Today is chaos. Planning a child’s birthday is harder than flying a man to the moon, in my opinion. So much can go wrong and probably will, but as a mother, I will try and pull off a great birthday party.

Being a single parent, working full time, and raising a child has its difficulties, and today is one of them. Today is the only day I’ve had to prepare, which is horrible because my daughter’s birthday is tomorrow. Tomorrow!

The first thing is buying all the necessary supplies from the shops. I park my car at the Westfield parking lot in Shepherds Bush and scamper out, my heels tapping on the cement floor as I hurry to an entrance of the mall. As I scurry on through a big poster of a little girl’s face greets me on a wall. She is around my daughter’s age with big blue eyes and brown hair. Her name is Lucy. At the bottom of the poster, it reads MISSING. That’s the second girl this year, but the police have yet to find out who is behind all of it. Scary thought of my little Mia kidnapped! I giggle at the thought. Like to see them try.

I walk up the stairs and enter M&S food—none of that cheap crap you find in other grocery stores. M&S is for classy people, and Mia deserves a classy birthday. I quickly grab a trolley and venture down the aisles eyeing anything that looks colourful and preferably sweet. Soon enough my trolley is packed with sweets of all kinds along with the usual supplies of napkins, paper plates and plastic utensils to avoid a long and dreary cleanup afterwards. Along with the usual supplies, I got a couple of birthday banners to string up on the walls. Confetti poppers, and other assorted birthday nick-knacks kids love so much.  

‘Isabella?’ I hear a voice from behind me as I drop a pack of extra-strong sleeping tablets into my trolley. I turn around.

‘Isabella, is that you?’

‘Charlotte, what a surprise seeing you here,’ I say, pulling a smile as best as I could. Charlotte is an old friend, and her daughter is a friend of Mia’s from school. I glance over her Mummy attire: high-waisted jeans, a tucked-in white t-shirt, and semi-brushed brown hair—presentable as a mother, but not as someone in control. ‘How is dear Liv doing?’

Charlotte’s eyes light up. ‘She is doing great.’ Charlotte steps aside and brings a little girl with big brown eyes, and shoulder-length hair in front of her. The little girl is wearing a cute little pink dress with white lace strewn across the collar.

‘Hey there, Liv. You alright?’ I say, bending over to face her. She stares back at me and then turns around to hide her face in her mothers tatty and worn-out jeans.

Charlotte giggles. ‘She’s been a bit shy recently.’

‘Oh, I can imagine. What with all her friends disappearing from school,’ I frown.

Charlotte looks taken aback. Like I’ve spoken about something so taboo it will explode with the slightest mention. Charlotte swallows. ‘Yes, it has taken a toll on us all. Have you spoken to Cecilia at all?’

Cecilia’s daughter was kidnapped a week ago by a farmer’s market nearby. Her daughter, Lucy, is the one I saw on the poster walking into the mall earlier on. The poor woman is distraught and beside herself. ‘No, I haven’t. Poor thing. I thought giving her some time alone would be best.’

Charlotte doesn’t seem to like this response and her eyes narrow. ‘She needs her friends, Julia,’ Charlotte snaps. ‘It wouldn’t hurt to check in on her.’

‘Maybe, you’re right,’ Is all I can say, straining to pull another smile. I look over at little Liv, glancing at me every few seconds before turning away. ‘Is Liv coming to Mia’s party tomorrow?’

     ‘Unfortunately, not. Liv has a dentist appointment.’ Charlotte smiles—it’s a dig at Mia and me.

     ‘That’s too bad. Mia will miss her.’

     ‘They will see each other on Monday at school.’

     ‘Indeed, they will,’ I say. ‘Anyway, best, be off. Take care now.’ I turn my trolley around and head to the alcohol aisle, grabbing two bottles of Pinotage red wine—an adult has to enjoy themselves at a birthday party, too.

     I quickly grab a big supply of syringes and pay for everything at the self-checkout counters. I don’t like wasting my time with slow cashiers. As I stroll out of M&S, I see Liv sipping on a juice with her mother, Charlotte, at the café. I feel annoyed and disgruntled as I look at them both. A dentist appointment instead of coming to my little Mia’s birthday party. She must be lying. Mia needs her friends and only the best birthdays have friends around. How could she do this to poor, innocent, sweet Mia! My hands tighten around the handles of my trolley as my blood boils. I gently let go of the trolley handles and search my handbag for my phone, but my fingers find something small and cylinder-shaped: eye drops. An idea comes to me, and I rush off to the bakery to grab two brownies—one with nuts—before I leave the store.   

     I pack everything in the boot of the car and sit in the front seat; pull down the sun-visor and look at myself in the little mirror. I need to prepare myself for this, but every time the darkness creeps up through my body and becomes constricting. ‘No, not today,’ I say to myself. ‘but how dare she.’ I cry for a couple of minutes, but then stop and wipe my eyes. It only takes a moment of weakness for the world to crumble; I can’t let it happen—not the day before my little girl’s birthday. She has to have the best, and as her mother, I will provide … I will!

     ‘Great … there goes my mascara.’ I re-apply my makeup and grab a small, brown bottle, and a cloth from the cubby hole and place it in my handbag. I let out a big breath and look at myself in the sun-visor mirror. I grip onto the wheel of the car so tight I feel my fingers might snap. I slowly close my eyes, take a deep breath and scream. I scream it all out. Everything that has happened these past months build up and come out of the scream—I’m starting fresh. I’m ready.

     I pull out a syringe and attach a needle to it. I poke the needle into the eye drops and slowly withdraw just enough liquid before pulling it out and inserting it into the nut brownie.

I get out of the car and head back to M&S. I make sure Charlotte and Liv don’t see me walking in as the café is right next to the entrance. I sneak past the café and try to get the attention of a tall young man who looks like the waiter. He catches my eye, and I usher him over, making sure Charlotte and Liv don’t notice the waiter or me.

     ‘Yes, miss. Can I help you,’ the waiter says, perplexed.

     ‘Do you see that little girl there with her mother?’ I point them out. Liv is smiling and sipping at her juice.

     ‘Yes, Miss.’

     ‘Could you give them each one of these brownies.’ I hand him one brownie wrapped in a napkin. ‘This one is for the mother.’ The waiter nods. ‘The mother’s one has nuts in them.’ I hand him one more. ‘This one is for the little girl. Don’t mix them up—the little girl is allergic to nuts … and oh, just tell them it’s from the café. Compliments from the café!’

     I watch as the waiter walks over and places the brownies down in front of Charlotte and Liv. Both girls look surprised but are delighted at their treats. Charlotte picks her up and sinks her teeth into the brownie. I watch as she closes her eyes and munches on the soft ooze of chocolate in the centre of the brownie. Unknowing. Unaware. Unavoidable now. Within minutes Charlotte’s face turns to a shocked look. She says something to Liv and hurries off to the bathroom. Now, is my time. I hop over to the little girl waiting for her mother. She looks concerned, but no afraid. ‘Hello, there, Liv.’ I smile.

     ‘Hello,’ Liv says, softly.

     ‘Your mother is waiting by her car and asked me to fetch you.’ I gesture Liv to grab my hand. Surprisingly, she does. ‘Hurry now. Your mother is not feeling great.’ As quick as I entered the store is as quickly as I leave, but with a friend of Mia’s by my side.

     ‘Where is Mummy,’ Liv says as we enter the car park and head for my car.

     My brain jumps to the brown bottle in my bag and cloth. Not yet. ‘She is sitting in that car, dear.’ I point to my car: a blue BMW.

     ‘That’s not mummies car.’

     ‘I’m taking her home… she is ill, remember?’

     What happens next took less than a few minutes. I get Liv into the front passenger seat and quickly head over to get in as well. Liv sees her mum is not in the car and a worried look pulls at her face.

     ‘She’s not here,’ Liv says, her voice rising. Tears start to form in her eyes.

I rummage through my handbag. ‘There, there, Liv. She is right there.’ I gesture to the back of the car with my head. I dip some of the liquid from the brown bottle onto the cloth and leap for Liv. I cover her mouth with the cloth and hold it tight. ‘There, there… time to sleep.’


     The sun shines through the blinds of my bedroom window, and I stretch out, waking my body for the special day. First thing I do is boil the kettle, add two scoops of a dark roast instant coffee to my cup, and pour the boiling water into my cup. The light nut and burnt caramel perforate the air. I take a deep breath and take the cup of coffee to the basement, down a long hallway. The wooden door to the basement is locked with three large padlocks. I pull out three keys from my pocket and unlock each of them, the clinking sound of each padlock unlocking echoing through the hallway. When I unlock the last lock, a growl broods through the wooden door.  

     ‘Now, now… Mummy is here.’ Drops of the coffee spill from my cup—I try to keep steady.

     I open the wooden door, and a deadness reeks through … darkness fills the air … a coldness swims over.

     ‘Mummy is coming. Can you turn on the lights for me, d-dearest?’ I ask, waiting at the threshold of the door. Soon enough a glow of yellow light appears from a set of stairs leading down to the basement. ‘Thank you… Mummy loves you.’ I take one step at a time down the stairs—each step creaking like a scream of a child. The warmth from the yellow light creeps underneath my skin, but it’s cold in the basement—cold enough to freeze water. I sip on my coffee to keep warm and continue down the stairs.

     ‘Come closer, mummy,’ I hear my little girl say.

     ‘I-I’m c-coming.’

     A wooden chair comes into view and sitting on this chair is a body, a child. The child’s hair is long and blond—Lucy. I reach the bottom and am greeted by another chair and another body of a child—Liv. Both girls have their eyes closed … still alive, but unconscious. Lucy has two small fresh holes in her neck. Mia was hungry this morning. All my doing for my sweet, sweet child. I had no choice.

     The girls are sitting by a small round table with a third chair farthest from me. Another child sits there. My child sits there. Mia looks at me with her black eyes and smiles, baring her sharp teeth with stains of blood on a couple of her fangs. ‘Morning, Mummy.’

     ‘M-morning, my sweet. Happy Birthday,’ I say, tears itching from my eyes.

     ‘Thank you for my presents.’

     ‘Anything for my baby.’ I nervously smile and take another sip of coffee. ‘I’ve got some decorations for your room to put up.’

     Mia smirks and kicks Lucy’s foot from underneath the table.

     I let out a nervous giggle.

     ‘I can’t wait for next year,’ Mia says. ‘I’m only getting hungrier.’

     That’s what worries me, my darling … That’s what worries me, is all I can think.  

August 09, 2019 16:42

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