“Mom, seriously, I have to have it for art class! We have to go and get it!”
“Are you sure you left it at the band’s house?”
“Jeremy, while I’m proud of you for turning in your homework on time for once, can’t we wait until after my birthday dinner to go and get it? I have a key to the house.” She told him slowing the car to a stop at the intersection.
“No, I have to have it now! We’ll all be distracted by dinner, something tragic or whatever will happen because this is what our nutty family does, and we’ll all forget about it and then tomorrow I’ll get a failing grade. Sister Margaret told me there will be no do overs!”
She sighed, “Where did you leave your sketchpad?”
“In the studio.”
“Oh, absolutely not! The band is recording right now. We can’t interrupt them. This will wait until later!”
“I still can’t believe Drake isn’t going to be at your birthday dinner tonight mom, what a pendejo.” Her son James grumbled from the back seat.
Jeremy laughed, “For once, you owe a dollar to the swear jar!” He told him after turning in his seat and pointing at him.
“Son, we already decided Spanish swear words are actually double, you owe two dollars.” His mother informed him smugly.
Give her and Jeremy a break for being overly happy about the cursing; they both owed the jar nearly a hundred bucks each.
“It shouldn’t count because Drake is actually being one! You’re his girlfriend!” Her youngest countered with a sour face.
“James, I told you earlier, he’s making it up to me. The band is hitting a hard deadline and they need him there tonight. I’m not upset at all.”
Believe it or not, she wasn’t in the slightest, especially after he told her what he had in mind for her present. While she didn’t have all the particulars, he did reveal a flogger would be involved and with him not being on the receiving end for once.
She could hardly wait.
“Mom, please, let’s just go and get it. I promise they won’t even know we’re there.” Her oldest pleaded.
“Fine, but text your grandparents we're running late and have the restaurant hold the table. Oh, and make sure to remind them not to let your uncle or aunt order anything from the bar while they wait. The last thing I need is to deal with is my drunken siblings.” She ordered with a grumble.
“Don’t they always get wasted?” Her littlest asked from the back seat.
“No, not always.”
“Just on your birthday every year. Why is that mom?” Jeremy asked after sending the text.
“They’re jealous of mom because she’s rich!” James contributed.
“I am not!”
“Mom, we’re riding in brand new Mercedes.” Jeremy pointed out.
“I’m impressed she can drive a stick shift, and in fifteen-hundred dollar shoes!” James commented nodding.
“I was a surprise, okay? This is their way of coping. According to your Aunt Marisol, our parents were fine with just her and your uncle, and then I came along and spoiled everything. This is their way of dealing with the fact that despite their best efforts, I’m still around.” She explained.
“And rich!” James added.
After passing through the security gate, to which James bunny-eared his mother for the photo taken of them, she maneuvered through the winding streets and eventually pulled into the circular driveway of the band’s residence.
She shut off the engine and unbuckled her belt, “Why don’t you both wait here? I’ll run in and grab the sketch pad.”
“No!” Both her sons exclaimed at the same time.
“You left it on the couch, right Jeremy?” Her youngest asked his brother and then bolted from the car.
“James! Get back here!” She yelled, but realized this was fruitless; none of the windows were down.
“I’ll get him, don’t worry mom!” He told her frantically and made the great escape himself.
“What the fuck?” She yelled and realized, once again, soundproof cabin.
She could have left them to their own devices, however, the band was in recording mode and having two rambunctious kids just barge into the studio would definitely disrupt things. She was so relieved to learn they were buckling down and, perhaps, if luck was on their side, they’d make Target’s deadline. The final album was going direct to retail thanks to them not having a label and the red bullseye would sell the shit out Hells Redemption’s final release.
However, two curious young fans demanding their attention and her youngest giving Drake a what for because he was missing dinner was definitely a distraction they didn’t need at the moment.
She kicked off her new Loubitans, grabbed them, and then exited the car herself and hauled ass after them. While she normally could catch up to them with the shoes on, Mrs. Yang, the new house manager informed everyone with a group text to be careful on the marble flooring, it was getting an overdue buff and polish.
Falling flat on your ass and busting your tail bone on your birthday was never a good thing.
She ran in the house, crinkled her nose due to the new polish smell and looked around. Her offspring were nowhere to be seen.
“Wow, those two are fast.” She commented out loud and after shutting the door went straight for the kitchen. Upon entering, she thought it odd Mrs. Yang wasn’t either making dinner or cleaning up from it. The kitchen looked immaculate.
“What the fuck?”
You can’t really blame the manager for this assessment, feeding this band was practically a twenty-four-hour operation and things were always happening in this room. She then rolled her eyes; for it was appearing like the band convinced Mrs. Yang there was actually nutritional value in Hot Pockets and was probably gobbling them down in bulk down in the studio.
And soon she would be forced to listen to the grumbling of a particular musical prodigy about it, great.
She made her way downstairs and as she approached the studio, every hair on her body stood on end. Things were quiet. She went in and sure enough, everything was dark, off and the band was definitely not recording.
“What the fuck?”
Now she was a combination of fucking furious and scared. Where was everyone? Why did her boyfriend blow her off for dinner tonight if he wasn’t where he said he would be? Of course, the most important question, where were her kids?
As her - watches to many episodes of Ghost Hunter's mind -went into overdrive, she decided the shoes in her hands were now makeshift weapons. Placing one in each hand, she made sure the heels pointed out and if a spooky, whatever the fuck decided to mess with her, it would meet its end via this season’s latest couture trend.
Things from beyond the grave didn’t stand a chance.
She checked the movie theater, nothing. The wine cellar, nada. Storage rooms, bubkus. The only room left was the basketball court and if she caught those two little shits even breathing on the band’s instruments, she was going to kill them.
All things NBA going down would have to wait until after the tour, the room was serving as a storage area for all the guitars and drums.
Her heartbeat began to match the tempo to the television theme song from Bonanza when she approached the entrance to the basketball court and once again, lights out.
Just as she was about to turn and run and then make a frantic call to the cops to come and check this out along with encouraging them to bring the SWAT team, the lights went on and she was greeted with, “Surprise!”
The shoes were dropped and she screamed louder than a tween at a Justin Bieber concert. Truth be told, she also peed a little.
Her boyfriend came forward and she immediately put her hand up to halt his progress. What was wrong with this picture?
“Why do you look like a gay Rambo equipped with martial arts weapons? And what the hell is with the goatee? And what the fuck happened to your eyes? And most important, what the fuck is going on?”
As everyone laughed and she looked around the gym, all the band members were dressed the same, and the majority of the women was also dressed alike with the exception of Alex and Devin.
Now, let’s talk about the amount of people gathered shall we? Where did they all come from? There were no extra cars out front. How did they all get here?
The band was in here, natch, her boys who now looked like two pale ninjas without the hoodies, her parents, her siblings, her entire staff from Madison Management, several of the road crew members whom she knew well, the band’s security team, Doc and his wife Laney and the biggest surprise of all, her friend Jenni was attendance.
Not that she wasn’t happy to see everyone, but what was with that smell of baby powder in the air?
“Don’t you recognize this themed surprise party?” Her friend Jenni asked, stepping forward with a big smile as she motioned around the room.
“What?” She was still trying to wrap her head around the fact one of her dearest friends was here, let alone, still talking to her.
She was once a proud resident of Orlando, but thanks to a job opportunity which presented itself, she recently moved to Indianapolis. At first Angela threw a conniption fit about that, but her friend said she was tired of waiting for her to pull her head of her butt and make the move the Florida. So, when opportunity knocked, she opened the door. Their last phone conversation was an unpleasant one as she dropped the bomb on her now Indiana resident friend that she was moving to Tampa, something for which, her fellow Heavy-Metal fan was not amused over.
“What are you talking about? And what’s with all the white robes? Is this a toga party? Seriously, the fuck is going on?”
Drake looked at her friend, “You told me she’d get it.”
Jenni stepped forward and took her by the bicep and everyone parted so she could show Angela what she was referring to. She pointed to the center part of the basketball court floor, “How about now?”
Angela gasped and threw both of her hands over her mouth. Jenni looked smugly at Drake and then air pumped.
“You… you… you… you threw me a Black Dagger Brotherhood themed surprise birthday party?”
Her friend practically glowed, “Yep!”
“This is the best!” She shouted, jumping up and down on top of the temporary painted mural of the apple tree depicted from the books.
Her friend pointed to one of the walls, which a giant mural hung from which depicted the grand staircase of the mansion. She next pointed to the ceiling for which another mural was draped which was made to look like the sky of the fade, the vampire heaven.
She grabbed her friend and hugged her hard, “This is amazing Jenni, thank you!”
“No, thank you for turning me on to that series. Now, would you like to be introduced to everyone?”
The music mogul gave her an odd look to which her friend ignored and began the introductions anyway. She first pointed to John and Alex, “Angela, allow me to introduce you to Wrath, son of Wrath, otherwise known as the blind king and his wife, Beth.”
The bassist upped the ante in the surprise department and brought out from under the food table a large stuffed dog which represented the king’s seeing eye dog, George.
Thanks to allergies among several of the band members, live animals were a no-go in the house.
“Oh wow, you are the perfect King!”
“I know.” He told her and lowered his wraparound sunglasses enough to wink at her.
Alex jumped up and down in her red dress to symbolize the one Beth borrowed from Wellsie to be married in, “Happy Birthday!”
“Wait, are these real?” Angela asked and then reached out to touch one of the throwing stars on John’s lapel.
He caught her hand gently to stop her from touching them, “Yes, and so are the daggers, so be careful. We’ve already warned the boys not to go near these. More than likely, they’ll be put back in the storage lockers shortly.”
Angela looked at all the guys again and sure enough, they all had daggers on their chests with handles down and everything. This also explained why they were all clad in leather. So they were not members of the Village People.
“How, I mean, where…”
“My husband isn’t kidding, when the zombie apocalypse goes down, they got this.” Alex informed her about where the weapons came from.
John was the paranoid member of the group, and this took things to a whole new level.
“Oh wow!” She laughed and clapped her hands and then realized who her boyfriend was, “Vishous!”
He simply smiled at her, winked and then stuck an unlit hand rolled in his mouth with his one gloved hand.
She giggled and clapped again.
“I’m so glad you finally figured it out. These contacts are killing me and have to come out shortly.”
Jenni turned her to the next couple, Seth and Simone, “This of course is his best friend Butch.” She paused long enough for him to adorn his head with a Boston Red Sox cap and then pointed to Simone, “And this is the Chosen, Selena.”
Angela pointed at her, “But isn’t she…”
“I know right? Would it kill that author for real to put more sisters in her books? If it makes you feel better, I’ll just stand here like a statue!” Simone quipped clearly annoyed by the character she was assigned to be for the evening.
“Just pretend The Shadows hasn’t been released yet.” Jenni suggested which mollified both Simone and Angela who nodded in agreement.
She then led the woman of the hour over to the next couple and the birthday girl couldn’t help her giggling if she tried. Cole looked utterly ridiculous.
“Next, we have Phury and you of course know, the Scribe Virgin.” She finished pointing at Devin who was in a black hooded robe.
Mighty Mouth was the creator of the race? This threw their manager right over the edge and she doubled over with laughter.
“I told you this was a bad idea!” Devin shouted at Jenni complete with her hands on her hips.
“Hey, from everything I gathered reading the novels, she’s short, okay? You’re the only one who could play this role!”
“She’s not laughing at you Schöne, she’s laughing at my wig. It’s looks weird, ja?” Her husband told her adjusting it for the hundredth time.
Angela took a good look at it and started laughing again.
“Fucking great! We’re the goofiest looking couple here.” Devin bitched.
“Oh, I think when Hiatt gets here, we’ll take that prize.” Moonbeam countered.
Angela looked to the white robe clad woman, “Who are you supposed to be?”
“Layla!” She proclaimed extending her arms.
“You have to admit, she’s perfect.” Jenni told her nodding.
“Oh, my gosh, you so are! So, wait, does this mean Hiatt is Xcor?”
Everyone surrounding them quickly shook their heads and Seth explained, “You know how he is about vampires. In order to even have this themed party, we had to adamantly agree not to wear the fangs.”
“So, which character is he going to be then?” Angela asked and suddenly, her question was answered.
“Now it’s a party motherfuckers, Lassiter is here!” Hiatt shouted from the doorway.
Angela peed a little again as she laughed hysterically.
Most took out their cell phones to snap a picture; it was one for the scrapbook. Everyone else hooted and hollered in approval.
Their drummer stood in the doorway in bright pink flannel pajama pants, which were covered in bunnies, matching rabbit slippers, his naked torso dusted in gold glitter and body paint and a multi colored long wig which made Cole’s look natural.
“Unbelievable.” Doc said to his wife while laughing.
Angela looked at the couple who appeared as if they were headed to the opera, “The Glymera?” She asked Jenni.
They waved at her and continued laughing.
Jenni nodded and then pointed at the two unamused security men in the room, one of which was holding a stuffed black cat.
“Oh, don’t tell me.”
“Oh, you bet. The one holding Boo is Warren, who is the Shadow iAm and Will is his brother Trez.” Jenni laughed.
She then put it together about the baby powder and why her sons were in their get ups and now she was a bit pissed, “You made my boys Lessers?”
“Neither of them could pull off Rhage or even John Matthew and you have to admit, they’re perfect. Did you check out the large blown up dragon in the corner?” Jenni explained and pointed where a giant monstrosity you’d normally find in a used car sales parking lot was perched representing that character’s literal inner demon.
“Jenni, babe, I thought we elected to go with the bouncy house?” Hiatt asked joining the group.
“Other than James, there is no one here little enough to use it, including you. It didn’t go with the theme.”
“But it would have been fun!”
“Who did all this body glitter and paint on you?” Angela asked, turning him around to check him out.
“Those dudes.” Hiatt answered her pointing at the door where a group of guys entered looking nearly identical to the band, but with older period clothing on. They were actually roadies and were trying desperately to wipe the stuff off of their hands.
Jenni informed her, “Wouldn’t be a party without the Band of Bastards.”
Angela laughed and quickly sobered as she was handed a pair of medical scrubs, a pair of Crocs and a blonde short wig of all things.
“What’s all this for?”
“You’re Doc Jane.”
“You couldn’t be my twin sister Payne, because, well, that would be all sorts of weird as the night progresses.” Drake explained as he joined them and put his arm around her waist.
“This is amazi…” She stopped as she noticed older wait staff members holding trays of champagne and spinach crepes.
“There are actually Doggen here?”
Jenni laughed and clapped her hands, “The catering company thought I was nuts when I insisted they only send us waiters who were sixty and older, but they pulled it off. Aren’t their tuxes great?”
“Jenni, this is beyond amazing!”
“I know, it is, isn’t it? Did you really think I was flying all the way back here just to go to Dave and Busters?”
“Fuck you, it was Zaxby’s.” Angela quickly corrected her and soon the two were laughing.
The manager felt a finger tap on her shoulder and turned around, but screamed so loud, the DJ hired paused the music.
Rolland Alan, the band’s photographer was clothed in a black robe, wore a white short wig, pale makeup and was playing the part of the Omega. He looked so convincing; he scared the hell out of Alex earlier who was at this very moment, hiding behind her husband.
He laughed, “I wanted to wish you a happy birthday before I start the entire picture taking thing tonight. You want a group shot before you get changed?”
She covered her heart, “Oh thank goodness it’s you. Who did your makeup? It’s incredible.”
He thumbed over his shoulder, “The wife.”
Jessica his spouse, who was dressed as a Chosen, waved and giggled behind her camera lens.
“Great idea, let’s get a group shot and then you and I have an appointment in the other room, true?” Drake suggested looking at her.
She laughed at his spot-on impression of his character and everyone gathered and the first of many group photos were taken for the evening.
Entering a bathroom to change, Angela told her boyfriend, “This was a lot of planning, thank you.”
“I’ll take the credit for whipping out the credit card to pay for all of this, but the logistics of it all was all Jenni, thank her.”
“Oh, I plan to, this is beyond incredible.”
“She’s been feeling like shit since she moved to Indy and you two had your fight.”
“I don’t blame her for being upset. I didn’t really think I’d ever be moving to Florida. When did she contact you?”
“Right before Halloween. She read that author’s latest work and the idea hit her. She asked if I would help pull it off.”
“And did you, ever. It looks amazing in there, but wait, how did my boys get changed so quickly and where the hell did all that baby powder come from?”
He laughed as he removed a contact, “The boys hauled ass downstairs and were greeted by a few of the roadies who had a kiddie swimming pool filled with baby powder. They helped the boys strip down, doused them in powder and helped them get dressed and into the gym before you came in.”
“Ang, these guys are experts at switching out our instruments on the fly and changing us when what we wear on stage becomes unwearable. Two young guys were nothing for them.”
“Amazing, I’m very impressed.”
“I’m glad. Now, time for my birthday present.” He announced after removing the second contact and began to take off his weapons.
She held up her hand, “If we start that, we’ll never leave this room. The one thing I learned about my friend Jenni, never underestimate her strength. She will bust down that door if we don’t get back in there in a few minutes.”
“Relax, we’ll have plenty of time later for naked things. I arranged for your parents to take the boys tonight by the way.”
“You are a genius and I love you.” She told him and gave him a chaste kiss.
“I am. Did I ever tell you about the time I biffed it due a dirt bike when I was fourteen?”
She shook her head as she unbuttoned her dress.
He removed the straps which held the daggers and continued, “My dad was stationed in North Carolina before we were moved to Germany and a fellow Army brat had one. We rode it and often, until one day, I crashed it pretty hard because I didn’t take a hill fast enough. I broke several ribs and had to be taken to the emergency room.”
“Oh wow, that had to have hurt.” She winced and removed her dress and reached for the scrub pants.
He took off the leather jacket he was wearing, “Do you remember the part in the book of Genesis about how Eve was created? You know, the bible?”
She nodded as she tied her pants, “God took a rib from Adam and made Eve. Subsequently, that’s why it’s believed women have more ribs than men do.”
“Which I found out later was complete crap, until my visit to the ER.”
She reached for her top, “What are you talking about?”
“We’re all supposed to have a total of twenty-four ribs, right?”
She nodded after pulling the top over her head, but immediately ruled out the wig. Her hair took forever to do and she wasn’t about to ruin it, no matter what Jenni said about it.
“Turns out, some of us are a bit of an anomaly. There are actually people, mostly men, who are missing one on one side.”
He nodded, “It’s a genetic defect. In my case, after my scan, it was discovered I too was missing one. Well, the majority of one. There’s a small nub where my twelfth one on the right side should be but never fully developed.”
He inched his shirt up and turned to reveal a new tattoo he had done.
It was the oddest-looking thing she had ever seen. It was simply the outline of where the missing rib should have been. As she got closer, she made out what had been inscribed inside of it and her hand flew to her mouth and tears entered her eyes.
It read simply, “Mi Amada.”
He let go of his shirt and took her face in his hands, “The reason why mine is missing is because of you. I have no doubt you were created for me Angela.”
Tears streamed down her face, “No one has ever…” She failed to finish because she was too busy sobbing.
He embraced her and said in her ear, “I know things have been tense between us, and this album seems to be sucking the lifeblood from our relationship lately, but always know, you are a part of me. Not a minute goes by where I’m not thinking about you in some way.”
She squeezed him hard in return, “I love you so much. This is the best birthday present I’ve ever received.”
He looked down at her and beamed.
She wiped her face, “We’re going to have fun tonight aren’t we?”
“Oh yeah, it’s just starting.” He told her with his voice full of promise.
“Did you really get it?” She asked as she wiped her nose.
He nodded, “Did you really think I was going to flog and fuck you with the kids in the house? Now you know why your parents are really here and are taking them when the party is over.”
She squealed like a fan girl and jumped up and down.
“You know, in retrospect, I’m glad I let your friend have her way with the party’s theme tonight versus what the one I had in mind.” He told her as she put on her Crocs.
“Why? What one did you want?”
“Never mind.” He said nervously and began to equip himself with the rest of his costume.
“Let me just put it this way, I don’t think your family would have been invited, nor do I believe there are enough home improvement stores in West Florida that sell that much red paint.”
A Birthday Gift Story by Author J.S. Snow