As they hugged, Martha looked out of the front room window. Curtains fully open, the sun had nearly reached its peak.
She arrived home at exactly twelve o’clock.
Martha carefully placed her presents alongside her diary, teddy, and some homemade cards, which were made by Laura when she was just six, inside her underwear drawer. Thomas’s gold signet ring was hidden where he would easily find it.
Reluctant for the actual day of celebration, Martha hoped it would pass without incident. It was the one day of the year that had to be more than perfect. It was also the one day of the year they were totally alone together. Keeping up appearances of a happy marriage was harder to hide. Like a crack in the wall, eventually the plaster needed replacing.
When Laura was young, it was easier to cope with. There was someone else to create a festive atmosphere. They spent the day baking fruit cakes and Christmas puddings. They always made sure they didn’t make too much mess or noise, but those were happier times.
By the time Laura was asleep, Thomas drank a little more than he should, and if he were in a bad mood his fists would fly. More excuses to lose his temper. It was yet another ‘door bumped into’ or ‘fall down the stairs. This was a typical family Christmas for Martha, but still she lived in hope for a quiet day.
It had been a beautiful celebration of Christmas, but the only one her mum would enjoy. In a few short days, the event would happen for real, but she wouldn’t be part of it. Why did it have to happen this way? Why couldn’t her mum cut ties with Thomas? It wasn’t as if she loved him anymore.
As a teenager, curious at what her mum wrote in her own diary, she had searched the places her father wouldn’t look. Respect for her mum grew, but she hadn’t looked again.
Laura picked up her own diary from the shelf, the first completely read, and put back in the box. She was surprised at how much happened since she became friends with Julie. They had got up to so much in a short amount of time.
Where Martha wrote in hers nearly every day – Laura wrote in hers when she had any spare time. All three diaries searched for Julie’s number; it wasn’t written in any of them. But there were a few pages in the last diary torn out – the jagged edges still on show.
The water went cold as Laura flicked through the remaining pages. She didn’t notice the change in temperature and became lost in a daydream. It was her first party. Not knowing what to wear, she just covered up old clothes with a dark hoodie. Mrs Carmichael was the typical nosy neighbour. She had been friends with Barbara once, but her mother thought Laura was a bad influence. There was so much she could tell that witch. Stuff that would make her hair curl without her weekly trips to the hairdressers.
Julie was different, and exciting all at the same time.