Chidi Anagonye paused as he crossed Eleanor Shellstrop's doorway and sniffed at the air. Vanilla, chocolate and... Smoke?
"Eleanor?" He called out. "Are you okay?" There was no reply, and he hesitated, one hand still on the doorknob, unsure of whether to carry on walking in, or leave and get help.
And then he saw it.
A big, colourful banner hung across the wall opposite from him.
"Happy... Death Day...?" He read aloud to no one. His brow creased. "Eleanor?" He called out louder, finally stepping into house.
"Happy Death Day!" Eleanor shouted, jumping into view, arms held out high above her. Chidi stared at her. Eleanor's smile widened as she lifted herself onto her toes.
"...I'm sorry, what?" Chidi glanced at the banner, then back at Eleanor.
"Happy Death Day!" Eleanor repeated, without loosing one ounce of excitement. "You know, it's like your birthday, but for the day you died! Isn't it cool?"
"You want to celebrate... The day I died...?" Chidi asked, brow furrowing even further.
Eleanor's arms dropped, and the smile vanished. "Well, not when you put it like that." She averted her gaze and toed the ground with her right foot. If Chidi didn't know better, he'd say she was trying hard not to look hurt.
He looked back at the banner, a loud, swirly, multicoloured thing with glittery gold lettering. Janet's handwork, sure, but it screamed of Eleanor's personal touch. There was confetti on the table too, and multicoloured paper plates. Chidi couldn't help but smile as he imagined Eleanor planning this... And it immediately made him feel like an ass.
"How about... We call it 'Life Remembrance Day', and celebrate our lives, instead?”
Eleanor hesitated for a second before rolling her eyes. "That is what I meant. But we can call it that, if that’s what you really want..." She threw her hands up in the air, then spun around, shouting over her shoulder as she went back into the kitchen. "Take a seat, I baked cookies!"
"Death cookies?" Chidi shouted back, sitting down on the couch.
"Haha," Eleanor said without a hint of mirth, as she returned to the living room. "Birthdays have cake... Life Remembrance Day has cookies."
She came to a stop in front Chidi, holding a big plate. The smell of vanilla and smoke got stronger. She lowered the plate onto the table, and Chidi raised his eyebrows. Pale, gooey chunks of dough sat mixed in with black, charred lumpy disks. These might actually be death cookies after all.
“You have two flavours,” Eleanor said. “Overbaked and under baked.”
“You… Baked these.” Chidi said, frown returning. “In the same oven. At the same time.” Eleanor nodded slowly, eyes narrowing. “How is that even possible…?”
Eleanor crossed her arms. “Just pick one, it’s fine.”
“But...” Chidi began, fidgeting in his seat. “The raw eggs in the underbaked dough could contain salmonella bacteria...” Eleanor groaned as she sat down next to him. “And burnt food, well, that could be full of carcino-”
“Chidi!” Eleanor snapped. “You're already dead! Dead people can't catch cancer.”
“Cancer isn’t con-”
“Just eat a damn cookie!”
Chidi leaned forward and grabbed a gooey lump, placing it in his mouth as best as he could. He was surprised when it actually tasted nice. “Hey, these are pretty good!”
“Well, don’t sound so surprised,” Eleanor said, trying to sound annoyed, but unable to hide a smug smile.
Chidi glanced at the banner once again. “We’ll need a new banner next year.”
“You wanna do this next year too?” Eleanor sat up a little straighter.
“Of course.” Chidi smiled, picking up another gooey cookie. “So, tell me about your life, Eleanor Shellstrop.”
“You first, Chidi Anagonye.”
It was Chidi’s turn to sit up a little straighter. “You said my name right!”
“I’ve been practising,” Eleanor picked up a burnt cookie and bit into it, looking smug again. “Let’s start with your favourite memory.”
“Ah, favourite memory...” Chidi said, shifting in his seat again. “Well… Ok… There was that time in-No! Wait. Maybe the one with the goat?” He shook his head. “No, no, definitely not that one...”
Beside him, Eleanor threw herself back onto the couch with another groan. “You’re killing Death Day.”