The Birthday Gift: A Short Story for Halloween

Oct 6, 2018 | 2018 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Terrific Tales

by Kathleen Delaney

Enjoy this never before published mystery short story. We will be publishing several mystery short stories this month that will either have a Halloween setting or theme, or just be really dark and creepy like this one, which is a perfect fit for Halloween reading!

I think I have hated her since the day she was born. No one suspects. I’m good at hiding things, but nothing will ever make me stop hating her.

I’m watching her now, as I have for twelve of my twenty years, listening to her laugh, seeing the careless toss of her hair, watching her pretend to play with Lynette, my Lynette. Yes, mine. They gave her to me when she was born, my mother and father. This is your baby sister, they told me, putting the tiny pink and white thing in my arms, yours, your sister. kids playing

Then Maude, my aunt, came and snatched her away, saying, “Marie, what are you thinking, letting an eight-year-old hold that baby?” I hate her, too.

But she was mine, and I did hold her while everyone admired her, smiled at her, said how lovely she was, just like a princess, and I got to smile, too. Just like a princess and she was mine, my sister.

Then, only a week later, Maude, my aunt,
flushed with pride, came and laid another baby, Marguerite, down beside Lynette. How wonderful everyone said, two beautiful little girls, cousins, living so close, growing up together. And they admired her, smiled at her and called her lovely, like a princess. But she was not.

Poor Cassie, they said, no cousin to grow up with, no one to play with, but what they really meant, what they always mean is poor plain Cassie, Cassie who has no friends. I don’t mind, for Lynette is beautiful and she will be with me always. She is my sister, mine.

I watch them, the two of them, sitting on the lawn, bathed in light, surrounded by dolls. Lynette is still pink and white, she is daffodils and rainbows, she is spring. Marguerite is gold and red, she is roses and fireflies, she is summer. I am the color of dust, I am invisible. I am winter.

What are they saying, I wonder, on this day of their birthday party, for the dolls lay quietly under the oak tree, ignored. What ideas is Marguerite putting into my beautiful Lynette’s head, Marguerite who is starting to grow up, to talk of unspeakable things like bras and boyfriends, to think about entering the grown-ups’ world. She wants to take Lynette with her. But she will not.dolls

I have spent the morning baking, as I have done before on this day chosen to celebrate two births, an artificial day, not the real birthday of either. I have celebrated Lynette’s real day with her, just the two of us, as it should be, giving her the small locket she wears now, making her a special cake, but not as special as the one I made this morning.

Cassie bakes so well, everyone says, eager to find something nice to say to me. Yes, my mother replies, she learned while she was away, and I nod, away, at that school, that special school where I was sent when, just once, my hate spilled over, when I lost control. The school where they gave me medicine, where Lynette could not visit, where my mother cried when she came, where I will never return.

Now, for each holiday I make the cakes and always I make a tiny, layered cake for each girl, frosted in lemon for Lynette, in chocolate for Marguerite. Such a lot of work, the relatives exclaim, Cassie is so good, so loving to her sister and her cousin. To my sister, yes. To my cousin?cake

Maude, my aunt, watches me and talks to my mother when she thinks I can’t hear. “Marie,” she says, “I think you should send Cassie back, I think she needs to go back.” But my mother shakes her head and her voice gets strong. “No, she’s fine, she really is,” she insists, and I smile to myself for I am fine, and after today, I will be better.

It is afternoon, and everything has happened as I knew it would. The relatives have all come, presents have been opened, and the cakes are brought out, the special, small cakes put in front of each girl, each bearing one candle, the twelve candles on the large, carefully decorated large cake burning fiercely. No one comments when I leave the room, no one comments about anything I do anymore, my mother won’t let them, and now I need to be alone. This is going to be a special moment for which I have been waiting a long time, savoring it in my imagination. I am afraid this time I will not be able to keep the triumph, the joy from showing on my face, so I will sit in here, in my room, waiting for it to begin, hugging my satisfaction to myself, laughing to myself as I think how easy it has all been and how good life will be for us now.

I hear sounds, screams from downstairs, the rattle of panic. Someone is yelling into the phone and now, in the distance, sirens sound. Soon, new voices, new footsteps, there is crying, sobbing. It is time for me to go down.

My mother and my aunt hold each other, crying, watching strange men wheel a metal cart out our front door, a cart that carries a small, still figure covered by a sheet. They turn now, both of them, to look at me, the expressions on their faces identical, expressions I have never seen before.

What is it, why do they look at me this way, why has the room become so still and what is this? Someone is standing before me, eyes are looking into mine, eyes filled with confusion and fear, trembling hands reach out to me, hands that hold a small cake, a small cake with lemon frosting. I look down and my heart feels the hand of fear tighten around it, closing tighter, tighter. The cake is thrust into my hands, and I take it although I can no longer see, my eyes refuse this vision, but my ears will not shut out the words.

“We traded,” Marguerite says.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast!

Kathleen Delaney is the author of both the Ellen McKenzie real estate mysteries and the Mary McGill canine mysteries. The latest, Blood Red White and Blue was a finalist for best canine fiction for 2018 in the Dog Writers of America annual writing contest. The 4th Mary McGill mystery is due out spring or 2019.
A native of California, Kathleen now lives in Georgia with her 2 small dogs and a demanding cat.


  1. I liked it, thanks!

  2. What a great short story. Thanks for sharing it.


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