Here you are – the beginning of my new short series. Enjoy.
Ageing of Amber – Age 5
Why does my mom insist on dressing me like this? Smile. Camera flash adjust, smile, flash, again. Every time we go out, it’s the same.
“You’ll want the memories” she tells me. I won’t remember this. Nothing about this is worth remembering.
My shoes are red. And sparkly. I like red. The glitter is okay. They’re pretty.
Off we go! Into the big car. Dad’s driving today, that’s different. Maybe they won’t fight this time, mom is better at directions.
The radio’s on. I don’t like this music, it’s old. I want to sing, but my brother says I can’t. He’s mean. He never wants to do anything with me and I don’t know what not. It’s not fair.
I don’t know where we’re going. It looks like it’s going to rain so I hope it’s not outside, I don’t like getting wet, it makes my curls go curlier and I don’t want them to, I wish I didn’t have curls at all. Mom says they make me look “adorable”, I’m not even sure what that means.
“Turn right” mom says. Too late, he turned right. It begins, the arguing and name calling. I get in trouble for calling my brother a ‘doo-doo head’ but mom says much worse and no one tells her off. Maybe I should…
“You’re not allowed to say that.” The words tumble out and now they’re staring at me, making me go bright red. I’ve said the wrong thing, again.
“Shut up Amber.”
“Don’t tell your sister to shut up.”
“Just said what you were thinking.”
Now mom and Josh are fighting, dad’s annoyed because he’s lost and I still don’t know why we had to go out in the first place. Everything was better when we were at home. I just wanted to stay there. I turn my attention to the window. Outside, cows sit in the field, birds float through the sky. The clouds look like the people in the show mom made me watch earlier. They were too cheery and allowed to sing whenever they wanted. They didn’t have a brother who always told them to stop.
“We’re here.” Mom declares eventually, with a much too pleased smile. Before I can protest I’m being pulled from the car and forced to walk across a muddy field. My red shoes aren’t so sparkly now.
We find a spot near the park and mom lays out our blue chequered blanket that normally lives in the garden. We sit, and mom starts to unpack food from the basket I saw her packing early this morning. Dad’s focus is on his phone. Whatever he is look at upsets him.
“You said you wouldn’t do that.” Mom complains at him.
“I don’t have a choice” He replies, not looking up.
Josh gets up and runs off to join a game of tag with two other, bigger boys. I wish I was like Josh, even if he does smell and tells me he hates me. He is much more fun than me. It’s easy for him. People like him.
“Why don’t you go play?” Mom suggests. Her tone is gentle and soothing, it makes me feel warm inside. But there’s a hint of concern that I hear a lot. She’s worried about me. She doesn’t think I’m happy.
I don’t reply, instead focussing on the cheese sandwich I had just picked up, pulling the crusts off and discarding them in a pile to the side. I know it will get me in trouble, but I don’t want to eat them. Josh once told me that if I ate the crusts, it would make my hair go curlier. I don’t want it any curlier. I don’t like it as it is. So now, I avoid crusts, at all costs.
“Go on Amber.” My dad chimes in. His voice is much sterner and I know not to disobey him. “Go play with the other kids, give your mom and I some peace.” Reluctantly I get up. I cross the field, carefully avoiding the really muddy bits, until I reach the playground. I look around, unsure what to do. It’s not as fun to play on your own, though I’m used to it.
The slide, I decide, is best. Carefully I climb each step one by one until I reach the top. Looking out over everyone else, I suddenly feel like I’m on top of the world. I watch as Josh trips whilst chasing the other boys. But he doesn’t cry, like I would, just gets up and carries on. He’s much braver than me.
I wait for my turn on the slide, but as the person in front of me goes down, I’m suddenly scared. It’s so high and steep and I’m not sure I want my turn anymore.
“Are you nervous?” A girl, who looks my age, her hair in two little pig tails with pink bows that I am envious of, squeaks. I shake my head, but also take a step back, away from the slide. “It’s okay if you are, I am too.” She admits, stepping closer. “Tell you what,” She is now beside me, in front of the slide. “We can do it together.” She takes a seat at the top of the slide, then turns to me, expectantly. “You sit behind me. Put your legs here” She pats the space either side of her legs on the slide and I reluctantly follow her instructions. Something about her makes me instantly trusting – she won’t let me get hurt, we’re in this together “Now wrap your arms around me and hold tight”. Again, I do as she says. She’s confident it’s safe and I believe here. “Ready?” Silently I nod. “Go!” She pushes off and together we squeal as loudly as we can as we slide, collapsing in a fit of giggles at the bottom.
“I’m Tess.” She tells me, before I tell her my name, “Amber,” and we’re off, chasing across the playground, climbing on the jungle gym, soaring high on the see saw, our laughter barely stopping, our earlier nerves long forgotten.
“Quick, come with me” she instructs me, grabbing my hand and pulling me to the far end of the park, away from everyone else. We sit and huddle together.
“I want to tell you a secret” she whispers to me excitedly.
“I like secrets.” I admit, though I’m not sure I’ve ever been told one before. Tess looks around, checking no one is listening, before continuing.
“You’re my best friend!” I beam with joy. I have never been anyone’s best friend before. “And I’m yours too, right?” She asks, suddenly worried I won’t agree.
“Definitely.” I reply.
“Great! This is going to be so much fun.”
She was right, it was.