Ziva held her breath, pulled her stomach in tight and squeezed into her orange party dress she thought looked flattering, shop mirrors were delusional, the folded detail at the front did nothing for her curvy figure. Reflecting on her life was hard, a sedentary job and a busy social life meant she had enjoyed the finer things and failed to watch over her health. Rylan teased her, his dad-bod underway, it appeared neither of them had inherited their father’s slender frame or mothers’ passion for fitness. Accepting these curves was something Ziva chose to embrace, revitalizing her wardrobe and investing in some running shoes; even if they remained in the box, the intention was there. The extra candles on their cake were fine; what made the day difficult was seeing her brother play happy families, knowing how much they all loved each other. He enjoyed reminding her she was becoming a spinster, surrounded by cats and memories.
Rylan had made rare journeys to Brindleton Bay, moaning the whole time, the travel, and the cloudy wet weather. Ziva believed his reluctance had to do with the voluntary work they did here as children, Jose thought it built character, Rylan saw it as punishment. She objected in jest, the idea their friends would be hanging in her drab abode made her uncomfortable, at least Rylan had space and comfort.
The party fizzed, Rylan’s friends knocked back beer, raucous laughter and crude jokes filled the air. Ziva wished she’d invited a few extra friends; she snuck upstairs for a few moments with her niece, the baby gurgled in her arms. What felt so natural, seemed beyond her reach. Rylan grinned at his sister, he wondered where she got to. He had run into Arian at the cinema, having moved back a few months ago, he was currently knocking back beers with Miguel. Ziva laid Eliza in her bassinet and checked herself in the bedroom mirror. Why had he come back to Newcrest? Arian had been quiet, their e-mails were sparse, a couple of months since his last vague effort. Smoothing her dress, Ziva headed downstairs, Emilia had enough candles to burn the house down, the cake sat at risk of a wax coat and melted icing.
Her conversation with Arian interrupted, Rylan needed another opponent, the new games console Emilie bought him was the party’s focus. Ziva shuffled into the kitchen, helping Emilie and Elizabeth clean. Rylan loved to steal the limelight, their birthday was no exception, Arian did take her number with a promise they should catch up when things were calmer. He commented with polite intention over her blossoming figure, Rylan rolled his eyes offering her a second cake slice, suggesting it reflected her excessive life. She cringed, embarrassed; the cake sat tempting on her plate. Arian smiled, sympathetic over her tolerance for Rylan, but the extra pat on her stomach from Rylan had made her feel guilty so she set her dessert aside. Emilie wiped the breakfast bar, Ziva stared, with the remaining cake she could comfort herself, instead, she refused, deciding to head home and avoid any unpleasant or awkward questions should Arian dare to ask any.
She pressed her feet into her trainers, Patches sat on the dresser with a disdainful expression. It was the first morning she had woken without a hangover after a party, and with the sun beating down on the waves it was the perfect time to try the jogging mission again. Being curvy was who she was, embraced it, but she knew to keep enjoying cake, Ziva needed some give in her jeans.