By Jacqueline Wilson
Copyright © 2007
All right reserved.
I had two birthdays in one week.
My first birthday was on Friday. Mum and Steve woke me up singing 'Happy Birthday to you'. They'd stuck candles in a big fat croissant and put a little paper umbrella and a cocktail stick of cherries in my orange juice.
My little half-brother Tiger came crawling into my bedroom too. He's too tiny to sing but he made a loud he-he-he noise, sitting up on his padded bottom and clapping his hands. He's really called Tim, but Tiger suits him better.
I blew out all my candles. Tiger cried when the flames went out, so we had to light them all again for him to huff and puff at.
I had my birthday breakfast in bed. Mum and Steve perched at the end, drinking coffee. Tiger went exploring under my bed and came out all fluffy, clutching one of my long-forgotten socks. He held it over his nose like a cuddle blanket, while Mum and Steve cooed at his cuteness.
Then I got to open my presents. They were wrapped up in shiny silver paper with big pink bows. I thought they looked so pretty I just wanted to hold them for a moment, smoothing the silver paper and fingering the bows, trying to guess what might be inside. But Tiger started ripping them himself, tearing all the paper and tangling the ribbon.
'Tiger, stop it! They're my presents, not yours,' I said, trying to snatch them out of the way.
'He's just trying to help you unwrap them, Flossie,' said Steve.
'You need to get a bit of a move on, darling, or you'll be late for school,' said Mum.
Tiger said He-he-he. Or it could have been Ha-ha-ha, meaning Ya-boo-sucks-to-you.
So I lost my chance of savouring my five shiny silver presents. I opened them there and then. I'll list them. (I like making lists!) A pair of blue jeans with lots of little pockets fastened with pink heart-shaped buttons. They matched a pink heart-patterned T-shirt with a cute koala motif across the chest. A pink shoebox containing a pair of trainers, blue with pink laces. A little wallet of gel pens with a stationery set and stickers. A pink pull-along trolley suitcase.
I left number 5 till last because it was big but soft and squashy, and I hoped it might be a cuddly animal (any kind, but not a tiger). He had torn off half the paper already, exposing two big brown ears and a long pointy nose. I delved inside and found two tiny brown ears and a weeny pointy nose. It was a mother kangaroo with a baby kangaroo in her pouch.
Tiger held out his hands, trying to snatch the baby out of the pouch.
'No, Tiger, he wants to stay tucked in his mummy's pocket,' I said, holding them out of his reach.
'Just let him play with the baby kanga a minute. He won't do him any harm,' said Steve, going off to the bathroom.
Steve talks a lot of rubbish sometimes. Tiger grabbed the baby kangaroo and shoved him straight in his mouth, ears, snout, his entire head.
'Mum, Tiger's eating him!' I protested.
'Don't be silly, Floss. Hang on!' Mum hooked her finger into Tiger's bulging mouth and rescued the poor little baby kangaroo.
'He's all covered in Tiger's slobber!' I said.
'Just wipe it on the duvet. Don't be such a baby, Birthday Girl,' said Mum, giving me a little poke. 'Do you like your presents, Floss?'
'Yes, I love them,' I said, gathering them all up in my arms away from Tiger.
I supposed I loved my little half-brother, but I wished we could keep him in a cage like a real tiger.
'There's actually another extra present,' said Mum. Her eyes were shining as brightly as my birthday candles. She raised her voice, shouting to Steve in the bathroom. 'Shall I tell Floss now, Steve?'
'OK, yeah, why not?' he said, coming back into my bedroom, shaving soap all over his face.
He put a little blob of shaving soap on the tip of Tiger's chin and pretended to shave him. Tiger screamed delightedly, rolling away from his dad. He wiped shaving soap all over my special cherry-patterned duvet. I rubbed at the slimy mark, sighing heavily.
'So, OK, what's my extra present?' I asked warily.
I very much hoped Mum wasn't going to announce she was going to have another baby. One Tiger was bad enough. Two would be truly terrible.
'It's a present for all of us. The best present ever, and it's all due to Steve,' said Mum. She was looking at him as if he was a Super Rock Star/Footballer for England/Total God, instead of a perfectly ordinary actually quite boring guy who picks his nose and scratches himself in rude places.
Steve smirked and flexed his muscles, striking a silly pose.
'Steve's got promotion at his work, Floss,' said Mum. 'He's being made a manager - isn't that incredible? There's a sister company newly starting in Sydney and Steve's been asked to set things up there. Isn't that great?'
'Yeah, I suppose. Well done, Steve,' I said politely, not really taking it in at all. The stain on my duvet wasn't budging.
'Sydney!' Mum said.
I blinked at her. I didn't quite get the significance. Sydney was just an old-fashioned guy's name.
'She doesn't have a clue where it is,' said Steve, laughing. 'Don't they teach kids geography nowadays?'
Then I got it. 'Sydney in Australia?'
Steve clapped me. He made Tiger clap his little pink fists too. Mum gave me a big big hug.
'Isn't it exciting, Floss! Think of all the sunshine! You just step out of the city and there you are, on a fabulous beach. Imagine!'
I was imagining. I saw us on a huge white beach, with kangaroos hopping across the sand and koalas climbing palm trees and lots of beautiful skinny ladies like Kylie Minogue swimming in the turquoise sea. I saw Mum and me paddling, hand in hand. I sent Steve way way out to sea on a surfboard. I stuck Tiger in a kangaroo's pouch and sent them hopping far off into the bush.
'It's going to be so wonderful,' said Mum, lying back on the bed, arms and legs outstretched, as if she was already sunbathing.
'Yeah, wonderful,' I echoed. 'Wait till I tell Rhiannon and everyone at school!' Then I paused. 'What about school?'
'Well, Steve reckons we'll be in Sydney a good six months, though we're not permanently emigrating. You'll go to a lovely new Australian school while we're out there, darling,' said Mum. 'It'll be a fantastic experience for you.'
My heart started thumping. 'But I won't know anyone,' I said.
'You'll soon make heaps of new friends,' said Mum.
'I like my old friends,' I said.
Rhiannon and I had been best friends for almost a whole year. It's the most wonderful thing in the world to be Rhiannon's best friend because: She's the most popular girl in the class and always gets voted to be monitor and the lead part in any play and first in any team. She's the prettiest girl in the class too. No, the prettiest girl in the whole school. She's got long dark black hair, utterly straight and very shiny. She's got delicate black arched eyebrows and long thick black eyelashes but her eyes are bright blue. She is quite tall and very slim and could absolutely definitely be a fashion model when she's older. Or a rock star. Or a television presenter. Or all three. Everyone else wants to be Rhiannon's best friend, especially Margot, but she's my best friend, so there. Margot's never ever going to break us up. No one can ever come between Rhiannon and me.
I loved Rhiannon to bits even though she could be a bit bossy at times. She generally told me what to do. But I didn't really mind because mostly I just wanted to please her.
I tried to imagine this big new Australian school. I'd watched the soaps on television. I made the girls wear funny check dresses and smile a lot with their big white teeth. They all spoke together. 'G'day, Flossie, can we be your friends?' they chorused.
'Well, I'd normally say yes. But I'm Rhiannon's friend,' I explained.
'Hey, daydream Birthday Girl!' said Mum, giving me a kiss. 'I'm going to pop in the bathroom after Steve. Keep an eye on Tiger for me.'
You needed two eyes looking out for Tiger. Plus another pair at the back of your head.
I gathered up all my birthday presents and put them up on top of my bookshelf, out of his reach. I pictured myself wearing my new T-shirt and jeans and trainers, pulling my trolley-case, kangaroo under one arm, bouncing off to Australia. I saw how cleverly Mum had chosen my presents.
Then I looked at the stationery set. I fingered the writing paper and envelopes and the gel pens all the colours of the rainbow. Why would I be writing lots of letters?
Then my heart thumped harder. I dropped the stationery and the pens and ran to the bathroom. 'Mum! Mum!' I yelled.
'What?' Mum was larking around with Steve, splashing him like a little kid.
'Mum, what about Dad?' I said.
Mum peered at me. 'I expect your dad will phone you tonight, Floss. And you'll be seeing him on Saturday, same as always.'
'Yes, I know. But what's going to happen when we're in Australia? I can still see him, can't I?'
Mum's brow wrinkled. 'Oh, come on, Flossie, don't be stupid. You can't nip back from Australia every weekend, obviously.'
'But I can go sometimes? Every month?'
'I'm doing very nicely, thank you, but we're not made of money, kiddo,' said Steve. 'It costs hundreds and hundreds of pounds for a flight.'
'But what am I going to do?'
'You can write to your dad,' said Mum.
'I knew that's why you got me that stationery set. I don't want to write to him!'
'Well, if he'd only join the modern world and get a mobile and a computer you could text and email him too,' said Mum.
'I want to be able to see him like I do now,' I said.
'Well, we're not going to Australia for ever,' said Mum. 'Those six months will whizz past and then we'll be back. Unless of course it's so wonderful out there that we decide to stay on! Still, if we did decide to stay for good we'd come back on a visit.'
'Your dad could maybe come out to Sydney to see you,' said Steve.
He said it nicely enough but there was a little smirk on his face. He knew perfectly well my dad was having major money problems. He had barely enough for the bus fare into town. If flights to Australia cost hundreds of pounds there was no hope whatsoever.
'You're mean, Steve,' I said, glaring at him.
'Oh, Floss, how can you say that? Steve's the most generous guy in the whole world,' said Mum, deliberately misunderstanding. 'He's booked for us to go to TGI Friday's as a special birthday treat for you tonight.'
'I'd sooner have a birthday meal at home. A little party, just Rhiannon and me.'
'I haven't got the time, Floss. I've got one million and one things to get organized. Come on, you know you love TGI Friday's. Don't spoil your birthday making a fuss about nothing.'
I stomped back to my bedroom.
My dad wasn't nothing! I loved him so much. I missed him every week when I was at Mum and Steve's.
I'd forgotten I'd left Tiger in my bedroom. He'd got at my new gel pens. He'd decided to decorate my walls.
'You are a menace,' I hissed at him. 'I wish you'd never been born. I wish my mum had never met your dad. I wish my mum was still with my dad.'
Tiger just laughed at me, baring his small sharp teeth.
Excerpted from Candyfloss
by Jacqueline Wilson
Copyright © 2007 by Jacqueline Wilson.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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