Birthday Treats | Melissa Denker

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On Mia’s ninth birthday, Sam’s only word was no.

Please, Mam,” Mia begged, pulling on Sam’s arm. “Please, please!”

Around them the fairground wheeled, whirred, whooshed. Children, adolescents, adults ate macaroons, milky ways, mars bars, matchmakers. Sam tasted the sugar on her lips and thought of all the nurse’s warnings.

“No candyfloss today,” Sam sighed. “How about we go on the flying chairs instead?”

“But Mam, everyone gets candyfloss on their birthday!”

“I know, honey, but it’s different for you,” Sam interrupted. Mia slumped. Guilt made Sam’s stomach churn. “Come on.” She took Mia’s hand and dragged her towards the flying chairs.

The scent of caramelised peanuts wafted on the air, making Sam nauseous. It hurt her, viscerally, to act so strict.

The carousel, playing a discordant tune, creaked into action. The elaborately carved and painted horses carried children with beaming faces, and, watching them, Sam stopped.

“You know what?” Sam asked. Mia didn’t look up. “I think we can make an exception. It is your birthday, after all.”

“But what about the diabetes?” Mia asked in a small voice. She pronounced it slowly, distinctly: die-ah-bee-tees. Like a foreign word.

“The doctors showed us how to adjust your pump for meals, didn’t they?” Sam said. Mia’s hand reflexively went to her jeans pocket, where the corner of the insulin pump could be seen. “Come on. It’ll be fine, I promise.”

Mia was quiet, the gears in her head turning. Then she erupted.

“Okay! Thank you, thank you!” Mia exclaimed. A radiant, gap-toothed grin exploded across her face. Thrilled at her happiness, Sam couldn’t help but pick Mia up and twirl her around. The fairground blurred into one bright, overwhelming kaleidoscope around them, and Mia and Sam howled in joy.

The candyfloss was pink and blue, a sparkling nebula of sugar. Sam took photos of Mia holding it, her ninth birthday badge displayed proudly.  

More photos: Mia on the helter-skelter; Mia and Sam sharing fresh doughnuts; Mia with a candy apple; Sam holding Mia, holding an oversized dolphin toy won at the coconut toss…

In the background, the fairground: throbbing, pulsing with life; tempting them into a giddy sugar rush.  

The fairground blazing around the blue-lit paramedics racing towards Mia’s candyfloss coma.

The fairground pounding as Mia’s brain blew into a bubble-gum sugar bubble.

The fairground dancing, alive, alive, as Mia’s heart stopped beating, and she was dip-dap, double-decker, dolly-sweet dead.

Sam screamed sherbet starburst sugar-cane sorrow.

Reader, writer, thinker, and constant coffee drinker. If not doing any or all of the above, she has probably phased out of existence. On Twitter at

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