"Sorry, I can't. Big exam coming up."
This was a response that Shizuku's friends were used to hearing. Never one to be swayed from her studies, her Friday nights were happily spent with a current project, a pair of trusty headphones, and her Big Ginger cat, while her friends enjoyed walking through the gardens when it wasn't raining. Of course, Shizuku's peers quickly caught on to the fact that there was no changing her mind, and for fifty-one Friday nights of the year, the issue was not pushed; it was the fifty-second Friday that was different.
The sun was only just starting to get long in the April evening. Truly, it was a real shame of a day to have spent indoors - the dew of the afternoon's rainfall had left everything clean and fresh, and the world outdoors was renewed and luminous in the newfound sunlight. For Shizuku, the rain could have continued for all she had noticed, as her eyes were planted on the work ahead of her. It was the rude awakening of her phone buzzing that broke the spell.
"Ginger Cat, this is strange..."
The feline turned around from his view outdoors to lock eyes with his faithful owner.
"...our friends want to meet me at the gardens outside the library, but I already told them I was too busy today."
Having quickly lost interest in the conversation, Ginger Cat turned back around and lounged contentedly. He was rather fond of being a homebody with Shizuku.
This peaceful moment did not last long; Ginger's vibrantly orange fur stood on end as Shizuku shrieked and stood up from her chair. "They want to work on a history project with me! Apparently today is an important historical date...how did I not know about this?! We better hurry, Ginger."
Having no say in his protest to it, Shizuku scooped up the heavy kitten and gently placed him inside her half-zipped backpack. Not one moment later, the pair were rushing to the local library on foot, not taking notice of how pleasant this evening was.
Hardly having caught her breath, Shizuku was thankful to see the stunning twin lion statues that faithfully guarded the grand library.
"I never noticed how pretty those lions are, Ginger." Shizuku chuckled. "Maybe they're distant relatives of yours?"
A passive flick of his puffy tail was Ginger Cat's response to such a statement.
As the two approached the gardens, they noticed a trio of their dear friends sitting on the stone benches. Shizuku's nerves of bad grades eased up when she realized how nice it was to see them in person outside of class, and how long it must have been.
"What's all this?" Shizuku had only just noticed that nobody had their backpacks with them; instead of books and laptops, what stood before her were colourful balloons, wrapped gifts, and cupcakes.
"Happy birthday, Shizuku!" Everyone cheered, together. "Today is an important day in history, because you were born!"
Shizuku's eyes welled up with tears, overwhelmed with this coordinated act of kindness. "You guys...you remembered my birthday....I didn't, this year. But you guys did."
"Here, open a present!" One friend smiled, handing her a box. It had a very interesting cow print paper, tied together with an orange bow; it was oddly cute.
Shizuku, her hands still shaking, carefully untied the ribbon and lifted the lid off of the box. Inside she found a beautifully bound journal. She ran her fingers along the pages and gave a good smell. "Oh, it's perfect."
"We figured you were running out of pages in your old one, at the rate." Another friend chimed in. "I guess we'll let you break it in and get back to your studies now, but we just wanted to celebrate you for a moment today."
Shizuku contemplated. She didn't want this beautiful moment to end. "Wait."
Her friends' hopeful gaze met hers - even Ginger Cat was now enjoying his spot in the backpack.
"I'll do that tomorrow," Shizuku smiled. "Let's walk through the gardens tonight."
(Voiceover by Maggie Ross)