Happy Birthday, Janie

“Mommy?” A young voice calls through the dark.

“Yes, dear?” Erica rolls over, and opens her eyes to see her daughter’s head poking over the mattress.

“We eat cake now?” Eager hands pull at the blanket still covering her mother.

“Janie,” Erica clears her throat before continuing. “Cake isn’t until your party. You know that.”

“Party now?”

The young mother lets out a content laugh, “Not yet, little one. We have to wait for our friends, right?”

Janie only poles out her lower lip.

“It will be soon. I promise. Now, tell Mommy how old you are today.”

“Tree!” She exclaims while holding up two fingers. Her mother can only smile, as she reaches a hand out from under the blanket to pull up another finger.

“That’s right, Smartie,” She compliments as she pokes her daughter on the nose. “Why don’t you go watch cartoons while Mommy gets ready for your party?”

“Okay!” Erica bounces out of the bedroom.

***

“… Happy birthday to you!”

“Make a wish, Janie,” Erica reminds her daughter as everyone finishes the song.

Janie squeezes her eyes shut.

Erica is recording her daughter with her cellphone.

A man has an arm around Erica’s shoulders, and a look of pride is on his face.

“Done!” Janie’s eyes burst open before she blows out the candles, sending the party into temporary darkness.

Claps and cheers are heard all around.

Erica feels the arm around her shoulders tighten, and a man’s voice calling her name.

“Erica…”

“Someone turn on the lights, so we can cut the cake,” Erica motions to move the arm off her shoulders.

“Erica…” The voice is slightly louder.

The arm won’t move.

“Erica…”

“Janie?” Erica begins struggling.

“Mommy!” Janie’s scream is drown out by a man’s voice and flash of bright light.

“Janie!” Erica tries to throw off the pressure from her shoulders.

“Erica… Can you hear me?” The man’s voice is right next to her.

“Janie!” Erica’s  eyes shoot open as she tries to sit up. “Where am I?” Looking around, all she can see are white walls.

“We’re going to need to double her dose,” The man’s voice states. Erica turns toward the man sitting next to her with a complete lack of recognition.

“Where’s Janie?”

Ignoring Erica, “I’m going to need you to hold her down while I give her this.”

Erica tries to fight the ties holding her to the bed.

“Okay, pull up her sleeve there.”

“No! Janie!”

“That’ll do for now. We’ll monitor her on this dosage for a while.”

Erica’s cries are dying down as her eyes can longer remain open. Her breathing slows within seconds.

***

“Mommy?” A young voice calls through the dark.

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