‘Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Rachel, happy birthday to you!’ The chorus ended and Rachel blew out all twenty-five gold candles on the white chocolate cherry cheesecake. Everyone clapped, applauded and laughed. Rachel felt like her life might be going somewhere, but then she got the feeling that things were not quite alright. Her smile faded and she looked around at all the smiles, saw Aunty Sally pick up the cake knife in slow motion; she saw little Tommy grab a red balloon; she turned and found her boyfriend Steve’s eyes on hers, he winked. She gave him a half-smile, looked at the main door and pop went the balloon. Time resumed normal pace again, in Rachel’s mind anyway. All eyes flew to little Tommy, who had fallen over and was now in tears. Uncle Mason went to comfort him. The moment he picked him up, the house phone rang.
Rachel’s mother Anne, reached for the phone and said, ‘That must be your sister, calling to say she’ll be late.’ She picked up the phone, shook her head, then added, ‘Again.’ She placed the phone to her ear and said, ‘Hello?’
Rachel held her breath.