Rachel was sitting in her bedroom looking at it with distaste in her eyes. The walls had once been a dazzling cotton candy pink but now were a rotten grayish mauve that seemed to suck the color out of everything including her complexion. The ceiling was a matte white with the weird spirals that had been popular before her birth in the early 80s. The hardwood floors were covered with nicks and scratches and the cedar stain had worn away in several spots much like Rachel’s family. She had a twin bed frame of pine wood painted white and it was covered by faded Strawberry Shortcake sheets and a quilt made of various shades of pink that had always made her think of the layers of the decadent strawberry shortcake she had always wanted as a birthday cake. The creamy white panels of the quilt were now closer to the shades of grey found in prison cells across the country. Her bed was strewn with a few stuffed animals that had seen better days before Rachel had even received them. There was Lenny the dark chocolate-colored teddy bear with no eyes and a mangled arm, Mushy a caramel hued bear or cat or animal of some sort, Gigi a raggedy anne type doll with hair the exact shade of tomato juice even after years of washes and Pico a grey mouse with no whiskers left and a Mexican sombrero that was permanently crushed.
Rachel wanted to have a pretty bedroom like the girls on Gossip Girl but she knew that unless her mom won the lottery, they would continue to struggle because they were poor. She knew that she should be grateful for having a place to live and a whole room to herself. And usually she was. But today was her birthday and even though her mother had worked really hard to get some strawberry yogurt and the cake mix from the supermarket to make something close to the strawberry shortcake of her dreams, she wished that things were different. She wished that her father hadn’t left them that her mother didn’t have to work three jobs just to make ends meet and that she had a happy family like some of the kids in her class.
As she sat in her room feeling desolate she wiped away her violet hued tears so that her mom wouldn’t know something was wrong. She looked at herself in the small magnetic mirror meant for school lockers and tried to pinch some color into her face. Her cheeks bloomed into a cool raspberry color and made her complexion less lifeless than it had been just a few seconds ago.
She walked over to the three drawer dresser that was painted a bitter yellow and had come from the sidewalk near Havers St. and pulled out her favorite present ever; a round journal with a red cover and a picture of Strawberry Shortcake. On the inside cover her mom had written “To my baby girl Rachel, who will become a famous author, Love Mom”. She opened it to a blank page and wrote down how her birthday would be if they weren’t’ so poor. They would be living in a cool apartment with three bedrooms and two bathrooms in the nice part of town, they would have a doorman, and her closest friends would come over for a party that would have real strawberry shortcake and special pink colored soda that tasted like whipping cream. Her outfit would be a brand new dress that was white with a trim at the hem and neckline of teeny-tiny roses in the softest pink and she would have new shoes in white patent leather with a small heel. The living room would have matching furniture in a warm tan color that would go nicely with lilac walls and white baseboards and there would be balloons, streamers, and pretty party lanterns in white, pink, raspberry and violet. Just as she was starting to describe the contents of the gift bags, her mom knocked on the door.
“Rachel, Oksana and Gemma are here and the cake is almost ready.”
“Ok mom, I’m coming right now. Just finished writing something. Uh mom?”
“Thanks a bunch for everything! When I’m older I’m going to work so you don’t have to.”
Rachel put away her prized possession and checked her face in the mirror one last time. She made sure to wipe away any possible traces of tears and practiced a few smiles. Even though she sometimes hated her life, she knew that it could have been so much worse if her mom wasn’t so awesome. She straightened her shoulders and reminded herself that one day her diary entry would come true.