That morning I woke up before Gabriel for once. I had too much on my mind to sleep. I wished I was younger again. I wished life was simple like it used to be. I laid in bed remembering my 5th birthday. Not a care in the world. My mum loved me and was healthy. I had friends. Nothing was complicated. Now I can’t even celebrate my birthday. I have to be an adult and play mum to my brother. I only have one friend and I don’t understand my feelings when I’m with him. Me and my sister only tolerate each other and my mum is really poorly but nobody except me wants to help her. When did life get this hard?
Thankfully Gabriel’s cries pulled me from my thoughts. I distracted myself by looking after him. Smiled at his happy laughs and giggles. He didn’t have a care in the world. Just as it should be. He was happy.
I had just finished feeding him when the doorbell went. Nico was leant against the column. “So, I heard it’s yer birthday today. An’ a also ‘eard that you aren’t doing owt today.”
“Hey Nico, I can’t do anything. I have Gabriel today.”
“Well a have a picnic basket ‘ere and it’s a sunny day. Why don’t we take ‘im to the park. We can take ‘im on the play area. Or we could go to our beach? Ya know he would love it by the wa’er! Come on Hails!”
“Okay, we can go to the beach…do you want to come in while I get Gabriel ready?”
Nico was so good with Gabriel. He came into the dining room and gave him a little high five, setting him off in a fit of giggles.
Once I had changed and got Gabriel dressed we headed out. The beach was our own little spot, I don’t think anybody but us knew about it, if they did we had never seen anybody else there. It was our special place. Now it could be Gabriel’s aswell. He just played with his truck on the sand while Nico and I talked.
“So, Hails, A got you somet for yer birthday.”
“You didn’t have to get me anything Nico, I don’t want anything.”
“Well, a wanted to get you somet, so I did. It weren’t ‘ard to get the money together.”
“Okay, what did you get.”
“This…” He pulled a guitar out from the crate, showing it to me.
“What d’ya think?”
“I…It…It’s beautiful Nico, But I don’t know how to play.”
“You could learn. Ya can sing and ya find rhythm in everythin’, yer fingers are always tappin’ on somet or yer hummin’ a tune. It’s like music is inside you all the time. I bet you a’ready can play the guitar, ya just dunno it yet. Give it a shot.”
There was one song I had been listening and singing to Gabriel for months now, I’d probably ruin it attempting it on guitar but it was the song I would be most likely to get right-ish. Nico held Gabriel in his arms so he could sit and hear me sing aswell. After a few strums on the guitar to try and get the feel of it I started, as soon as I shut my eyes and began singing it was like my hands had a mind of their own, working over the strings to create the tune I was singing.
Your little hand’s wrapped around my finger
And it’s so quiet in the world tonight
Your little eyelids flutter cause you’re dreaming
So I tuck you in, turn on your favourite night light
To you everything’s funny, you got nothing to regret
I’d give all I have, honey
If you could stay like that
I could hear Gabriel beginning to yawn, coming out meant he was missing his nap, Nico got up and placed him in the stroller, pushing him gently back and forth.
Oh darling, don’t you ever grow up
Don’t you ever grow up, just stay this little
Oh darling, don’t you ever grow up
Don’t you ever grow up, it could stay this simple
I won’t let nobody hurt you, won’t let no one break your heart
And no one will desert you
Just try to never grow up, never grow up
I would have finished the song, but Gabriel was already out for the count and I doubted that Nico really wanted to hear a lullaby.
“That was mint Hails, ‘onest.” He grinned at me, then at Gabriel asleep in the stroller. “Now he’s asleep, wanna go swimmin’ in the sea?”
“But I haven’t brought my costume.”
“Then swim in your knickers. keep your top on as well if you want, an’ if it aint dry then you can wear my hoodie home. We’ve swam in our pants before.”
“Fine…but promise not to laugh!”
“Why would I-What are you wearing!” Nico couldn’t help the small laugh that escaped before he slammed his hands over his mouth.
“It’s a bra! Loads of girls wear them.”
“But Hails, You don’t have boobs, a mean a know girls wear bras to stop their boobs jumpin’ all over but you aint got none so you don’t need to wear one.”
“Well I want to. and you said you wouldn’t laugh!”
“I din’t say that. I asked why a would laugh at you. then I laughed at what yer wearing. Now am just grinnin’.”
Nico then shrugged and turned away from me as he pulled off his hoodie, I winced as his scars came into view. I’d seen them before when we swam, but he only ever wore long sleeve hoodies and tshirts. He always hid them in public because he doesn’t like questions. He only told me that they happened when he was younger. That’s all I knew.
We swam for a while, splashing each other with water and stuff until Gabriel woke up. We didn’t have a towel so we sat on the rocks and let the sun dry us while Gabriel played in the sand before going home.
Nico walked with me right up to the door.
“Thank you Nico.”
“For giving me the best birthday I have ever had.” I smiled at him and gave him a kiss on the cheek before going inside.
Later on, Once Isabelle was asleep and Gabriel was asleep and I was just watching a film downstairs, I heard somebody knocking on the door. When I opened it there was nobody there, but whoever had knocked had left a hand drawn card and a cupcake on the doorstep. The card didn’t have a name inside but I knew it was from Nico. It had to be.