“Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to Anabel. Happy birthday to me.”
A little girl is sat on the floor, looking at a small mound of dust with a bright pink candle sticking awkwardly out of the top. She takes a deep breath, and then air flies from her lips and rushes over the little pile of filth. With a clatter, the candle falls and rolls across the dirty wooden floor. She smiles and claps her hands, before awkwardly getting up and tottering over to it.
“I am five,” she whispers to the candle, the whisper actually as loud as if she were speaking normally. “I am five today, Mr. Pink. Five!”
Anabel draws out the last word, emphasising it as she smiles with glee. The little girl smoothes out her nightie and toddles over to her dark blue sleeping bag. The room is dim and grotty, with a lamp in the corner. She kneels down, casting glances at the darker corners of the room, and then flicks the switch of the lamp on and off a few times. Nothing. Anabel huffs, puffing out her rosy cheeks and pouting her pink lips. Her blue eyes flick over to the corner again, and for a moment, they grow wide as a moan and a shuffle sound from downstairs. The little girl holds her grubby hands to her ears and shakes her head.
“No no no no.” Her tiny fingers pull at her dark blonde hair. “No no no no no. Go away sounds. Go away.”
She looks up at the window, a single, unwashed pane of glass, letting light in just where she is sat. Anabel smiles, revealing a set of baby teeth, the front ones absent. “It’s light, Mr. Pink. Don’t be scared. It’s OK, shhh…”
She clumsily pets the candle on its top, and then puts it inside the sleeping bag, next to a worn, fraying teddy. “You stay with Tedbear. Tedbear will look after you. I need to get ready for my party.”
Anabel pushes herself to her feet and wanders over to a box. There are other boxes inside the room, full of tinned and dried food, and countless bottles of water. Most of the dried food has been opened and eaten. The tinned food is untouched. A broken tin opener lies on the other side of the room, a dent in the floor next to it. Not far from it, there is a plastic bucket full of faeces. She walks past all these things and instead rummages through a box labelled ‘Old Clothes.’ After a few moments, she pulls out a dusty, moth eaten dress. Anabel’s face lights up with joy, and she runs back to her companions.
“What do you think, Mr. Pink? Tedbear?”
Anabel stands and looks at them for a moment, before nodding and smiling. “Me, too!”
She strips off her stained nightie and drops it on top of a pink princess calendar next to her sleeping bag. There are big, wobbly X’s in crayon on each day, with a bright green circle and a smiley face on the last marked date. She stares at her navel as her stomach rumbles, and licks her lips as she looks at the tin food. The she turned back to her clothes. Standing on one leg, Anabel steps into the maroon velvet dress, occasionally running her fingers over the yellowed white lace and sewn on buttons, before giggling and jumping up and down on the spot. A low moan sounds underneath, and Anabel scowls and pulls her tongue at the floorboards, before grasping for the zip and trying to pull it up. She manages it eventually, and then skips over to another box labelled ‘Anabel’s Toys.’ The little girl roots through, throwing out toy after toy, ignoring the groans and bangs from below, and then stands up straight, her face aghast.
“Tedbear, it’s not there!” she cries. She runs over to the teddy and the candle and picks them both up, hugging them fiercely. “Not there! How can I have a party with no tea set! I want my tea set!”
Anabel plonks herself down onto the sleeping bag and folds her arms. She slowly looks around the room, glaring at the finished colouring book, the toys scattered everywhere, and the story books in a jumbled heap by the trap door. With a sigh, she lifts the teddy to her face height.
“Tedbear, mummy said to stay here. Daddy was sick and I had to stay here until she came back. She said she would be here before my birthday and we would have a party! She promised! She’s not here! Why is she not here, Tedbear? I can’t have a party without my tea set!”
Anabel stares at trap door, chewing her lip.”Maybe that’s the noises, Tedbear. Maybe mummy hid my tea set. Maybe it’s a surprise party!”
Anabel drops the teddy and creeps over to the door and looks at it for a long time. Finally, she bends down and fiddles with the mechanism. There is a loud clang, and Anabel pulls her hands away sharply with a squeak as the door suddenly opens and the ladder drops and unfolds. Holding onto the ladder, she edges down into the house, mumbling to herself “Mummy will be happy I held both sides.”
The house is quiet. There is a smeared, red hand print on the nearest door, with the pink ‘Anabel’ sign hanging on it. Anabel blinks at it and then goes inside. There is nothing in here. The room has been picked clean, and all that remains are a few ragged blankets, stained dark by something.
The little girl checks the rest of the upstairs rooms, and then returns to the landing. A large rat sits in the corner, nibbling on a strange, grey substance. It looks like meat. Anabel bites her lip, clearly shaking, and quickly runs past it, scaring it away. Her hands cling tightly to the banister as her legs stretch downwards for each step, and she makes her way downstairs.
The lounge is ransacked. Anabel reaches out and touches a wet, pink, gooey substance on the floor, and then pulls a face, before wiping her hand on the sofa. It has more stains on it, as well as rips and tears. “Where is mummy? I want my tea set.”
Anabel pads towards the kitchen. “Mummy? Daddy? Can I have my party now? Is daddy better? Mummy? Do you know where my tea set is? Mummy?”
She pushes open the door, and then stops dead. There, slumped against the units, is a woman. She is pale and gaunt, her eyes blank and staring, her mouth hanging open in a silent scream. The woman holds one hand to her side, a dark stain on her jumper beneath her palm. Her left hand rests against the floor, loosely holding a hammer. Just behind the table, there is a man. Only his feet are visible, one bare, the other with a dirty, brown slipper hanging off.
“Mummy?” Anabel whimpers. “Daddy?”
The woman groans, and her eyes slide towards the girl. Without taking her eyes off the child, she drags herself to her feet, moaning and growling. Insects crawl out of her nose, mouth, and clothes as her movement disturbs them. The hammer falls to the kitchen floor with a heavy clunk, and the woman begins to move over to the girl.
“Mummy!” Anabel squeals with delight, and runs over with her arms outstretched.
mound, birthday, navel
I was hesitant to write about a child, but I felt I wanted to challenge myself in being able to write tastefully and respectfully. I hope I have achieved that. I also wanted to try out a new 2nd person style of writing, so forgive me if the writing isn’t its usual standard.