I had just turned six. I woke up to hear Paul McCartney’s 1990 ‘Birthday’ song was blasting downstairs in the kitchen, and my dad singing along so all the neighbours could hear. I bum-shuffled down the stairs (avoiding the nails holding the carpet down) and before he could say ‘Happy Birthday’ I launched myself towards the presents. My mum, being the reasonable parent, told me to wait patiently until after the party.
“Party! What party?” I jumped on the spot with excitement.
Sure enough, when the clock struck 12, guests began to arrive. Three of my cousins, a few friends from school, Amy from across the road, and parents. The kitchen got louder and louder. Parents murmured in a crowd, children squealed and laughed, it was hell. It felt like everyone was looking at me, watching what I was doing and where I was going.
“Stop looking at me. Stop looking at me. Stop looking at me.” I started to panic.
My vision began to blur. It felt like electricity was zooming around my brain and my head ached. Boom boom boom boom. My heart beat out of my chest faster than I could run. There were too many people, too much noise. It was loud. Too loud. They needed to leave.
Another knock on the door. Mum answered. Two women wearing brightly coloured suits and huge hats that were taller than the doorway came in. They carried suitcases and had flowers in the pocket of their waistcoats. Their hats and bright clothes frightened me. They looked like evil cartoon characters who came to hurt me. Will they kill me?
I reluctantly followed the crowd into the garden and watched as the women pulled props from their cases like magic wands and scarves.
“Where is the birthday girl? Come and help us with our first spell!” One asked.
I ran. I ran as fast as I could and hid under the desk in the living room. I cried and cried and cried.
Everything was too much. Too loud. Too bright. I don’t want another party.