Birthday

Neil Shurley
Oct 7 · 2 min read

A short story

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Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

She hadn’t told anyone at the office it was her birthday, but somehow here she was, standing over a cake with thirty-seven burning candles while her co-workers sang an awkward, off-key round of “for she’s a jolly good fellow.” What, did they think “Happy Birthday to You” required a royalty payment?

“Thanks everyone,” she said when they’d completed their half-hearted applause. “Thanks.”

They all continued staring at her.

She raised her eyebrows to make her smile appear more sincere.

“The candles,” Tony said.

Oh, of course. “Right, ha, sorry,” she said.

“Make a wish,” Annette piped in, hiding her glance at the wall clock.

“Oh, yes, right,” she said, looking at the nine disinterested faces around her. Who spilled the beans about her birthday? Kevin? Who would even care enough to look up the info, to email HR or try googling her or — it had to be Kevin, that dirtbag, the way he eyed her when she walked to the break room. His smirking stupid face. The nods, the waggling eyebrows, the leering — of course he’d googled her, she was certain now. He’d scoured the internet trying to find pictures from her old vacations and — he’d found her old portfolio somehow, hadn’t he. Then kept looking and looking, trying to find out as much about her as he —

She noticed them all waiting for her to blow out the candles.

She tried to laugh, then closed her eyes, decided to actually make a wish because what the hell. This year had already been an absolute disaster, and she was almost one hundred percent sure now that taking this job had been a huge mistake, and Brad was obviously never coming back, and really good riddance to him anyway. But no one here seemed interesting or and she was certainly not interested — especially not in the leering oatmeal-faced Kevin. And the work itself was just the worst. What was she doing here? How had she gone from photo shoots to drone accountant?

And then she became aware again, even without opening her eyes, she felt the pressure, felt them all staring at her as they waited to scurry back to their dingy cubicles and she thought, well, fine, I’ll make a wish. I’ll make a god damned wish.

So she did.

She opened her eyes to the obvious relief of the rest of the room, then bent forward and blew out the candles, all thirty-seven in one mighty blow. And she smiled knowing she’d at least amused herself.

And Kevin fell over dead.

Whoops.

With thanks to Jessica Brody.

ILLUMINATION-Curated

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Neil Shurley

Written by

Writer. Actor. Musician. Nerd. Thinks too much about Star Trek, Doctor Who, ukuleles, coffee, and donuts. Not necessarily in that order. neilshurley.com

ILLUMINATION-Curated

Outstanding stories objectively and diligently selected by 40+ senior editors on ILLUMINATION

Neil Shurley

Written by

Writer. Actor. Musician. Nerd. Thinks too much about Star Trek, Doctor Who, ukuleles, coffee, and donuts. Not necessarily in that order. neilshurley.com

ILLUMINATION-Curated

Outstanding stories objectively and diligently selected by 40+ senior editors on ILLUMINATION

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