Two Days Late
"Owen?" Claire's slightly panicked, slightly worried tone had Owen rushing from his spot in the kitchen and into Claire's home office. He had to dodge boxes on his way, almost tripping over the same one he did everytime he walked down the main hall. They had moved into their house a month ago, but the place was a mix of boxes, unpacking never getting the priority it needed. That box, he really needed to take care of though, or one day he really was going to faceplant.
"What?" Owen asked, pushing his way into her office, eyes wide, searching the room for a threat, before his gaze took in Claire, who was sitting at her desk, looking unharmed.
"Look at this," Claire pointed to her computer screen, and Owen rounded the desk to stand beside her.
"What are we looking at?" Owen asked, his eyes skimming across the screen, nothing jumping out at him.
"This!" Claire used her mouse to highlight a chunk of text on the screen. September 10, 2008.
"Still not following," Owen shook his head. "What's important about that date?"
"Two days ago," Claire moaned, ignoring him. "We missed it by two days. Why didn't she say anything?"
"Missed what?" Owen looked at the screen again before back to Claire.
"Maisie's birthday," Claire whispered.
"No way," Owen shook his head. "How did we miss that?"
"Why didn't she tell us?" Claire turned in her chair until she was facing Owen. "Her birthday. I mean… She went to school. We went to work. It was just an ordinary day. We should've known."
"How?" Owen asked. "She probably has a reason for not telling us."
"Yeah, but we had to fill out all those forms for school. All the paperwork we've done around her. How did neither of us ever catch on to her birthday?"
"There was a lot of paperwork," Owen nodded, thinking back to the frustration they had experienced trying to fill it all out. Probably a task that would take a regular parent ten minutes to do had taken them two days as they had to try to hunt down information about vaccinations and old school records.
"What do we do now?" Claire asked. "Do we throw her a birthday party? Who would we invite? I don't know who her friends are at school yet. Where do kids have birthday parties now? She's probably too old for Chuck E. Cheese, right?"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Owen placed his hands on her shoulders, interrupting the neverending flow of questions and thoughts. "There's got to be a reason she didn't say anything. I don't think we need to go planning a big party. Let's just talk to Maisie first. See what she wants."
They decided to wait until dinner to bring it up. Claire went back to finishing up her work while Owen checked on the spaghetti sauce he had on the stove, before pulling out the ingredients for a salad. Thirty minutes later, Owen was pulling garlic bread out of the oven and calling out to Maisie and Claire that dinner was ready.
Gathered around the table, there was the usual hecticness at the start, as everyone filled their plates. But once they started to eat, silence fell over the table. Owen and Claire exchanging looks, both trying to urge the other to start the conversation with Maisie.
Claire caved first. "Maisie," she questioned, resting her fork against her plate and waiting for the young girl to look up at her. "I was going through some documents tonight and I realized that it was your birthday two days ago." Claire waited a moment to see if Maisie would say anything, but Maisie just looked back at her. Realizing that she hadn't actually asked Maisie a question, Claire continued. "We're really sorry we missed your birthday. Why didn't you tell us?"
Maisie just shrugged in response, her eyes looking down at her plate. "It's not a big deal," she finally mumbled, when neither Claire nor Owen spoke.
"Not a big deal?" Owen repeated. "That's not true, kiddo. It's the one day a year that's all about you. Presents and cake and balloons..." He trailed off, watching as Maisie's shoulders slumped, a frown appearing on her face. "What did you usually do for your birthday?" Owen asked.
Again, Maisie just shrugged.
"Did you have a party?" Claire asked gently. "Or a special cake?"
"What does it matter?" Maisie finally said, looking up and meeting their concerned gazes. "I'm a clone. It's not my day."
"Whoa," Owen said sharply, hands raised. "Kiddo, cloned or not has absolutely nothing to do with your birthday."
"I wasn't born, I was made," Maisie replied petulantly.
"That's not true," Claire disagreed. Off Maisie's scowl, she corrected herself, "Not entirely true. Mais, you may have been … made, but you were born. Just like everyone else on the planet, you have a birthday too."
"Really, all of us were made," Owen tried adding, before backtracking off of Claire's glare. "I mean, we've talked about this. How you were first … conceiv–created doesn't matter. What matters is that you are here, now. And that, on September 10th in 2008 you entered this world just like every other baby – probably crying your head off about having to live in this world." Maisie was still frowning and looking unconvinced, so Owen tried a different tactic. "And you only turn double digits once! This was–is a big one. We need to do something to celebrate it."
"He's right," Claire nodded. "Ten is a big birthday. How about we plan something special for this weekend? Maybe a party? Movie? Anything you want."
"Anything?" Maisie asked slowly, looking thoughtful.
"Anything," Owen agreed enthusiastically.
"Within reason," Claire quickly added.
"Could we go to the cabin?" Maisie asked hopefully, glancing between them both.
"The cabin?" Claire repeated, a little confused. "Sure, but… are you sure you don't want a party or something? We could invite your whole class. Or have a few friends over for a sleepover..."
"Shhh," Owen exaggerated shushing at Claire. "She asked for the cabin."
"I like the cabin," Maisie shrugged, looking at them both. "It's nice out there."
"It is," Claire agreed. "Okay, we'll spend the weekend at the cabin. Any present requests?"
"A dog?" Maisie asked, turning her puppy-dog eyes on Owen, who immediately shook his head no. "Fine," Maisie sighed. "An iPad?"