When Sarah woke up the sun was just peeking around the corner of her curtains.   She lay for a moment enjoying the warm bed, thinking about nothing.  Suddenly, she sat up.

“It’s my birthday!” she exclaimed.  “I’m eight today!”

Full of energy, Sarah leapt out of bed and got dressed.  She was eager to find out what the day held.

Running down the stairs, she burst into the kitchen.

“Slow down, Sarah, the food isn’t going to run away,” scolded her mother.  Sarah pouted.  She wasn’t supposed to get told off today!

“But Mum…”

“No buts, Sarah.  I’ll have no bad manners in this house.  Go get the cereal out.”

Sarah went to get out the cereal.  She knew that when Mum started on bad manners all you could do was obey.   Inside, though, she was upset.

‘I know I’m supposed to help set the table, but surely today I get a rest?  It’s my birthday!’

As breakfast went on, Sarah was more and more upset.  Nobody had mentioned her birthday.  Nobody gave her any presents, nobody acted as if today was anything other than a normal day.  Surely they hadn’t forgotten?

But the silence continued.  Sarah got her school books and picked up her lunch from the bench where Mum had been making them.  She peeked inside.

‘Ugh.  Corned beef sandwiches.  Don’t I even get an interesting lunch on my birthday?  I can’t wait to get to school, my friends won’t have forgotten.  They care about me, unlike some around here.’

The walk to school was mostly silent.  Sarah’s mum was acting as if she didn’t even notice that Sarah was upset.  She spent most of the journey scolding her older brother, Matt.

“Have a nice day, Matt, Sarah.  Try to learn something interesting!”

Matt and Sarah rolled their eyes at each other, Sarah’s annoyance briefly fixed by the familiar words.  Mum said that every day.

Sarah ran into the playground to meet her friends.

“Hi Sarah,” said Lucy, and then continued the conversation she was having with Angie.

Sarah gaped.  That was it?  No happy birthday, not even a proper greeting?  Well, if they were too stupid to remember her birthday, she certainly wasn’t going to remind them!  Let them feel guilty next week when they remembered!

She sniffed, muttered something about the bathroom, and fled into the building.  She was not crying.  There was something in her eye, that was all.

Sarah was almost late to her first class because of the… thing in her eye.  When she heard the bell ring, she quickly dried her eyes and looked in the mirror.  Nobody would know.

She put on a cheerful face, and took a deep breath.  She didn’t know why it was so important to her that nobody knew, but it was.  Maybe it would make them all feel worse about it later, when they realised how brave she had been.

School was torture.  The teachers were conspiring to make this the worst day ever, Sarah was sure.  The most boring maths lesson in the world, followed by a spelling test.  At least in the afternoon they got some reading time.  Sarah liked to read, even if this term’s book was a little dull.

By the time they were allowed to go home, Sarah was more than ready to leave.  Nobody had acted any different towards her all day.  No sudden exclamations of horror that they had forgotten.  No presents delivered at lunchtime under the trees where she, Lucy and Angie played.

‘They’re all so mean,’ Sarah thought as she met up with her Mum at the gate.  They hadn’t even remembered as they said goodbye.  Just “See you tomorrow, Sarah,” from Lucy and a quick “See ya” from Angie.   It was an even quicker goodbye than normal, as if they were off to do something interesting with their evening and didn’t want to invite her.

“Hi Sarah, how was your day?  Did you learn anything?”  Mum was smiling and happy, and that just made Sarah’s mood worse.  She grunted.

“Oh, that bad, huh?” said Mum.  “Well, I’m afraid once we get Matt we need to go past the supermarket on the way home, so your terrible ordeal isn’t over yet.”

Sarah groaned.  She hated the supermarket.  So many tasty looking things that she wasn’t allowed to touch.  Bah.

Matt ran up at that point, babbling excitedly about something cool that the teacher had shown them in science lessons.  Sarah stopped listening after she realised it had to do with explosions.  Boys.

The trip to the supermarket was every bit as horrible as Sarah feared.  Mum seemed to be taking forever to choose the most normal of things.  It was like she was wasting time on purpose, just to annoy Sarah.

When they finally left the shop, with just enough food that Sarah and Matt had to carry a bag each too, Sarah had moved beyond upset and was resigned to her horrible fate.

‘All I have to do is make it through the rest of this day, and then it’ll be over.  Worst.  Birthday.  Ever.’

She wasn’t really paying attention on the walk home.  If she had been, she would have noticed her brother’s growing excitement, and her mum’s faint smile, as if she was trying not to grin.

They plodded up the garden path.  After she opened the door, Mum took Sarah’s bag and prodded her towards the living room.

“Go on, grumpy, some TV might cheer you up.  They’ve got a cartoon marathon on CBBC today.”

Sarah sighed.  She wasn’t really in the mood for cheering up, but whatever.  It was better than being told to do her homework, she supposed.

She didn’t notice her brother and mum watching carefully as she opened the door to the room.  It was dark, so she reached for the light switch.

The room flooded with light.

“Surprise!” shouted what seemed like hundreds of people.

They were all there.  Lucy and Angie, and Dad, who was supposed to be working late tonight.  And a bunch of her other friends from school, and Brownies, and ballet.  And the most enormous cake, and a pile of presents the size of Mount Everest.

Sarah burst into tears.  Dad pulled her into a hug.  “What’s wrong sweetie?” he asked.

But Sarah was laughing.  “I’m happy, I’m happy!  I had no idea!  This is awesome!  Best.  Birthday.  Ever.”

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