Emily waited behind the girl with the very long plait. It went past her shoulders and touched the big bow on the back of her dress. They were both waiting for a go on the trampoline. It was Jessica’s birthday and every single one of her friends had gathered at her house to play, eat cake and watch her open presents. Emily didn’t know many of the other kids there and she tried to talk to them but none of them seemed very fun to her.

When it was her go on the trampoline, she started to jump slowly. Then, as she grew more confident with her very own jumping space she jumped higher and higher, so high that she could see over the fence into the front yard, where the girl with the plait had moved to. She stood there solemnly as her mum rested one arm over her shoulder and talked to Jessica’s mum, Mrs. Hazel with the other, clutching her car keys and making wild gestures. The two ladies laughed and the girl with the plait remained still, like a statue, staring at the ground. Good, Emily thought to herself. She probably has to go home to brush her hair it’s so long. The sun shone in Emily’s eyes and she squinted, looking up so she would not have to see the faces of the angry seven year olds below, zooming in and out. Swarming around the base of the trampoline they watched Emily as she created star shapes in the sky, throwing her arms outwards and trying to make them touch her toes. She was happy. One of the girls from the ground yelled out to her.

“Hurry up you’ve been there ages!”

“I want a go now!”

Emily ignored them. They didn’t go to the same school as her so she really didn’t care. Jessica was nowhere about either so she didn’t feel rude about pretending to not hear. The voice of her mother echoed in her head, “Give the other little girls a go Em, be a good girl.” As if. I had to wait for them. They can wait for me too.

Emily hadn’t seen her Mum in a while but she still liked to pretend that she was there, talking to her and telling her to behave. That’s what her Dad said she should do anyway. Once she had jumped off the trampoline and regained her balance, Emily walked across the warm grass to find Jessica and see if she could play with some of her new birthday toys. She found Mrs. Hazel on the patio.

“Mrs. Hazel where is Jessica?”

“Emily! Hi darling!”

Mrs. Hazel put her hands on her knees and bent down to look at Emily in the face.

“Where’s Jessie?” she reiterated.

“Do you know, I’m not quite sure, have you checked outside? Maybe she’s on the trampoline?”

Mrs. Hazel was wearing a long dress that touched the grass as she walked. I bet her dress gets really dirty ever time she wears it because it’s always touching the ground. Gross.

Emily walked further into the house and walked quickly between the kitchen, pantry, living room, dining room and Jessica’s bedroom. Nothing. She even knocked on the bathroom door but it was an adult’s voice that came from inside, it sounded rude and angry. She hurried away feeling embarrassed and not wanting the grown up to know it was her that had knocked.

I wish Dad was here. Looking out onto the garden she saw that a large group of children were on the trampoline now, they weren’t working on a one-at-a-time basis. Bouncing at their feet were lots of little sweets, sparkling in the sun and looking like gemstones. As they bounded up and down, the girls screamed and giggled, trying as hard as they could to catch the treats. Feeling left out and lonely without having Jessica to attach herself to, Emily went and sat on a couch in the living room.

Jessica had been talking about her party for weeks now. She had said there would be a cake that looked like a swimming pool and that it even had little people on it that you could eat! And she said there would be a piñata full of so many sweets everyone would be sick of chocolate after her party. Emily hadn’t really wanted to come but her Dad said it would be fun and doesn’t Emily want to have fun? Yes she said to her Dad, but I won’t know anyone there apart from Jessica. But Jessica is your friend, she will make sure you have fun with the other kids. On the car ride over her Dad had told her that when she got home he would cook her pasta with meatballs, just as she liked them, and that for dessert they would have strawberry ice cream. So if the party wasn’t fun she was to remember how much fun she would have when she got home.

Just as Emily thought about telling Mrs. Hazel she was sick and could her Dad please come pick her up, Jessica came in from the hallway. She was very white in the face and wasn’t smiling even though today was her dream birthday party. I could tell Jessie about the really long-haired girl, but that would be mean ’cause I think she is her friend. Who has hair that long? Jessica went and sat next to Emily on the couch, tucking her feet under her legs as she did so.

“Are you having fun Jessie?”

“Yeah sure, I am. Are you?”

“Yeah it’s fun. Where have you been though? I tried to talk to the other kids but I don’t think they like me that much. They are all on the trampoline now, do you want to go on the trampoline Jessie? There are lollies there too, I bet we could catch more than them altogether.”

As Emily talked about the sweets she waved her arms up and down in the air as if trying to fly away from the lounge and out into the yard. Mr. Hazel walked up behind them coughing as he did so.

“Hey Emily, great to see you gorgeous! Your Dad said you would be here, this is the first time I’ve seen you all day where have you been hiding? Out with all the others, eh? Having a good time? Gee, you must be having a better time than the birthday girl, look at this one,” Mr. Hazel touched the corner of Jessica’s mouth as he said this last line, then cleared his throat and messed her hair before walking out into the garden and putting his arms around the back of his wife. Mrs. Hazel turned lazily around and kissed him.

He then whispered something in her ear and she laughed, trying to pull away from his hold but he grabbed her even harder. She laughed again. Emily looked at Jessica. She was still very white and was sitting very still with her legs dangling over the edge of the couch now, with her hands clasped on her lap.

“We don’t have to go outside. You wanna play with your new toys?” Jessica nodded and silently the two stepped down from the sofa and waded through the wrapping paper on the floor to the swell of presents in the centre of the room. Plonking themselves down at the base of the present pile, each girl smiled at the other one as they began to pick up doll after doll, treasure after treasure, present after present. I have never seen this many toys in my life, maybe next birthday I will get Dad to let Mrs. Hazel do it. They played in silence for a few minutes and then Mrs. Hazel came rushing inside with a cordless phone in her left hand and looked relieved when she saw Emily. She visibly sighed and her shoulders fell towards the ground as she told Emily that her Dad was on his way to pick her up; he had forgotten that they had to go to her Grandma’s house for dinner. Your poor father, she said to Emily. Your poor father.

Emily said goodbye to Jessica, glanced at the children outside but decided to just leave without saying goodbye and went out the front to wait for her Dad. I hope I don’t have to see any of them ever again. She was sad to leave Jessica but secretly relieved that the party was over for her.