Xanthe’s at preschool by herself today, which means Briar wants my attention. It’s always like this. When the girls are together they couldn’t care less if I’m not around, but as soon as they’re on their own they need me to entertain them. I don’t mind. I like these special one-on-one days we have now. They make me feel good. Today we’re finishing off the snow globe we were working on last week.
I take the snow globe kit down from the top of the kitchen cupboard, and begin explaining what we need to do next. I show Briar the roll of plain cardboard that is to become the stand for the snow globe. I tell her that she needs to decorate it, and that maybe she can try and make it match the animals she’s already made to go inside the globe. She snatches the cardboard ring from my hands, itching to get started right away, but when I ask her what her plans are she’s vague on details. I suggest we get some plain paper to wrap over it, that we can measure and cut it, and then she draw a design before we glue it to the cardboard. I tell her she can use the brand-new felt pens that I’ve got hidden away in my workroom. Briar smiles and nods and her eyes sparkle.
“Yes please, Mummy,” she says.
I enter my workroom, approach the desk, and pull out the heavy bottom drawer where I sneakily store all the art supplies. I reach in and lift out the blue bucket full of felts; new felts that I have been keeping from Xanthe. She never puts the lids back on when she’s finished drawing. I only leave the dud pens out for her to play with now. There’s no way I’m letting Xanthe get her hands on these fresh, new pens without close supervision, but I know I can trust Briar. I know Briar will appreciate them. I push the drawer closed with my foot, and as the felt tips roll around noisily in the bucket I remember...
It’s my birthday and I’m so excited to go to school today. Everyone will be so nice to me and say Happy Birthday, and I’m going to take my brand-new felts and keep them sitting on my desk so that everyone can see them. I love my new felts. They came in a plastic tub that you can see through, and they look so cool in there. I’m not going to put them in a pencil case. I’m going to keep them in their special see-through box so that everyone knows they are new.
I get to school early and Marie Gordon sees me and straight away she remembers that it’s my birthday. She yells Happy Birthday and I smile and I say thank you and I’m smiling so much. I feel really special today, and even though I already opened all my presents this morning I’m still excited. Everyone is coming up and saying Happy Birthday now. I think they must be excited too, because they’re all saying it over and over and over. I stop saying thank you, because they don’t even mean it anymore. They’re just yelling it at me and they won’t stop.
I’m running around all of Team Teaching and Marie Gordon and all the others are chasing me. They’re chasing me and they’re yelling Happy birthday, Happy birthday, Happy birthday. I don’t like it. It’s not fun anymore. It’s only special when people say it once. They’re not supposed to tease you when it’s your birthday.
We’ve finished sitting in our lines on the mat and now it’s time to go to our own areas of Team Teaching and start our school work. I have my box of new felt pens and I put them down on the corner of my desk, just like I wanted to. I feel happy now that everyone can see my new felts, and I feel even happier that they’re not saying Happy Birthday anymore. Mr Mechen stands up and he starts talking to the class. He has a moustache, and a nose that looks like a bird’s beak, and crooked teeth, and sometimes he spits when he talks, but he is a nice teacher. He is telling us what we need to do today, but then he stops and looks at me.
“Oh yes!” he says. “Happy Birthday, Anita!”
I am so sick of everyone saying that, and straight away I just look right at my teacher and I say, “Oh shut up!”
Everyone in my class hears and they all gasp and spin around in their chairs and stare at me and whisper to each other. Mr. Mechen looks at me and his eyes are all wide and blinky. I look up at Mr. Mechen and my mouth is hanging right open because I can’t believe what I said. I tell him I am sorry, and he doesn’t even growl at me. I think he thinks I’m a weirdo now. It’s all Marie Gordon’s fault.