The night before I turned six years old there was a big storm that rattled the house throughout the night. The loud thunder and flashes of lightning were so scary I wanted to sleep in Mum’s bed, but she said I should be brave now I was about to turn six. As I lay in bed hugging Mr and Mrs Bear with my eyes wide open I thought the house was going to wash away from all the rain on the roof and the sound of the wind blowing outside.
I must have eventually fallen asleep because when I woke up in the morning the sun was shining brightly through the windows and I was six years old. When I looked outside there were big puddles everywhere and I quickly got dressed so I could go out and play in the water. Mum saw me from the kitchen window and yelled at me to come inside out of the wet grass. I got into big trouble for getting my shoes and dress muddy and felt terrible when she made me have a bath even though it was only breakfast time. She said it was so that I would look clean and pretty for my birthday.
When I got out of the bath and was dressed again, everyone crowded around the kitchen table to watch me open my presents and I gave each of my sisters a hug and a kiss to say ‘thank you’. Stephen gave me a book about Pinocchio and I gave him an extra special kiss and hug before I was left alone to play with my new presents. I went into the lounge room and sat on the floor and read about how Pinocchio dreamed of being a real boy. But he was very naughty for telling lies and seemed to get into trouble all the time, even when he didn’t mean to. I thought that was why he told lies, because he didn’t like getting into trouble. I wondered what it would be like to be made of wood, but I didn’t think I would like to be changed into a donkey and get long pointy ears and hooves like Pinocchio did. I much preferred being a real girl and I hoped getting into trouble in the morning wouldn’t make my ears grow. I still felt a little sad, even after all the excitement of opening my presents.
After a while Mum came into the lounge room and told me I should go and have a look on the back verandah. I rushed to open the door and there I found a brand new girl’s bike, all shiny silver and yellow with huge wheels. It had a bow tied around the handle bars and a sticker on the tube that read ‘Little Angel’.
The bike was a bit too big for me but I found that I could get on by climbing onto a chair first then pushing off. I turned the pedals and suddenly I was flying up and down the backyard with my legs spinning round and round.
I spent all morning riding under the mulberry tree, through the gate to the front and then back again. Stephen said I was going to wear a track in the muddy lawn. Mum said when I got bigger I could ride up and down the laneway and then the lawn would be safe. The laneway was dirt and ran down the back of all the houses along our street and it’s where all the big kids played.
‘Molly,’ I heard Mum calling out from the back verandah. ‘It’s time to come in. I think Stephanie is here; I just heard a car pull up out the front.’
I jumped off my bike and ran to meet my best friend at the front door. ‘Stephanie!’ I squealed and gave her a big hug.
‘Hi Molly, happy birthday,’ she said as she handed me a present. It was wrapped in purple paper with a pink ribbon tied around it. I was so excited that I ripped all the paper off in one go and there inside was a beautiful book of stories about fairies. ‘Oh Steph, I love it,’ I said and gave her another hug.
‘Why don’t you girls go outside and play for a while before lunch?’ Mum said.
‘Come on Steph,’ I said. ‘Come and see my new bike.’ We went out the back and took turns riding my bike around the yard for a little while.
‘I’ve had enough of riding, Molly. Let’s go and play on the swings,’ Stephanie said. I wasn’t tired of the bike, but I leant it carefully against the wall and followed Stephanie across to the swing set. I didn’t mind playing on the swings for a little while but it made me feel sick if I went too fast.
‘Come on, Molly… go higher like me.’ Stephanie was already swinging high, kicking her legs right up into the sky and she looked just like a blur. I tried to keep up with her and kicked my legs to make the swing go faster. Every time I went forward to the top of the swing I would feel like I was going to fly off into space, then my stomach would plunge as I suddenly started to swing backwards. Stephanie was giggling loudly and she kept urging me to go faster and faster. Each time I would kick my legs and go higher and higher, but then I started to feel dizzy. I tried to hang on until it suddenly felt like I was floating in mid air.
Everything froze for a moment and then I started falling, down, down forever, until I landed with a thump on the ground. I was stunned for a moment, and then started to scream because my arm hurt where I had landed on it crookedly.
‘Molly! Are you okay?’ Stephanie jumped off the swing and put her arm around me as Mum raced out of the house. By the time she arrived I was sobbing uncontrollably.
‘What happened? Let me have a look.’ Mum felt my arm and it really hurt. ‘Well I don’t think it’s broken so you will live.’ She picked me up and carried me inside the house. ‘You girls should play inside where it’s safer.’
It started raining again that afternoon and I could hear it pouring on our tin roof all night long. I lay in bed listening to the rain and wondering if it was ever going to stop. It gurgled down the drain outside my bedroom window and was so noisy that I couldn’t sleep, so I hopped out of bed and went into Mum’s room.
‘Mum,’ I whispered. ‘Mum, are you awake?’
‘What is it Molly?’ Mum said in her sleep.
‘I can’t sleep. I’m worried about the rain.’
‘Oh honey, there’s nothing to worry about. Hop back in bed sweetie and think about something nice.’ I stood there for a while but she had gone back to sleep, so I went back to bed and lay there with my eyes open in the darkness. I couldn’t think of anything nice, all I could hear was the rain.