I am at Catherine’s 8th birthday party. Catherine lives at the top of our street and we are gathered in her front room, a sea of pretty party dresses; playing who can suck the fruit pastille the longest.
The phone rings. Catherine’s Mum, Maria, leaves the room. Five minutes later she returns looking drained, sad. She speaks to her friend and they both look at me and continue with the party games with instant cheerful faces. Their eyes tell a different story. I stop sucking my sweet and chew it, failing the game.
Fifteen minutes later the party finishes, a flurry of parents arrive to collect their children. I am in the front room with Catherine and a couple of others. Sitting by the window I can see my Dad walking up the drive. The doorbell rings and Maria opens the door. I leave the room and hover in the hallway.
Engrossed in their hushed conversation they do not see me.
Although close friends, I find it strange that Maria gives my Dad a hug and she tells him she is sorry. Why is she sorry? I squeeze past them unnoticed and stand on the step behind my Dad, ready to leave.
“Laura, your Dad is here” Maria shouts into the house.
“I’m here” I say from behind them. They look at me, at each other, then we all exchange goodbyes.
Maria gives me my party bag, I unwrap a yellow, sticky lollipop. We begin the short walk down the hill to our house. We talk about the party and then I ask Dad how Mum is. He ignores me or doesn’t hear my question.
“How is Mummy?” I ask again.
Nothing. He is looking straight ahead and walking faster.
“Daddy! How is Mummy?” I say louder this time.
Why won’t he speak to me?
He stops and bends down so that his eyes are level with mine. There is sadness in his eyes. Something is wrong, my Daddy looks different. He is holding my hand.
“Laura, Mummy has died” he says.
The lollipop falls from my hand and my legs feel like jelly, I want to be sick. I look at the lollipop lying on the floor; its sticky coating covered in grit from the pavement. I burst into tears. My stomach is churning; the pavement falls away from my feet as my Dad scoops me up and carries me home.
I am 9 years old, my Mummy has gone.