Flash Fiction: Better than Birthdays (682 words)

Iddi rolled over, pulling the blankets closer to her chin. Her toes poked out the other side. For a long moment, she argued with the cold morning air. It wasn’t really that cold. It wasn’t really morning. If she dragged her knees to her chest, and cuddled harder into the mattress, she could sleep another hour. She didn’t want to wake up enough to move, even that much. She denied she was awake enough to be having the argument.

There was someone downstairs, moving slow and almost silent, maybe not really awake themselves. She could smell them cooking on the stove, hear the house creak with the heat, though she couldn’t feel it yet.

Iddi opened her eyes in a flash. The stove. Someone had put wood in the stove. She jumped off the bed, keeping her blanket around her shoulders, and dashed down the stairs. At the bottom, she swung around the end of the railing, rushing into the warmth rolling out the iron pot-belly.

On top of the stove, bacon crackled in the pan, just starting to buck up off the heat. Bread buns snuggled in cloths beneath the stove. There were plates stacked on the table, and six eggs hugged the cracks between the table boards so they wouldn’t roll, waiting to be cooked. Iddi looked at it, mouth falling open. It was a rich breakfast, and she knew none of that food had been in the house when she went to bed the night before.

This was better than her birthday. This was better than her brother’s birthday, or her parent’s anniversary, or festival. And this was the third day in a row, waking to a full table, and her parents finding it with eyes just as wide as hers.

But Iddi was up first this morning. Nothing was finished. She could catch them at it, she was sure. Iddi spun to a stop.

And she caught the girl in the window. She was older than Iddi, sixteen or seventeen, with dark curly hair pulled over one shoulder and a blue scarf tied around her head. She had her booted feet on the window ledge, and her hands braced on either side. The breeze outside played with the twin tails of her scarf.

“Hello,” Iddi said, and the word felt silly in her mouth, but she was grinning too much to care.

The girl grinned back. “Hello,” she said. “You’re up early. Got someplace to be?”

Iddi shook her head.

The girl nodded. “So… just curious then…”

Iddi tried to swallow a breath, just to keep it in her chest. “Where did you come from?”

The girl looked as if she was weighing the best way to deliver her answer. She took one hand off the window frame and pointed upward.

“Heaven?” Iddi asked.

The girl almost laughed, looked a little wishful. “Your attic.”

Iddi blinked. “What were you doing…”

“I just needed some place t’sleep,” the girl said. “My place got a little busted up, in that way that can’t be fixed.”

“Why…” Iddi tried again.

“No reason. It was just a nice attic. An’ I needed a safe place for a couple nights,” the girl told her. “Thought I could pay for the nights with breakfast.”

“Are you coming back tonight?” Iddi asked.

The girl hesitated. “What are you gonna tell your Ma an’ Da when they wake up this morning?”

Iddi blinked again. She looked over the bacon and the eggs. She breathed in deep to capture the smell of them. “There’s a girl hiding in the attic, with a chicken, and a pig.”

The girl laughed, shoulders shaking in the window frame. “Good for you.” Then she shook her head. “No. I won’t be back.”

And she dropped out the window. Iddi heard her hit the hard-packed street, then nothing. Iddi rushed to the window, and she was already gone, disappeared into air like a ghost, or an angel.

Iddi paused with her hands on the window ledge, searching up and down the street, trying to decide what she would actually say when Ma woke up.

My friend, Kate, challenged me to write a short story with bacon in it. I like bacon. :)

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