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The Secret Of Inis Oiche

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Happy Birthday Mom


            Thud. The satisfying sound of the apartment door slamming shut behind her triggered the sudden release of the tension that always settled on her shoulders when she was hunting her marks. It also triggered-


            “Easy kid,” Emma couldn’t help the beaming smile that split her face as she called out to her son, who was making his appearance. He barrelled around the corner from the kitchen in his socks, slamming into the opposite wall in his haste, before he slid to an ungainly stop before her, bouncing on his toes, anxious as ever to hear her battle stories.

            His eyes sparked in the hallway light.  Just to test his patience, she gave him a small smirk before focusing on her ridiculous shoes, slipping the heel strap off and savoring the sudden loss in height as her bare foot landed flat on the cool hardwood flooring, easing the cramp that had built in the arch of her foot. She proceeded to take off the other, watching as Henry’s bouncing increased in speed, and when he suddenly stopped, she smiled.

            “MOooooOOOOOooooOOm,” he whined and she let out a laugh as she bent over to pick her shoes up by the straps.

            “Ok ok, Yes I got him. He tried to run, flipped the table over and spilled a delicious glass of Cab on my dress.” She gestured to the dark stain that now marred her work dress.

            Henry let out a gasp and Emma was reminded of yet another thing she loved about her son. He was a perfect listener, emotionally invested in the story to the very end and ready to gasp and cheer or ask questions in all the right places. She couldn’t help herself and reached out to smooth down his hair before dropping her hand to his shoulder and leading him back into the kitchen, while he stared up at her, riveted to her every word..

            “Yeah but I had already planned for that and I-” she cut off sharply when she caught sight of the kitchen counter. On it sat a single cupcake, a small glittering blue star candle jutting up from its center and her heart clenched in her chest.

            At her pause, Henry broke out into a quiet smile, seeming to savor the myriad of emotions that she could feel crossing her face.

            “Happy Birthday Mom.”

            She looked down at him, her boy, with his sweet smile and knowing eyes, and she didn’t have words for how much she loved her son. So she pulled him to her, and he went willingly, arms wrapping around her waist as she held him fiercely, pressing a kiss to the top of his head, trying to tell him all the things she didn’t have words for.

            And as he always had, he seemed to understand the things she couldn’t say, because he squeezed her more tightly, small fingers digging into her back as he mumbled against her dress, “I love you too Mom.”

            She closed her eyes at his words, sucking in a breath, feeling the same sense of deep satisfaction settle in her bones she always did when he said those words to her. Because he wasn’t simply using the words. She knew he meant it each and every time they came out of his mouth, and that was all she had ever wanted her whole life was to have someone say the words and mean it. And her son, her beautiful boy, always did.

            They remained like that for a long moment, before Henry seemed to decide that the moment was over and to pull away. She pressed one more kiss to the crown of his head, then released him, stepping back.

            “So what happened after he tried to run?” His eyes had regained their sparkle, and she gave a soft laugh as they both resumed their walk to the kitchen counter.

            “Yeah he tried to run kid, but I knew he would so I had his car booted. And then he tried to go on about paying me to let him go.”


            “Yeah. And then her tried to tell me I didn’t know anything about loving a family, and the thought that someone could think I didn’t love you made me really mad. So I smashed his face into the steering wheel.”

            “YEAH GO MOM WHOO!” Henry pumped his fist in the air and gave his customary victory jig, an adorable shoulder and shuffle deal that he had started when he was still a toddler, and since he always managed to get her to laugh when he did it, it seemed to have just stuck.

            She let out another laugh as she tossed her shoes to the floor by the couch and turned to regard the cupcake before her and Henry’s beaming  face.

            “Alright, shall we dig into this beautiful feast we have before us?” she teased him, drawing an eye roll reminiscent of one of her own.

            “Just make sure you don’t waste your wish.”

            “Of course I wouldn’t,” she chuckled before she bent over the counter, crossing her arms and resting her chin on them as she contemplated the tiny dancing flame.

            It had been a tradition since she had given birth to him. Every year on her birthday, she would blow out a single candle, and make a wish. Always the same wish.

            She closed her eyes and blew out the candle.

            May Henry always have what I never did.

            Then a knock sounded.