“Happy Minor Birthday.” Seth held his shot glass up over the table.
Frankie raised her glass and clinked it against Seth’s. “One day, soon, I’m going to make you stop forcing me to celebrate this.” she said, wincing at the clumsiness of her declaration. They knocked back the spirits, throats burning and lips strangely numbed.
“Never! You’re a first. A trail blazer! A miracle! A….” Usually, Seth had to be much more drunk before he started describing her birth in these terms.
“Not a freak. Never a freak. I mean, look at all the bag babies there are now. All those preemies who wouldn’t have lived before you. And you, the first of them.”
“The first to survive. All the ones before me died. There’s a reason my middle name’s Miracle. I know they would all have died anyway, they were so premature. But I have to wonder how I survived and they didn’t. Sometimes I imagine their ghosts looking at me, all angry because I got out alive and they didn’t.” Frankie turned her shot glass over and tapped the table top with it. “What is this stuff? Why’s it filling me with melancholy and misery?”
“It’s one of Will’s concoctions. He gave me the shots free for feedback. Wants to make up a batch and sell it across the bar. You don’t like it?”
“Maybe I’m just not in the mood. I need brandy.”
Seth turned in his seat and leaned on the bar. Will spotted him immediately, and navigated his way around the bar staff. “Well?” he asked.
Frankie unrolled her phone and checked her messages. She didn’t want to give her opinion on the drink. Seth’s hand waggled in the air, the wavering sign for so-so. Will hid his disappointment well. “Double brandy, and a pint of the Earl Grey lager, please.”
“Dinesh is stuck on a tram. Everyone else says they’ll be here in the next half hour or so.” Frankie told Seth when he put the tumbler of dark gold liquid down before her.
“Including the dishy Darius?”
Frankie blushed. “Can we not mention the Minor Birthday thing to him. I haven’t told him yet.”
“If he’s with the others, one of them will have blabbed already. And I may, maybe, have already mentioned it’s your Minor Birthday when I invited him. Just the name, not the full, gory explanation.” Seth turned to pick up his lager, avoiding her glare.
“Fucking wonderful. Everybody wants to know all about the procedure when they find out. ‘You were taken out of your mother’s womb how many months early?’ ‘Are those bags really see-through? Could you see the lab you were grown in?’ ‘What was it like?’” The voice Frankie put on got squeakier with each question. She picked up the tumbler and swirled the brandy around.
She wasn’t angry at Seth. He meant well. Sooner or later, with everyone she met, the subject of her birth came up. Everyone was interested in the process. Too many had an opinion on the ethics of bringing a baby to term in an artificial womb when they wouldn’t survive in their mother’s. The worst were the ones who thought she needed protecting.
Seth had a smile, that annoying one that meant he knew something she didn’t. “What?”
“Oh, nothing. I mean, I’ve already let out one person’s secrets today. I really shouldn’t do it.”
“What is it? Something about Darius?”
“Well, speak of the devil.” Seth pointed over Frankie’s left shoulder.
She turned quickly, and there was Darius, over by the door. He spotted them, smiled and waved. He was achingly gorgeous, about as beautiful as any man could be. Was he some sort of freak, just like her?
Oh, she hoped so. She really did.