‘Grandma, Granddad! Please hurry up! I want a slice of cake!’ Mara shouted at her soon to be aged grandparents, her eyes as big as saucers as not one but two chocolate cakes were laid out before her. ‘Can I blow out the candles for you?!’
‘Don’t you dare, kiddo!’ Booker admonished, pulling his overeager daughter away from the sweet treats. ‘It’s not your birthday just yet! Only the birthday girls and boys get to blow out the candles, that’s the rules!’
The family gathered around the tables as Dylan and Louise took a deep breath, ready to blow out their candles…
‘Oh love, you’re as beautiful today as you were the day I first laid eyes on you,’ Dylan cooed, feeling a little sentimental in his old age as the pair sat down together, their bones suddenly feeling a little weaker than they used to.
‘What do you mean, love? I think you only had eyes for one girl at school when we first met!’ Louise teased her husband.
‘Way to ruin the moment, Mum!’ Lily called through from the kitchen.
‘Oh, he knows I don’t mean it, love,’ Louise giggled. ‘Cake up, yet?’
‘Come and get it!’
The family crowded around the small table as they tucked into their slices of cake. ‘Oh, Freya love this is delicious! I bet little Mara’s going to be screeching for hers all the way down the motorway!’ Dylan laughed; as Mara had school the next day and it was such a long drive, Robyn and Booker had made the decision to leave shortly after the cake was cut, much to Mara’s dismay. Home was a long way away, and there was no eating in the car!
‘It really is good Freya, thank you so much for baking,’ Louise smiled warmly at her eldest twin. ‘This is so cosy, just the four of us sat here!’
‘You mean cramped, Mum. This kitchen is tiny,’ Lily muttered under her breath.
‘Well, it’s not like I can afford anything bigger yet Lily, we’ve been through this,’ Freya said tensely.
‘But I can! You know I’d be happy to pay a larger portion of the rent initially until you got sorted Freya, even if you insisted on paying me back one day!’
Freya started to panic at the sudden onslaught from her sister. ‘Lily, please. You know I don’t want your help! And I really don’t want to owe my sister anything. There’s nothing wrong with this place!’
‘Freya, it’s a good thirty miles from the centre of town.’
‘And we could have got something more central if it wasn’t for your stupid pride!’
‘…I’m sorry, Lily…’
‘Freya, love -‘
‘No Mum, it’s fine. Lily, I am sorry. You know how grateful to you I am. I’d still be living at home if you hadn’t agreed to live with me – not that I would’ve hated that, Mum! Just, you know. Got to move out at some point! And I know this place isn’t the best, but I just need some time…’
Lily nodded, feeling a little guilty. ‘I know, Freya. I’m sorry too. I don’t mean to go on at you all the time. It’s just, we don’t understand. None of us do. You were doing so well -‘
Lily fell silent and looked at her mother, who was gazing at Freya with a grave expression. ‘That’ll do for now, Lil. Freya has her reasons, and I’m sure she’ll share them with us when she’s ready. But for now, she’s just going to have to work a bit harder to get to where she deserves to be. And I have no doubt that she’ll make it.’
‘And if you decide that the writing thing isn’t for you, may I suggest a career as a chef? This cake really is good, love!’ Dylan laughed, breaking the tension.
* * *
Later that evening after the cake had been demolished and the parents kissed and hugged goodbye, Freya ventured into her bedroom cautiously. Sitting in front of the computer, she took a deep breath.
‘Right, computer. You don’t like me, and I really don’t like you. You’re old, slow, and if I won the lottery tomorrow then frankly I’d set fire to you and be rid of you forever. But right now, I need an idea. Something. Anything. Please…’
She pressed the on switch, waited for the machine to boot up, and began to type.
Tried to type.
Tried to organise her confused thoughts…
‘Oh for GNOMES’ BLOODY SAKE!!’
Nothing. Nothing!! Still zilch, after all these months. Crossly, she pulled the plug out of the wall and buried her head in her hands before turning to her reflection.
‘Freya Rivers, just what the hell is wrong with you? You! You, of all people, can’t pull a single idea out of your twisted imagination! What happened?! Where’s the little brat child who made up stories for fun?! Where’s she gone? What, did that one stupid night with Leo…’
She stopped abruptly. It was the first time she’d said out loud what had happened.
It had all gotten to be too much after that mistake…
The awkward way their radio show had broken down.
The slow realisation that she had no other friends on her course.
The way she couldn’t concentrate as everything started to fall apart.
Having to see him every single day, both at home and in her lectures.
The constant embarrassment.
The unbelievable overreaction of dropping out of university…
‘Oh, what the hell have you done, Freya?!’