A snippet from a short story I am working on - the entire piece is fictional, though inspired by a brief meeting I once had with a young lady like Mary...
The Birthday Cake
This is not my story. It’s Mary’s story.
Mary was born with a number of complications that caused damage to her brain and impairing her mental and physical development, reducing her life expectancy. She died shortly before her 19th birthday.
I didn’t meet Mary until the year she died. I was at her 18th birthday party and she sat down next to me and started chatting. She’d never seen me before, I was there making a video of the event, yet she spoke to me like an old friend.
She spoke so innocently, thoughts almost popping into her head as she talked. But behind the simple child-like chatter was a sad complex life that, for the most part, Mary was unaware.
Why am I writing Mary’s story? Because she can’t and because I saw something so beautifully unaffected within her.
This is her conversation that day. This is Mary’s story.
"It’s over there, the gooey pink one covered in a hundred zillion little sparkles and there’s jam squidging out the middle. My birthday cake.
I know that you’ve probably had lots of cakes, but this isn’t just any cake. I know it doesn’t have pretty fairies or princesses on, but it didn’t come in a box or have a wrapper to take off. No, my cake, MY cake, is special and it will be the best, most tastiest cake I’ve ever eaten.
Do you know why? Because I made it. Me. All by myself. My first ever cake.
I followed a recipe: sieve-fulls of flour and sugar, dollops of butter, I cracked the eggs, broke up bits of chocolate, splashed pink stuff in and I put on a lot of sprinkles. I was even allowed to rub butter all over the cake tin and I turned the oven on by myself. I could see the gooey cake mixture get bigger in the oven and go browny colour. My cake, me a baker.
I can remember the first time I ate cake. I thought I wouldn’t be allowed any, I’d never been allowed before. It was different to my normal days because I’d been given a bath, someone brushed my hair and put pretty clips on each side, I had a new dress and I’d been given a dolly, my very own dolly. I liked her yellow shiny hair and I pretended my hair was gold too and it was really, really long down my back so I could sit on it with my bottom. That made me giggle.
There were lots of people, ladies who kept smiling at me and a man with a really big book that he kept looking at and reading out bits. I don’t know what the words were about, I don’t think it was a story for me. Then one lady, in a pretty blue skirt, brought out a cake.
I’d seen lots of cakes before, but I’d never had any. I thought maybe it would make me poorly, like the time I ate sausages I found behind the bin when I was hungry. But the cake didn’t make me poorly.
It looked like a jam sandwich with snow on the top. I like snow. I like my footprints going crunch and leaving a shoe shape on the white floor. I like snow, though it once made me really cold and then I had to go to hospital. The nurse said I needed to wear a coat, but I told her I didn't have a coat. There were lots of noises and people I didn't know. I was scared in hospital.
But the lady with the pretty blue skirt didn’t scare me, she cut the cake with a great big knife and put the pieces onto little tissues with pink flowers on. Everyone got a bit and then she gave one to me. Yes, me. I remember the room went quiet, everyone had stopped talking and they were looking at me. I don’t know why, I was just sitting looking at my bit of cake on the pink flowery tissue. I know I can sometimes be a bit noisy, but this was my first ever bit of cake and I think I just got a little too excited. But that’s ok really, everyone loves cake and I think everyone gets excited about it too.
Everything was different after the cake day. I got a new mummy in a new house and I got my own bed in my very own bedroom. I’d never had that before, my own bed. It had soft squishy pillows and a snugly blanket with pink squares on. There was a little lamp next to my bed and the lamp had a picture of a cat and a dog on it. They looked very happy and that made me even happier. I liked it in this new house with my new mummy.
I don’t really know what happened to my old mummy. Sometimes I think about her and wonder why she didn’t want me to stay with her. But then I get sad and then I get cross and shout. Once I threw a toy car at my bedroom window and it broke the window. Then I was really scared and my new mummy had to get the man and lady from the house next door to help her hold me. They weren’t trying to hurt me, I know that. It’s just that sometimes I forget what I am doing and I get confused and frightened. I think I sometimes hurt people, but I don’t mean to, and sometimes I hurt myself.
Then Annie came to live with us. I liked Annie, she smelt of flowers and she would take me to the park or to the library. She had her own little bedroom right next to mine and she would help my new mummy with the cooking and if mummy was tired she would sit with me at night.
I find it hard to sleep, bad things happen when I close my eyes. I remember my old mummy screaming and she hurt my arm. It hurt so much that only the hospital could make it better. If I rub my arm I can feel a funny bump, I don’t remember if it has always been there.
Annie used to bring back books from the library and we would sit and look at them. Pictures of pretty fairies and princesses; puppies and kittens playing; boys and girls wearing wellies; and letters and numbers. I liked numbers, I could look at numbers all day and they made me feel happy. I could count the numbers really quickly and that made my new mummy smile. Annie said I was a clever girl.
Then one day, Annie wasn’t there any more. Her room was empty and my new mummy seemed sad. I don’t know where Annie went. We had been to the park and played eye spy, then a ball hit me and it made me shout and I got angry. I remember Annie put her arms round me, but I was really angry and Annie fell over and didn’t get up for a while. There was so much noise and so many people shouting and running over. I wanted Annie to get up. Two policeman came to help me and I knew I shouldn’t be scared. They took me to their car and drove me home.
I haven't ever seen Annie again. I miss Annie."