A Twitter friend asked me to write him a story for his birthday. Not sure this is what he had in mind, but here it is!
Ciaran slumped against the living room wall. Everyone else was singing Happy Birthday to his sister – his twin sister; her face was illuminated from below by the candles on the cake, reminding him of those times, years ago, when she would hold a flashlight beneath her chin and scare him with stories about ghosts and escaped killers. The flames danced in her eyes as she basked in the attention. Ciaran scowled. She always loved attention.
Puffing her cheeks out like a glassblower, she extinguished the candles in one hearty breath and received a rapturous round of applause for her efforts. Make a wish, the guests urged. Ciaran watched his sister smile a secret smile all to herself – or perhaps it was for his benefit.
Their mother busied herself with a cake knife and a pile of side plates, carving slices and passing them around the assembled friends and family members. She was laughing, scoffing at Aunt May’s protestations about being on yet another diet, while her husband surreptitiously filled her glass with more champagne. Ciaran turned his back on this scene of conviviality. Keep your cake, keep your champagne, he snarled. Keep your bloody birthday too, sister dear!
His mother flitted by on her way to the kitchen to replenish the canapes. She paused for a second and exhaled heavily, blowing a wayward strand of hair from her brow. Steeling herself, she moved on. Ciaran followed. He watched as she transferred plates of vol au vents from the refrigerator to a serving platter, which she dressed with sprigs of parsley for garnish.
He stared at her, willing her to remember, willing her to march back in there and stop the party.
Suddenly, his mother straightened. A shiver ran down her spine and she frowned. Then, the moment was gone and she breezed back to the party, holding the vol au vents high as she backed through the door.
In a sulk, Ciaran hovered at the sink. He could hear his sister calling out for a game. Musical Chairs was mentioned and so was Postman’s Knock. Ciaran muttered to himself. How childish, he thought! Wasn’t it about time she grew up?
His mother returned. She poured herself a generous glass of wine and downed half of it at once. She stood at the sink and gazed at the night sky. She raised the glass in toast.
“To you, son,” her voice caught in her throat. “Happy birthday. Your sister would have loved to have you here.”
Ciaran gasped. Oh, no, she wouldn’t, he wanted to scream. But of course, he couldn’t. The ‘accident’ his twin had arranged had put paid to that, put paid to him forever.
And now all that lovely, undivided attention was hers.
Except for quiet moments like this, when their mother retreated into herself and remembered.