A very dedicated mom tries very hard for her daughter on her big day
He had a new sheen, something chemical-reeking, and it gave his usual glare an acrylic glow that burned a hole in her back. Rachel paused, checked her phone, and then swaddled a generous sheaf of curtains over his face. It looked conspicuous she had to admit, but hopefully the Corinthian pillars, armored statues and glass mosaics would take away from Willis’ painted face.
“I got Charley and Simmone,” said Debra. The maid lifted her skirts as she ascended the stairwell.
“And cake?” Rachel demanded. A throb of worry pinned her heart as she saw blankness register on Debra’s face. “Two hundred years old and you forget to buy cake?” The young mistress flew down the stairs.
“The ley lines were closed!”
“Human cake Debra. Cake that won’t make mortals spontaneously combust!”
“Ah…” relief came over Debra. “Glen’s got it.”
“My brother?” No way that went well. Unlike her and Athens, Glen was still stuck in the 60s. “You let Glen bake? I put him in charge of decorations!”
The kitchen was a nightmare. Rachel staggered through smoke, coughing. A whisk nearly beheaded her as it zipped past. “Glen! Glen what are you doing?”
“Oh hey sis.” Glen waved, rotating four feet in the air. A halo of kitchen appliances,spell books, and medieval weapons spun around him. From across the kitchen, something with red eyes roared. “I seem to have-”
“Lost my spectacles...what does this word say?”
Rachel snatched the book. “Vanilla extract.”
“Ah...not the archdemon Vanallus then?”
A howl split the kitchen.
“Ten minutes!” Rachel spat. She checked her phone. “Ten minutes before Athens gets here! If you’re cooking, who’s doing decorations?”
“Umm Bailey wanted to do it.” Glen winced under Rachel’s withering glare. “She’s millenia old sis! About to go on the wall! The poor lady wanted something to do. And you know how she loves Athens.”
“Ten. Minutes.” Rachel growled. “I want something fun. Something edible. Zero percent demonic entities in it, got it?”
Bailey was humming to herself, having transformed the living room into a swamp. She brightened as Rachel stumbled in. “Why hello dear.”
“Aunt Bailey…” Rachel was speechless.
“Wonderful isn’t it dear? Reminds me of my old cottage of chicken feet in Russia. Athens loves my stories so I thought…”
“You know what?” Rachel threw her hands up. “This is fine. Almost Halloween anyway. Just no Knights OK?”
“Oh those buffoons don’t listen to me anymore. Charley is my sole companion today.”
“Great, keep up the-” Rachel’s heart went cold. “Did you say Charley?”
“Yes! Someone had covered up his portrait but I quickly uncovered it. He had so much to say about the party!”
Rachel pounded up the stairs. The house shook. “DISGRACEFUL!”
She plugged her ears.
Debra was shielding her eyes, knees bent, her maid outfit rippling in the wind. Rachel waved a hand and the wind died down. From across the hallway, her great grandfather - whose greatest tribute to human charity was killing his servants before mutilating them - roared: “A BIRTHDAY PARTY!? THE SCIONS OF HOUSE DARKNESS ARE SERVING HUMANS?! FOR A BIRTHDAY PARTY?!”
His voice buffeted the air, threatening to blow them away.
“It’s for Athens!” Rachel shouted. “She invited human friends!” She dove forward, whipping a new curtain over the portrait. It shuddered, shook, and finally went still.
The doorbell rang.
Before Rachel could react, a torrent of kids surged through the door, flooding the lobby with pudgy hands and red faces. At their helm was her darling, beaming broadly, her blonde ponytails bouncing up and down in heroic triumph.
“ - NO HONOUR LEFT!”
The students of Wellstone elementary had their first glimpse of the elusive Athens’ family in the form of her mother careening forty feet up in the air, flying backwards before smashing into a stone pillar. Their gazes followed the pillar’s descent as it unhooked numerous curtain-draped paintings, and screams arose as the paintings came alive, howling for vengeance against mortal birthdays.
And it turns out the ley lines were open because just then a crackling portal opened and an elf-cake staggered out, dripping, its green eyes bright as magnesium flares. Sensing a natural contender to the mortal plane, Glen exploded through the wall, gasping brimstone, as Vanallus - not vanilla - charged in, draping the floor with Hellfire.
“Happy birthday!” sang Bailey, righting her broomstick just before she crashed into a classmate. Her swamp alligators waddled after her, singing off-key ‘happy birthday’. The swamp vampires were next but then one kid dropped his garlic bread - and well - that got messy.
Rachel lifted her head, stars spinning. She saw one kid riding an alligator, laughing, while six sat in a circle watching an archdemon and elf-cake duke it out, MMA style. More kids chased swamp-vampires around, waving their garlic bread. Bailey had been convinced to do her magic and rings of kindergartners floated midair - occasionally popping into a toad or fox. Athens skipped forward and helped her up.
She leaned into her mother’s ear. “Best. Birthday. Ever.”