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Birthdays


Piper Seelie
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Love and Betrayal

Birthdays


It was her birthday. The ship's club was closed now, it was dim and empty. Marianette, the young human bartender, leaned her hip against the bar where a row of glasses stood, each unique in both style and contents. Looking over them, she traced her finger across the rim of each, her face clouded as she sunk deep into her thoughts.


She picked up a stemmed snifter of wine, swirling it gently, watching the red liquid beat against the fragile glass. Red like lipstick and blood. Red like her mother’s hair. She studied the wine, mesmerized by the motion. For the most part, Marianette kept her memories locked in a tight box in her mind. A strong, solid box that she only opened once a year. She made a tradidition to let herself feel and wonder and remember for this one night. Then she would lock it away and forget for another year.


Marianette rested her arms on the bar and closed her eyes, letting the memories lap over her mind like splashing wine.


It was her birthday. Her blond hair hung down her back in unwashed, tangled knots. Marianette tried to smooth out her wrinkled dress as she approached the large door. She pressed the worn door panel, and it opened with a choking hiss. Mama sat at her vanity, painting her lips with deep red color. She spotted the child and turned, beckoning with a slender hand. Marianette loved her mother, that distant ethereal creature, always sitting in her bedroom. The child approached and the mother bent over her, bloodshot eyes scanning the scrawny form.


“Hello, baby. I've missed you.” Her voice croaked through scarred lungs. “It’s your birthday right?”


“Yes, Mama. Madam said so. She said I could come see you today.” Marianette clung to the trembling hands. She thought her mother was beautiful. Her young eyes didn’t see the desperation in her mother’s eyes or the way they kept glancing towards the door.


“Yes, yes, five years old. I remember the day... " She trailed off, her eyes far away, then focused again. "Oh, but I have a gift for you.” She reached up and unclasped her necklace. Marianette recognized it immediately. Her mother never took it off, a silver chain with a conch shell pendant. Mama held it up, watching it spin for a moment.


“You know, my mother used to say you could hear the whole ocean in a shell." Her eyes and voice trailed away again. "I’ve never seen the ocean. I’ve heard it’s limitless.”


Marianette didn’t understand the words, but her heart swelled with joy as her mother put the necklace around her small neck. The pendant hung almost to her belly, and her small hands cradled it gently. Mama touched her own throat, already missing the feel of her treasure.


“You keep that, child. It means freedom, and I hope that you will have that. I never have...” Her eyes drifted off to stare at the wall. Marianette heard a sound and turned to see a large woman with green skin and black hair standing behind her. “Alright, Natla. I'm ready.”


Marianette cried out as the woman came and picked her up. She reached for Mama, but Mama had turned back to the mirror. As Natla took her, screaming from the room, she saw her mother lift her hand and touch her red lips as tears coursed down her face.


It was her birthday. Marianette squeezed her eyes tight, then opened them again to see the ship’s club surrounding her. The memory faded away slowly, but her mother's face stared back at her from the mirror behind the bar. She raised her glass and called out a toast to her ghosts.


“To you, Mama. I hope you're free now.” She tossed back the wine and threw the glass against the wall, shattering it. The pain in her heart eased a little with the sound.


Turning back to the bar, she considered the next drink. A shot glass full of amber whiskey. She picked it up and stared into it, letting more memories flood her mind.


It was her birthday. Twin moons shone through the window as they young girl wrapped a silk robe tightly around herself. The door behind her opened and the client left without a word. Marianette sat down at her computer and scrolled idly through her personal messages. She brushed her long hair slowly, letting it flow down her back. A soft knock at the door caught her attention, and Marianette hurried to open it. The man kissed her roughly and then sat on the bed, patting his knee for her to sit.


"Dreven! Where have you been? Did I tell you it's my birthday?" She grinned at him, but he seemed distracted. He kissed her again and she soaked him in. He was her drug, her life. He made her feel alive. She declared her love for him repeatedly and pretended not to notice that he never responded.


Later, as he tied his shoelaces, she spoke to him in hushed tones. “So, have you talked to Natla yet? If she doesn’t agree to let you buy me, I’ll run away with you! We can be together!”


“Baby, I don’t think we can. The Syndicate can find you anywhere. And I don’t have the money to buy you. Natla says you’re worth a fortune. Can’t we just leave things as they are?”


Marianette looked at her hands and murmered softly. "I-I have to leave. And it has to be now, because...I think I'm pregnant.”


Dreven stood sharply, and glared at her. “What? I thought you were taking pills. Natla can't have her precious little trinket going all mommy on her. You can't be seriously thinking about having this...baby?" He sneered the word as if it were dirty.


Marianette felt cut by his words. “I-I-I don’t k-know what happened. I think I must have thrown up my pills when I was so sick last month. I haven’t told anyone yet, but I'm not getting rid of it. That's why I have to leave now. We’re going to be free!”


“You are a slave, Marianette. Just accept that. You're good at what you do, and they're not going to let you go. You’ll never be free. Get rid of it or I’m gone.” He stormed out without another look at her. She sat on her bed staring after him, staring at the wasteland of her future. Was there really no hope of freedom?


It was her birthday. Tears stung her eyes as Marianette tossed the drink back. The amber liquid burned her throat as she had burned for him. As he had burned her heart. She looked at her empty glass and sent it flying into the wall after the first one. The shattered pieces glittered on the floor, ready to cut, to draw blood.


“That’s to you, Dreven. May you rot in hell.”


She slowly turned back to the bar. The third and last glass stood on the table. This one harder than either of the others, but Marianette forced herself to let the memories come. This was the reason she made herself remember, why she couldn't ever let the past go completely. Marianette touched the flute gently, raised it up to the light. The light champagne bubbled and sparkled like stars. Her eyes burned with tears, and she let them fall. This one day she could cry. It was her birthday.


It was her birth day. Her first birth day, and the only birthday Marianette would ever see. The nurse placed the tiny infant on her sweat-soaked chest, and he blinding pain faded away as she stared at the perfect little girl in her arms. Tiny lips tried to suckle, and blue eyes blinked in wonder at the lights. A tiny cry slpit the silence, but Marianette felt peace for the first time in her young life.


A whimper crossed the infant’s face and Marianette nursed her. She touched the downy head reverently, and counted each perfect toe. She kissed each tiny finger. She whispered a prayer and crooned a lullaby. A lifetime of love was poured into a tiny sliver of time.


The nurse came back, and looked at the new mother with pity. Then she held out her arms.


“It’s time. Give her to me.”


It was the most agonizing choice in her life, but slowly, Marianette wrapped the blanket around her perfect baby girl and gave her away.


“I have something I want her to have. Can she keep it?” The nurse nodded, and Marianette took off her shell necklace and tucked it into the blanket. The nurse smiled gently, filled with compassion.


“Do you want to give her a name?”


Marianette looked up, startled. “Can I?” At the nod, Marianette stood painfully to stare into the tiny face, sleeping now. “Then her name is Lottie." She looked back at the nurse. "It means free.” The nurse nodded and left, taking the young girl's hear away with her. The door slid shut, Marianette crumpled to the floor, her strings cut. Her heart tore into shreds, and tears streamed silently down her face. It had cost her soul and her future, but her child was free.


It was her birthday. Marianette raised her last glass and toasted the little girl who lived somewhere far away. “To you, Lottie. My perfect baby girl.” Marianette drank the champagne slowly, letting it sparkle against her tongue. When it was empty, she set it down on the bar. Later she would wash it and put it in its special box. This one never got shattered. It was her reminder of the one thing she never truly forgot.


The computer chirped the hour and Marianette shook herself mentally. She picked up a broom to clean up the mess she’d made drinking to long lost love. It was her birthday, but it was almost over. The next day would come soon, with its own work and duties. The ship’s crew liked to get coffee early, so she would need to be ready.


It was her birthday. 21 years old now, with a bright future ahead of her. Working a nice bar on a nicer Federation ship, it was a good setup.


“At least I’m free.” She lied.




By


Lt Talia Kaji

Ship's Counselor

USS Victory

Edited by T.C.Kaji
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