A Stellar Flare of Young Adult Writing and Visual Art
BY TONY LEE
I took the silver platter and slowly unveiled a quadruple-layered cake.
The family was gathered around the mahogany table, and the reunion was as high-end as it could ever be with the embroidered tablecloth and crystal chandelier. All of the littles were forced into upper-class tuxedos and gowns, and they appeared to be uncomfortable in their sophisticated garments.
I grinned, silently sympathizing with the children. Looking befuddled with their bowties and cummerbunds instead of t-shirts and shorts, they had the expressions of mice hopelessly lost in a maze. Unfortunately for them, this was Mother’s grand seventy-fifth birthday, an occasion that required proper wear.
The youngest one, Joey, had loosened his tie. I leaned over and helped him adjust the accessory until his neck was snug again. My sister smiled in gratitude, and I waved my hand nonchalantly in return.
When the last of the candles were distinguished, the family applauded in joy. My siblings and I congratulated our mother for her longevity, and the little ones embraced her warmly.
Much to the children’s delight, I evenly distributed the cake around the table. Being gluten-free, a hundred percent vegan, and having a layer of a vanilla, chocolate, carrot, and red velvet cake, the treat was made to satisfy all of the family’s needs.
Mother nodded in approval. Her stubborn personality ensured that every child was brought up in a fair — but vegan — lifestyle. That meant no favoritism, no eggs or honey, and no bacon of any form or fashion. Owen, the oldest nephew, was infuriated by the last standard.
Bacon, I want bacon for breakfast today! I recalled him indignantly shouting on a holiday morning. I faintly chuckled at the memory as I handed him his slice of cake.
Holly, my oldest sister, stepped out from the kitchen. Several plates were precariously balanced on her arms and she clutched a pitcher of orange juice in her recently manicured fingers. The empty bottle sat on the granite kitchen counter, and the kids squinted to read the label on the side.
Organic and sugar-free with no pulp, I took a guess. From the children’s disappointed faces, I knew that my mother’s healthy lifestyle had struck again.
My sister gracefully released her load onto the table. From filet mignon to a roasted pig, her contribution to the party consisted of gourmet meat after meat. Every jaw in the family hit the floor.
Mother frowned, angry disapproval marked on her furrowed brows. Holly was always the defiant one, the one that rebels, I thought.
The kids squealed in ecstasy, their carnivorous instincts howling at the sight of meat. Owen almost pounced across the table to reach the chicken drumsticks, but I took him by the shoulders and restrained him.
Marie slapped him on the arm and scolded, “Owen! Don’t you disrespect your grandmother like that. Sit down and be a disciplined young man.”
The boy cowered back in his seat, cheeks ruby-red from his aunt’s harsh words. I glanced over to his mother to find her glaring at Marie. Holly was infuriated. She took the platter of chicken legs and handed it towards her son, furious fumes blasting from her nostrils.
My sister leaned over and snarled in Marie’s ears, “Don’t tell my son what to do.”
The table fell silent, everyone basking in the menace in Holly’s words. The kids were aghast at the feud emerging between the two aunts, and Mother was enraged.
“That is quite enough,” She stood up and declared, her voice booming across the room. Her stern gaze fell upon Holly, but my sister wouldn’t stand down. She was still across the table from her seat, one hand resting comfortingly on Owen’s head.
Owen was Holly’s only child. His father had left after draining Holly’s bank account dry. My sister was shocked, of course, but she wasn’t the one to break down. She steeled herself and put up her guard. No more playing around in life, she announced one day, I’m down for business.
She became an attorney for high-class aristocrats in the area and soon refilled her funds. She purchased a cosmopolitan palace in the middle of the city with glass walls and posh furniture. She spoiled Owen into a short, plump swine with secret strips of beef jerky on road trips and hidden plates of chicken parmesan sneaked under the table.
I glimpsed over at my nephew. He hated being under the spotlight, in between the quarrels of her mother and grandmother. He despised being spoiled rotten and becoming the stereotypical archetype of the mean single-child. He especially didn’t enjoy being tugged back and forth, being half emerged in the traditions of the rest of the family and half under the influences of his malevolent mother.
“No, mother,” Holly whispered, her two words echoing across the dining room. All the children were deadly still, not daring to breathe. “Nothing is ever quite enough.”
She took Owen by the arm and dragged him out of his seat, and the two strode through the hallway and out of the front door.
Joey broke into tears, and I held him close.
Holly is a Realistic Fiction short-story. Tony Lee is a ninth-grader in Ridgefield, CT. Tony wrote Holly because he wanted to venture into an unfamiliar genre and experiment with Realistic Fiction rather than other genres that he is more used to.