Home > Fiction > Chapter Two: Birthdays in the Winters’ House – First Draft

Chapter Two: Birthdays in the Winters’ House – First Draft

January 10th, 2010

Photo by: D Sharon Pruitt

Pink, purple and yellow chiffon was everywhere.  Pink and purple balloons tied to every fence post.  And that was just near the main house.  Corianne’s father had the lawn boy and his friends tie pink and purple bows on each of the posts around all two hundred acres when they did the rushed trim job after the rainstorm.  And every horse in the paddock had pink and purple ribbons braided into their tails and manes.  Corianne hadn’t asked for it.  But birthdays were special to her father, so one day out of the year, he was overindulgent.

Huddled in one corner were all the mothers, cocktails in hand, occasionally calling out to their children to stop that or do this or take that.  Corianne’s mother was pressed up against her father feeding him bits of celery and cherry tomatoes from her own plate.  Her father had his arm around her waist and kept calling out to Corianne for help between bites.  Corianne giggled, baring perfect white teeth and adorable dimples.

“Mommy! You’re gonna kill Daddy with vegetables! Leave him be!” she exclaimed, good-naturedly, before spinning back to her friends.  “Aren’t they funny?”

“They’re in love, stupid.  I wish my parents were.  All they do is fight.  Look! My mom’s over there talking to Mrs. Brackwith.  Probably about how much of an asshole my father is.  And my dad’s too busy ogling your mom to notice.”  Jenny Prat’s parents were on the verge of divorce.  Everyone was talking about it.

Corianne didn’t know what a divorce was.  She was afraid to ask because Jenny Prat ran away any time anyone mentioned it.  So instead, she studied her parents as they continued to flirt back and forth.

“Okay, Celia.  We should probably tend to our guests.”  Corianne’s father said just loud enough for her to hear.  “Besides… we have a spy.”

Corianne rolled her eyes. “Daddy,” she groaned.  “I am not a spy.”

He laughed and closed the distance between them.  He squatted down to be eye level with his daughter.  “Corianne Winters, P.I.”  he quipped as he wrapped his hands around Cori’s waist and lifted her high above his head.

Cori squealed with delight and screamed, “Down! Put me down!”

Her father spun to the left, “Who said that?”

“Daddy!”

He swung to face her mother.  “Celia? Did you hear something? I thought I heard Cori say my name.” 

“Daddy! Put. me. DOWN!” Corianne giggle-growled.

“Hmm… I’m sure I heard her.”  He spun again and started walking toward the gaggle of women tucked up under the lavish tent he’d ordered.  “Excuse me, ladies.  I seem to have misplaced my daughter.  She’s about six years old…”

“Seven! I’m seven, today, Daddy!” Corianne said.  Then she remembered she was supposed to be indignant and yelled, “Put me DOWN!”

“Cori?” Her father did a fast one-eighty, almost knocking her purple sandals into Mrs. Dorsey’s hat, and looked all around.

Everyone laughed.  Even her friends.  Corianne giggled in spite of herself.  When her father walked over to her group of friends, though, she was mortified.

“I know you guys are trying to have fun, here, but I was wondering if you could help me out.”  The girls’ eyes all got wide, and they all nodded slowly.  Corianne’s father had to stifle a laugh pretending to cough.  It was no secret that all of Cori’s friends had crushes on him.  “See, Cori’s gone missing and…”

“She’s right there!” The girls all screamed and pointed in unison.

“Where?” Her father swung to look behind him and Cori started giggling.  “I don’t see her!”

Cori pressed her finger to her lips, deciding she’d settle this once and for all.

“Oh… You missed her.”  Jenny Prat said, stepping forward and waving at the other giggling girls to be quiet.  “She just darted off again.”

Cori had to bite her lower lip to keep from laughing.

“She did? Where?” Her father turned to look at Jenny Prat.

“That way,” Jenny Prat said, pointing toward the group of fathers by the bar.

Just then, Cori seized her father’s hair and yanked his head back.  “I’m right here!”

“Oh, hi, Cori! How’d you get up there?”

Cori glared down at him narrowing her blue eyes to slits until he flipped her, end over end, and planted her on her feet in the grass.  Then she laughed so hard, she had to sit down.  “You’re silly, Daddy.”

“Well! You’re the one that got stuck up in the air like that!”

She smirked and then stood back up.  “Is lunch ready, yet?”

“Why don’t you go see if you can’t help Miss Iris? I’m sure she’d love the company.  And I hear she has something special, just for you.”

“Okay, Daddy.”  She started for the back door and stopped halfway there.  Over her shoulder, she called, “But you’d better entertain my guests so they don’t get bored.  Otherwise, it’s rude.”

He chuckled softly as Corianne darted in the house, then turned to the girls.  “Wanna see a magic trick?”

Cori smiled stopping to watch her father through the window for a moment before running the rest of the way to the kitchen.  “Miss Iris! Miss Iris! Daddy said you needed help.”  she called as she ran through the halls.  “Can I help you, Miss Iris? Can I?” She barreled through the swinging doors to the kitchen.

“Slow down, child.”  Miss Iris caught Cori up in her arms.  “Of course you can help.  But first, I’ve got something for you.”

She placed Cori gingerly atop a counter.  Cori pulled the big woman into a hug and tried not to laugh as she untied her apron.  When the woman backed away, her apron fell into Cori’s lap, and Cori giggled hard.

“Silly child.  Stay here a sec.  It’s in the pantry cause that’s the only place you won’t go alone.”  Miss Iris grinned and Cori mock-scowled.

When Miss Iris came back from the pantry, she was carrying a package wrapped in a sky blue chiffon scarf with a great big satin bow.  “I’ll never know why you don’t just tell your father this is your favorite color.”

“It would break his heart.  He’s spent my whole life showering me with pink and purple.”  Cori responded, sounding wiser than her seven years.

Miss Iris chuckled as Corianne carefully unwrapped the gift.  Inside was a small wooden jewelry box.  Inside that was a jewelry set.  It was ten karat gold and the stones were blue topaz.

“Oh, Miss Iris! It’s beautiful.  You shouldn’t have!”

“Aye, but I did, child.  Do you like it?”

“I love it!” Corianne threw her arms around the older woman’s neck.

“It’ll match the sundress you bought last week perfectly.”

“Thank you, Miss Iris.  I can’t wait to wear it! Can I go put it in my room?” Cori slid off the counter top.

“Sure thing, doll.  Then you can come help me cart all this food outside.”

“Yes, Miss Iris!” Cori yelled as she ran to her room.  “I’ll be right back!”

Hours later, after the cake was eaten, and the presents unwrapped, and the guests heading home, Corianne walked the perimeter of the property.  Her father didn’t like when she went that far alone, but she liked to be alone in the dark.  And besides, it wasn’t real woods.  It was her backyard.  And it was all walled in.  Only animals her father had had transported there lived there.

The moon was high and full, and the trees were far planted far enough apart that she could see clearly.  So she walked to the clearing where she and her father fed the chipmunks.  She pulled the lid off the bucket they stored in a fake tree stump and dipped some food out.  Then she slid the penknife Bobby Gartly had given her out of her satin belt and flicked open the sharpest blade.

She spread the food in a circle with a number of trails leading to where she was going to kneel in the center.  Finally, she filled her hand with what she knew to be the chipmunks’ favorites and held it in front of one of the trails.  Almost immediately, a brave little chipmunk sneaked out and began to nibble at her trail.  Eventually, seeing the huge trove of treats in the palm of Corianne’s hand, the chipmunk crept toward her.  When he got within two inches of Cori’s hand, she swung her hand holding the penknife.

At the last second, sensing the danger, the chipmunk darted away, and Cori missed.  “God damn it.” she muttered, then clambered to her feet.  “I’ll get you next time.” she yelled after the creature.

“Cori? Cori, where are you?”

“Over here, Dad.  I’m chasing pirates! Wanna play?”

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