By Ashleigh Cattermole-Crump
It’s like my birthday again; Grandma is here and uncle Bobby is staying in the room daddy usually does his work in. He brought Aunt Crystal, who I heard mummy say was a ‘real peach’, though she looked like a normal lady to me. They have all been talking in whispers and there have been lots of people visiting our house. They’re all wearing black and bringing flowers and food. Mrs McGinty from next door brought a sponge cake with cream and blueberries.
Every time I ask someone what’s happening, they pat me on the shoulder and smile at me with a funny look on their face. One even called me a ‘poor child’, but they don’t answer the question. The adults are in the kitchen talking, but their words are hushed since they don’t know I am still awake. I decide to get myself a snack. As I get closer, I can hear Grandma arguing with daddy. No one really likes Grandma but when she visits we always have to smile and thank her for the presents she brings, even though they smell like her cats. Grandma suddenly makes a loud squawking noise. She sounds very much like the bird mummy used to have, until one day it made a lot of noise as though it might want to fly outside.
“Mum, stop being ridiculous!”
That’s daddy’s voice.
I’m almost to the cake that’s perched on top of the microwave. None of them have noticed me yet, but mummy is getting very crabby. Her voice is climbing higher and higher, like how she sounded when I let her bird out. Before I can figure out what is going on, Grandma throws a rolled-up magazine towards mum, spittle sputtering from her lips. She always brings a stack of magazines with her, brightly coloured with big words and thin pages. I asked her once what was in them and she told me they were her ‘sad stories’.
Suddenly, mummy is standing up, and she turns. She sees me, and there are splotchy red marks on her face.
“Oh baby what are you doing up?” she asks. Before I can answer, she says “Grandma was just leaving!” and marches over to the door and throws it open. Grandma’s eyes are like slits, her wobbly jowls swinging as she stamps her walking stick towards the door. As it slams closed, Mum hands me an extra-big slice of the cake with the blueberries picked off and ushers my back to my room, a soggy kiss catching the tip of my forehead.
Ashleigh is a writer, mother, toy librarian, tattoo collector and chocolate enthusiast from Christchurch, New Zealand. She enjoys writing flash and short fiction and her fantasy stories are upcoming in several 2021 anthologies.