Here’s a fun treat. This is a prequel of sorts to the yet unpublished third book in The Body Hunters series. Call it a Halloween treat! Enjoy!
“I promise honey, this is going to be the best Halloween/Slumber/Birthday party ever.” Danny’s mother, Julianna happily announced as she hung the Happy Birthday banner.
The Labouleaux family’s living room had been set up as party central with everything a six year old little girl could want at their party; every six year old girl except Danielle Labouleaux. Danielle or Danny as she preferred did not understand the need for all the hoopla surrounding her birthday. She’d practically begged her mother not to invite any of girls in Danny’s first grade class other than her two best friends.
“Not it’s not!” Danny protested. “The other girls in my class hate me.”
Julianna beamed a smile down on the daughter who was her spitting image, except for her golden eyes and golden complexion which was inherited from her father. “Honey, they don’t hate you. They just haven’t taken the time to get to know you. That’s what this party is about; getting to know your classmates and making friends.”
“Whatever.” Seeing that her mother still wasn’t listening to her, Danny stalked off in search of the candy she’d been forbidden to eat.
Danny was different, she knew that. First and foremost, she was psychic, able to communicate with ‘ghosties’ as her Grandmere called them. That fact was a secret that only she and Grandmere shared. Her grandmother warned that Danny would become a powerful psychic, because she was chosen to be born on November 1st, or what was called The Day of the Dead. The Day of the Dead was when the veil being the living world and the spirit realm was lifted. On that day, Danny would be a beacon for those ghosts who craved attention and wanted to pester her with their selfish requests. As she got older, the ghosts’ would be more and more demanding for her attention.
Danny also had a stronger connection to the spirit realm than most psychics, even those born on November 1st. Just a few months ago, she underwent emergency surgery to correct a heart defect. While she was on the operating table, the doctors lost Danny for several minutes before they were able to revive her. This phenomenon deepened her connection to the spirit plane.
Unlike the kids at the school whose parents were either both white or both black, Danny’s father was black and her mother was white. She first noticed that her parents were different during Open House when the school year first started. Though her parents didn’t seem to be aware of it, Danny saw the stares and the whispers from the other parents. She put it in the back of her mind, until the kids in her class started to tease her about her parents, calling her an Oreo.
After punching her classmate Jasmine’s lights out on the playground, Danny went home with the question of why they would call her a cookie. Her father, Marcel Labouleaux lovingly pulled her into his lap as he and her mother told her the fairy tale of how she came into being.
They explained how her mother, the beautiful, violet eyed princess, defied the wishes of her rich family and eloped with the handsome Creole man she’d fallen in love with. Much to the young couple’s delight, Julianna had a bun in the oven. When Danny asked how her mother got the bun in the oven, Marcel quickly changed the subject, recommending that she not get into any more fights.
“It’s getting late, Danny. Go upstairs and put on your costume.” Her mother advised. “Your guests will be arriving soon.”
“But mom!” Danny protested.
“Do what your mom said.” Marcel commanded in his booming voice, just walking in from the market with refreshments for their overnight guests.
Rolling her eyes, Danny made a point of stomping up the stairs as loudly as possible. She’d be glad when this night was over.
The costume she’d picked out was draped across her bed. It’d been a knockdown drag out brawl, but Julianna finally relented and let Danny pick out her own costume.
No frilly pink princess costume for Danielle Labouleaux. She knew that she wanted to be a superhero, but not Wonder Woman or Supergirl like the girls in her class. Danny wanted to be a superhero that looked like her, so she showed her mother of picture of Storm from the X-men cartoon.
Proud of her selection, Danny put the white wig over her dark hair and hopped into the black jumpsuit with the matching cape. Liking what she saw in the mirror, she started hopping on her bed, the black cape billowing around her.
“Danielle! Your guests are starting to arrive!” Julianna called from downstairs.
Exhaling sharply, Danny slowly descended the staircase, meeting the familiar and friendly faces of her friends, Emma and Felicia. Emma was a white girl with dark brown hair pulled into pigtails. Felicia was a black girl with freckles and braids. Emma’s costume was a bloody zombie princess, while Felicia was disguised as a glamour girl, with a tiara and feather boa.
They squealed and giggled like little girls do, frolicking through the house. The three best friends played to their heart’s content, until the five invited girls from their class started to file in with their blankets and sleeping bags. Fresh from an evening of trick or treating, they were still in costume.
Julianna, ever the gracious hostess whether the guest were young or old, had plenty of Halloween treats and activities planned for the girls. The party went well, with Danny’s classmates enthusiastic about the Halloween games. The girls’ nastiness toward Danny was temporarily forgotten as they stuffed their faces, danced to silly songs and competed for Halloween themed prizes.
After the festivities were over, the living room was set up as the girls’ campsite with an assortment of kid friendly Halloween movies playing on the television. The girls changed out of their costumes and into their pajamas.
Tammy, the alpha dog of Danny’s tormentors at school pointed at her as she buttoned the top of her pajamas.
“Look! The Oreo is about to turn into Frankenstein!” Tammy’s horde of flunkies giggled as Danny hastily finished buttoning her top.
The zipper scar that bisected her chest was what remained after Danny’s life saving surgery. Getting teased about it was almost a daily ritual at school. She’d been following her father and Grandmere’s advice about using her words, not her fists, but she was nearing a breaking point.
“Leave me alone!” Danny shouted back.
“Oh, Frankenstein gonna cry.” Tammy mocked, bringing her balled up fists to her eyes. “Wah, wah, wah. Crybaby! Are the Oreo’s tears made of cream filling?”
The other girls laughed at the amateur comedienne.
“I said knock it off!” The infamous Labouleaux temper was ready to break free.
“Oreo! Oreo! Oreo!” The girls in Tammy’s clique chanted.
“How about you take your heart out so we can see it, Frankenstein?” Tammy jabbed again with her sharp words and her pointy finger into Danny’s chest.
She pounced on Tammy like a jungle cat. The assault took the bully by surprise as Danny pummeled her from one end of the living room to the other. The pink Barbie play tent Marcel had erected so the girls could pretend they were camping collapsed under the weight of the grappling duo. The other girls screamed trying to get out of the way for fear of being the next victim of Danny’s fury.
Having heard the girls chanting ‘Oreo’, Marcel and Julianna were already on the way to the living room, knowing there was trouble. Expecting to find their daughter outnumbered and in need of a rescue, they were stunned to find her holding her own.
“Take it back.” Danny growled, slapping Tammy’s reddened cheeks.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry I called you an Oreo!” Tammy wailed.
Despite his urging his daughter not to fight, Marcel felt a little fatherly pride that she’d given the bully exactly what she was looking for. He pulled Danny off Tammy and into his arms.
“Enough, Danny, enough.”
“I tried to use my words, but I couldn’t help it.” She sobbed, tears falling on his neck. “They wouldn’t stop calling me names.”
“I know, sweetie, Daddy knows.”
Julianna turned her motherly rage on the five instigators. “Is this how your parents taught you to behave? You come to Danny’s house, eat her food, play her games, and you mistreat her? What kind of spoiled brats are you?”
Danny’s enemies flinched under Julianna’s glare, muttering apologies.
Danny was still clinging to Marcel’s neck. “I’m about to start calling their parents because I’m about one minute from whupping their behinds myself.”
One after another, Marcel called the parents, pulling no punches about their children’s racially charged behavior. Upon their arrival, some of the parents tried to defend their children’s antics, blaming Danny, but Felicia and Emma were there to provide their eyewitness account of events. The parents then went from defensive to super apologetic.
“You know racism is learned in the home. It’s a shame that kids pick that up from their parents.” Marcel remarked dryly to one mortified mother, who hastily dragged her towheaded daughter out the door.
“So I guess the next thing is to wake up with a cross burning on my lawn.” He matter-of-factly stated to a humiliated couple as they whisked their daughter away.
“Give me that candy!” Marcel snatched a bag of treats from one girl on her way out the door with her shame faced mother.
After the antagonists were gone, Marcel left to take Emma and Felicia home. He’d already called their parents, who expressed concern for Danny. Marcel thanked them for their worries and let them know he’d be dropping the girls off shortly. Before leaving, they gave Danny a supportive hug.
“Are you mad at me, mama?” Danny asked as Julianna tucked her into bed.
“Mad at you? Why would I be mad at you?”
“I ruined the party.”
Julianna sighed, sitting beside her on the bed. “I’m not mad at you. Who I’m mad at are those atrocious little snots and their equally atrocious parents!”
Danny giggled at her mother’s version of harsh language.
“I can never be mad at you, my love. Now go to sleep, sweet dreams.” Julianna kissed her on the forehead.
“That’s horrible.” Cassie cried out as Danny continued her tale.
It was over twenty years after that fateful birthday and the two best friends were sitting across the kitchen table from each other. It felt like a lifetime had passed since then, Danny’s parents and her Grandmere lost to her over the years. The now adult Danny went to the coffeemaker for the carafe and refilled their mugs.
“Dad was pissed. He was so aggravated with the situation that he joined the PTA.”
“Why would he join the PTA? What would that have to do with anything?” Cassie flipped her blond hair over her shoulder.
“He joined the PTA so he could have an excuse to see those girls’ parents every few weeks.” She laughed. “My dad was very ornery and he couldn’t resist an opportunity to make those parents feel even worse.”
Cassie joined in the laughter. “What about Tammy and her goons?”
“I never had problems with bullies after that. They didn’t even cause me any problems in high school, so I guess they learned their lesson.”
“I know I learned mine.” Cassie and Danny weren’t always friends in fact they started off as bitter enemies. Having been the recipient of a Danielle Labouleaux beat down, she didn’t blame the bullies for not bothering her again.
“You know I’m still sorry about that.” Danny said remorsefully.
“I don’t know why. I was acting like a stuck up biotch and I deserved it.” Cassie acknowledged. “I still don’t understand why you don’t want to have a birthday party. So what if you had to beat up Tammy?”
“Like I said my birthday being on The Day of the Dead leaves me vulnerable. After that ruckus during the slumber party, I fell asleep and woke up to dozens of ghosts reaching out to me.”
“Exactly. Dealing with my gift is hard sometimes, even as an adult; imagine turning seven years old and having ghosts fighting for your attention. I woke up screaming and luckily Grandmere was there to calm me down. On my birthday, spirits are drawn to my raw emotions, so she taught me a few exercises to keep them at bay.”
“Danny, I’m so sorry your birthday is so traumatic.”
“It’s no big deal. Now you know why I don’t celebrate my birthday. It’s just too much drama and too much of a hassle. So don’t bother planning a birthday party for me. I’ll be just fine.”
“When was the last time you actually celebrated your birthday?” Cassie asked out of curiosity.
Danny shrugged. “It was the year before Grandmere died.”
Cassie was horrified. Danny’s grandmother had been gone for close to ten years.
She watched as her friend dumped the contents of her mug into the sink and left the kitchen. Visions of streamers, balloons, and birthday wishes took root in Cassie’s mind, despite her friend’s protests. She was going to give Danny a birthday extravaganza whether she liked it or not. She just needed a partner in crime and she knew just the man to help her.