Turning five was a rite of passage; there would be cake, pass-the-parcel and dancing; Charlotte had her boogie shoes on and ready to go. She woke to her big day feeling energised, knowing she deserved the same pampering as her siblings. Being the youngest should mean she was extra special since she knew her parents would regret having children after her, since she was the best. Emilie baked a selection of cakes and snacks to meet Charlottes demands. Rylan had been in charge of party favours, decorations and buffet display had prepared for the guest arrival. Charlotte wanted her hair braided, she had seen a girl in playgroup, and for her birthday, the request stood. Proudly, she stepped from the closet, her new dress, hair tied; Eliza and Patrick knew their role, applauding her as she posed.
Ziva pinned, squeezed Vicky’s hand, seeing her niece all grown, reminiscing of the days, bathing her and making hats from the soap subs. Charlotte screwed her nose; she had enough mushy stuff from her mother; Emilie wished her to stay her baby. She had dreams, undefined, but Charlotte knew they were amazing, a life filled with adventure, a world evolving and revolving, with her at the centre.
As the promised party failed to deliver the excitement Charlotte demanded, she stood sullen, watching the other children play pirate. It was her birthday she should play captain, the other visiting children disagreed, Charlotte was young, no one wanted to take commands from her. Eliza tried to reason that she could be first-mate or lead the rebellion with Patrick; Charlotte showed her mean streak, sticking her tongue out; she pulled a girls hair as they climbed the ship’s ladder, calling another child names. Emilie pulled her aside, wriggling free Charlotte ran to her room, loud sobs and screams, forcing an end to the party.
School brought a bad day for everyone; Eliza did the homework, extra credit, the bulk of the group project; it was all for nothing. The would ring in as minutes as her friend Michelle copied her homework, cribbing from notes made in history. During the pop quiz, another friend thought she would be fine sharing answers, Eliza placed her arm over the sheet and lowered her head, the close work gave her a headache.
Recess Patrick hung by the playground, he watched the children running, laughing, having adventures. He wanted to go home, hide in his room, Patrick wished his mum would collect him and they could go for ice cream. Eliza had friends, despite being invited to play on the monkey bars with them, he shied. Things got worse, Charlotte teased him, her friends joined, the tormenting as at the school gate he clung to Emilie, praying the weekend would arrive faster.
The relationship with her father remained unimpressed, Eliza had sat listening, intrigued by his writing, Charlotte bored. She rolled her eyes as his voice droned, uninterested Charlotte interrupted, wondering if she could be a ninja, playing along with what he believed was a game, Rylan suggested an outfit. His daughter stared questioning, an outfit made her look the part, but how did someone develop the skills he wrote, could she clamber across rooftops, slip silent through the streets, slice enemies and evade capture. Rylan swallowed, deciding it was past her bedtime, they could discuss it another time. Pulling back, his hug made her uncomfortable, Charlotte’s face tightened, Rylan had been dismissive, as for the hug, she failed to see how they could ever like each other since his idea of being a father had been to abandon her, trapped as a wild animal in the high chair.
As a ninja in training would take discipline, focus and great knowledge, none of which Charlotte possessed. Beneath her bed, the darkness prevailed, her siblings had braved the monster, its tentacles reaching out, Patrick wet the bed, his body tangled in the sheets, Eliza screamed, running to their parents. Charlotte gasped, frightened, braver, she hit the floor, swinging Patrick’s bat, smashing her lamp, knocking toys. They flew, the added noise, Charlotte screamed, telling the monster she was a skilled ninja and would beat until senseless. Rylan rushed it catching the bat as it swung towards the floor, tossing it aside he hugged Charlotte, his little girl wobbled, standing atop her bed, she cried.