“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.


A Day in the Life of

My other, shorter, university assignment.

A Day in the Life of

Some girls, you never forget. You know the kind: your greatest love, the one that broke your heart or changed your life forever. This girl was different. I met her and never saw her again. And she didn’t speak to me, didn’t even look my way, not once. But I’ll always remember her face.

It was a warm, sunny morning, and the back carriage, where I’d acquired a seat, was nearly empty. There had been no one that day who had caught my attention, and as the train ground to a screeching halt, I sighed impatiently. Would anyone of interest ever join this journey? That was when she stepped aboard.

The necklace. It was the daisy necklace I saw first, my eyes immediately drawn to the glimmering metal flower hanging from its silver chain. Then I looked up and saw her features, framed by endless waves of light brown hair. I was entranced by her. She was the one. My gaze never left her as I leaned back in the worn train seats and studied her intently. Her name, I decided, was Daisy — and oh, how it suited her. She was beautiful, but gently so. Her features were soft and delicate; her clothes light and airy, and she wore a thick, beige scarf around her slender neck.

Daisy sat down opposite me at the train table. My heart skittered, and for a moment, I thought she might look up at me. The scenario flashed through my head, and I allowed myself to slip into the daydream. She would glance up at me, notice me staring, and smile. ‘What is your name?’ she would ask, and I would tell her. ‘My name is Daisy,’ would be her reply. I would say that it fitted her perfectly. She would smile and call me a charmer, leaning forward and batting those…those…

It occurred to me that I didn’t know the colour of her eyes. Glancing back at her, I watched her for a moment while she stared out of the window. The light shone through the gaps in the trees as the train rattled on through the country, and lit up the colour of her irises so that they were plain to see. Hazel, and a pretty shade of hazel at that. As I was admiring them, though, I couldn’t help but notice the deep shadows under her eyes. As if on cue, she stifled a yawn, and then winced as the sun blazed through the window again. After a slight pause, she began to unwrap the scarf from around her neck, and I spotted her fingernails. They were broken and sore.

The scarf came loose and slipped off her neck. Almost immediately, she jumped and scrambled for the length of material, scooping it up and wrapping it back around her frantically. But while she didn’t pay any attention to me, I saw what she had momentarily forgotten: long, purple marks.

My mind was racing now. I flicked my gaze back towards her, but any trace of the angry blemishes were now gone. I took a few deep breaths. Perhaps I had just imagined it. After all, I didn’t get a clear view, did I? But in the process of convincing myself, I was unable to look at her. A strange sensation burned in my stomach, but I couldn’t place it. It begged me to watch her, to observe. ‘Look at her!’ my mind screamed. So I did.

Daisy was no longer there. There was someone in her place. It looked like Daisy, but it was not my Daisy. Her skin, which had seemed so perfect, had blotches of heavily applied makeup. It was meant to hide the purple blossoms that dotted her face, but instead enhanced them. The dainty nose was crooked, and that shapely mouth was marred by a half healed split in the middle of the bottom lip. The last thing I noticed, before I forced myself to turn away, was a tell-tale smear of blood on the hem of her shirt. It was a shadow of the girl who had first got on the train, stealing her from me and leaving a sad, broken form in her place.

I stared down at the grey, plastic table, my insides twisting. If I were to look again, she would catch my eye and look back…and she would know. She would know me, as I knew her.

A screech filled the air, and the train began to slow. The girl stood up, and my breathing began to steady. I was escaping her presence. She was releasing me.

The train stopped, and the doors opened with a mechanical clunk. A small band of people stepped off the train, while I continued to distract myself from watching her leave. I knew if I looked back, I would suffer.

“Claire! I’m so glad you’re home.”

My will broke, and I turned to the window. There she was, with another man. He held a bunch of flowers in one hand, an extravagant arrangement, while the other was clamped down tightly on her arm. I felt my heart tighten, just watching her with him. Daisy was dead. Claire, the girl I thought I had known, was all that was left.

The doors shut with a bang, making me jump. As the train began to flee from the station, I looked back to Claire one last time.  I pressed myself against the window, my voice caught in my throat. My fingers dug into the glass as my heavy breath misted the window. The train began to pick up pace as the man led her towards a nearby car with a jerk. Trees started to obscure the view as they reached the vehicle, him opening the car door while maintain his hold on her. As he helped her in, the train reached a curve.