Tender Short Story From Our Archives |Here’s To You

Birthday cake and title

Her special day is one of celebration and joy, but one person can’t be forgotten


The whole of today has been amazing. Spoilt rotten has nothing on what I’ve been…iPhone 7 from Mum and Dad, Kindle Paperwhite from my boyfriend Steve, CDs, DVDs, make-up and smellies from family and mates. I seem to have drifted through today, heading towards the “meal out” in the evening.

My parents chose an Italian in town – my all-time favourite. Kat, my BFF, helps me find the right gear to wear. It’s been rush, rush, rush, but one thought has remained with me. I’ve remembered him all through the day, as I always do on my birthday. I know it’s the same for Mum and Dad.

My hair is the sort that frizzes when rain comes on the telly, so a dry night is heaven-sent. I climb out of Steve’s sporty Mazda and hold his hand as we walk up the road to the restaurant. It’s in darkness and looks a bit odd, but the lights go up as I step inside and a deafening cheer reverberates around
the walls.

I feel like Angelina Jolie as the cameras flash

I knew, of course, that they were all here waiting, and I knew, too, that there would be fifty or so guests, but the preparation doesn’t stop the flush of embarrassment creeping up over my neckline and into my cheeks. It’s humbling to think that so many friends and family have come to celebrate my twenty-first birthday. Not that my mates need much encouragement. They’d organise a night out to celebrate someone’s dog coming of age.

Of course, the birthday song has to come next. I suffer both versions, clean and otherwise, then feel like Angelina Jolie as the cameras flash, one after the other. My name bobs on a sea of voices and I don’t know which way to turn first.

Most of them think this is a surprise party, but my brainless fifteen-year-old cousin blabbed a couple of weeks ago. To be fair, I’m amazed he kept it secret as long as he did.

I’ve made it to twenty-one despite all the disasters

Eventually, after all the chaos, everyone gets back to their tables and it turns out that they’ve all chosen their courses in advance. I feel a bit on the back foot, but find out that Mum’s ordered for me. As I watch the staff bring out trays of prawn cocktails, toast and pâté, and garlic mushrooms, I guess which starter will end up in front of me. Mum knows me inside out.

The noise level lowers as everyone starts to eat. The mains come out after a pause, giving me time to circulate a little, stopping at tables, chatting to family who’ve come a long way.

After the sweet, it’s time for the cake and I laugh at the pink fish-shaped cake.People are always telling me to eat more fish due to a dire lack of memory.

And it’s all wonderful, this birthday celebration. I’ve made it to twenty-one, despite so many disasters that could have happened and illnesses I could have had. But, I wouldn’t be here at all, if it wasn’t for one man. The man I have thought of today.

I light our special candle silently

The cake stuff done, Mum, Dad and I move away privately to the candle they’ve brought along with them. I knew that they would. We’ve had it for thirteen years because it was then that Professor Marwood died, leaving us with not only his memory but the incredible gift of life. I strike a match and light our special candle, silently thanking this man for his dedication in helping my parents conceive. It took many years, many tears of disappointment, but then there was me and my glass beginnings in a Petri dish.

Mum’s hand tightens in mine as we watch the wick flicker with life. Dad lifts a glass of wine and toasts the man who carried on helping them long after most would have admitted defeat. I see the glistening in Mum’s eyes and we share a quick hug. Three of us. Our little family.

We blow out the candle together. Smoke rises and soon the flame is a distant memory.

Unlike myself, who is here to stay.


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Karen Byrom

My coffee mug says "professional bookworm" which sums me up really! As commissioning fiction editor on the magazine, I love sharing my reading experience of the latest books, debut authors and more with you all, and would like to hear from you about your favourite books and authors! Email me kbyrom@dctmedia.co.uk