear—make the best of it.
Near the house sat a long—and I mean long—table overloaded with food. Silver dishes reflected bolts of the bright sunshine. A man in a tall white hat was barely visible through smoke coming from a huge charcoal grill. He held a long-handled spatula and flipped what looked like Carne Asada and skirt steaks. Hmm, maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad day after all. I stood around only half-paying attention to the adults getting acquainted. Mr. Chavez invited us to “meet the rest of the folks.” I lagged back. When Mom stopped glancing back at me—she was probably worried I’d try to sneak out—I made tracks toward the food.
Moments later, with a plate piled high with enchiladas and guajillo chile shrimp, I went in search of a quiet—that means without six-year-old girls—place to spend the day. That’s when I realized the lawn didn’t slope down into a bigger lawn. It led to the Coatzacoalcos River. The rippling water called to me like garbage to a fly, but it probably wasn’t a good idea to go that far from the party. It took a while of dodging adults who looked like they might try to bring me into their conversation, and avoiding eye contact with children who might invite me to run in screaming girl-circles, but I finally spotted a cement bench under a vast ahuehete with long branches spreading out in all directions; some of them reached almost to the ground. A really great tree for climbing. Not that I had climbed a tree recently, but I imagined making a high-up perch to work in my journal. I gazed overhead looking for the perfect spot. Not that it mattered; I would never be at this house again.
The bench was unexpectedly cold to my rear end. I gasped in surprise, and heard a small giggle, which made me turn to see how close the kids had gotten. No one in sight. Strange. I plunged the fork into the pile of rice and beans. Delicious. So was the shrimp. I plucked off the tail and popped a whole shrimp into my mouth.
“Careful not to choke on that.”
A glance showed I was alone. But the voice didn’t sound like one of my spirit guides. I peered around again. Nobody. Another forkful of rice went down real smooth.
“Did you know this kind of tree is known as the old man of the water?”
Definitely a voice. Softly spoken. It came more as a whisper of wind than anything human, so I didn’t bother seeking the source.
“The genus name is taxodium mucronatum.”
I shot to my feet making sure to save the plate from tipping over. And there she was, seated on an identical bench as mine around the other side of the big tree…flowing hair and laughing eyes glimmering in the dim light under the thick branches. It was as if her entire body was lit from the inside.
I stepped toward her, whispering her name: “Sacniete.” It meant white flower, and was perfect for her. She rose and said, “Zipacna.”
We stood a foot apart for several silent moments. Our meeting had been etched in my head since I was eight years old—not that I knew what she’d look like, when we’d meet, or under what circumstances. But here she was. My future was opening up before my eyes. Our breath intermingled, pushing an energy into my bones like I’d never felt before. It was as if I could soar through the sky and never grow tired.
A scream, unlike the playful ones that hadn’t stopped since my arrival, pierced the silence between us. We broke apart and sprinted toward the commotion. A brown-haired girl dressed in yellow lay facedown on the brilliant green grass, limbs splayed in all directions. The other kids gathered around her. Parents raced from the food area.
Already knowing the girls’ injury, as she sat up, I set to work healing her nose. Wait, something wasn’t right. She was smiling. Yes, blood decorated her dress, but her nose…it was whole. And, like I said, a big smile was on her face.
“Is something wrong, Zipacna?” said Sacniete.
I wiped the frown from my mouth and turned away. “Looks like everything is fine here.” I headed back to my lunch.
At the bench, Sacniete carried her plate and sat beside me. “Is something wrong?” she repeated.
“N-no, I guess not.” I stabbed my fork into an enchilada. “It’s just that…” I explained the vision I’d had earlier, and how I’d expected to heal her. Later, I recalled this moment, wondering why I had been so willing to spill my guts, not worried she’d make fun. “I really wanted to help out.”
She hadn’t moved to eat. Her dark eyes were focused on me. Then I knew. “You healed her.”
Sacniete shrugged and looked into the distance.
“How long have you been able to heal?” I asked.
She set down her fork. “I don’t know. I think I was born with the ability. I remember when I was three. I was in the yard playing with some children my age. Mateo got his foot caught in a storm grate. You know those round—“
“There was a gash—“ she placed her fingers several inches apart— “about this long.” She gave a second shrug, then related another time she’d used her ability to heal an aunt over the telephone. We traded stories—I told her about my journals, which numbered almost a hundred by now. She told of her love of trees and plants, and making clay things with her hands.
A man ducked under the tree. “Zipacna, your parents are frantic to find you.”
“I’ll be right there.” I got to my feet but they would move no further than that.
“I will tell your parents I found you.”
I had no hesitation about leaving Sacniete. Our relationship was preordained. Nothing could stop the flow of it.