Dizzyby Cathy Cassidy
'I never sleep, the night before my birthday . . . it's the only day of the year I hear from her . . .' Dizzy's mum left when she was small. But every year, on her birthday, something arrives in the post - a present or a card with her mum's loopy writing on it. Dizzy has kept everything. This year is different. Nothing comes in the post, but something amazing is… See more details below
'I never sleep, the night before my birthday . . . it's the only day of the year I hear from her . . .' Dizzy's mum left when she was small. But every year, on her birthday, something arrives in the post - a present or a card with her mum's loopy writing on it. Dizzy has kept everything. This year is different. Nothing comes in the post, but something amazing is about to arrive on Dizzy's doorstep. Something that will whisk her away - and put Dizzy's world in a spin.
Heidi Hauser Green
- Penguin UK
- Publication date:
- Age Range:
- 8 - 12 Years
Read an Excerpt
'Hey, Dizzy! Wake up, birthday girl!"
Dad brings me breakfast in bed on my birthday, every year. And every year, I hide under the covers and pretend I haven't been lying awake, thinking about Mum. I yawn and stretch and wipe imaginary sleep from my eyes.
The room floods with light and Dad lowers a tray laden with birthday breakfast onto the quilt. Each year, it's the same -- my favorite, cheese on toast, but with a special birthday twist. Dad layers yellow cheese over the bread, then shapes a number out of orange cheese and puts it on top to melt under the grill. This year, there are two slices of toast, spelling out the fact that I'm twelve. It smells fantastic.
Dad sits down on the edge of the bed. He's skinny and mop-haired, wearing striped pajamas and an ancient T-shirt.
"Happy birthday, Dizzy." He grins, giving me a hug.
No more birthday blues. I bite into the toast, happy.
There's a flower in a jam jar on the tray, and a banana milkshake, and a small, familiar package wrapped in blue paper. These days, I'd rather have apple juice or Coke than banana milkshake, but it was my favorite once. I tear off the blue paper and there's another old favorite, a tube of Smarties candy.
Everything is just the way it was the first time Dad made me a birthday breakfast, when I was five, the first birthday after Mum left. I like it like that. It's a tradition.
We scarf down the Smarties and Dad brings in my presents, a couple of small packages and something huge and guitar-shaped tied up with newspaper and sticky tape. I rip off the paper to uncover the glossy curves, wood the color of honey and chocolate.
"Dad, it's gorgeous!" I squeal. I strum out 'Happy Birthday,' slightly out of tune. My other presents are the plum suede sneakers I admired in town last week and a cool makeup bag stuffed with bottles of glittery nail polish. Perfect!
I'm all showered and dressed by the time the mail plops onto the mat in the hallway. I flick through the fat, pastel birthday card envelopes, looking for a postcard, a package, anything addressed in rainbow-colored pen in her childish, loopy writing.
There's nothing from Mum.
After school, we pile into the window seat at Dimitri's, Jade and Sara and Sasha and me. We're all schoolbags, stripy ties, and smiles, and Dimitri rolls his eyes as he wanders over to take the order.
"Four Cokes, please," Sasha says, wafting a fiver.
Dimitri pretends to be shocked. Normally, we order two Cokes and four straws between us, and make them last an hour at least. "Four Cokes?" he asks. "What's the special occasion?"
"Dizzy's birthday," Sara tells him. "Twelve today!"
Dimitri mutters something about hopeless kids, and when the Cokes arrive I laugh, because he's loaded mine up with cocktail umbrellas, ice, lemon slices, even a huge strawberry, all floating in a sea of brown fizz.
We sip and chat and roll up our white shirtsleeves to compare tans, because it's June eighteenth and summer is trying hard to burn through the gray city clouds. Sara and I are milk-bottle white, Sasha's freckly, and Jade is a gorgeous golden brown, but then that doesn't count, because she always is. We decide to ditch our school trousers in favor of little skirts and ankle socks.
"How is anyone meant to look cool in school uniform?" Jade demands, dragging off her tie. "Green tie with puke-yellow stripes? Attractive. Very."
"Although," Sasha says, grabbing the stripy tie from Jade, "from time to time, they do come in handy...."
I don't see it coming.
There's a quick scuffle, and Sasha has the tie over my eyes. Everything goes black, and there's a hand muffling my squeals and more dragging me upright. My so-called friends twirl me round three times, then there's a firm shove in the small of my back and I'm sitting again, tearing at the blindfold as they start singing "Happy Birthday."
The tie slides down my face and I look up, pink-cheeked. Dimitri is there, carrying four slices of hot chocolate-fudge cake with ice cream scoops. The largest slice is stiff with pink birthday candles, flickering dangerously. There are even a few stuck in the vanilla ice cream.
I laugh and blush and blow out the candles and the cafe breaks into a sudden round of applause. I love my friends.
"You've got chocolate on your nose," Sasha tells me later, as we mooch along the street. We've linked arms and the four of us fill the pavement, high on fudge cake and the luxury of having a whole Coke each.
"I love my bracelet," I tell her with feeling, jangling my wrist while she dabs at my nose with a tissue. "And the CD, and the posters." I beam at Sara and Jade.
At the traffic lights, Sara and I wave good-bye to the others and cross over, taking a short cut through the park.
"Any postcards?" she asks quietly as we pick our way across the grass. "Anything from . . ."
"Mum? No, not yet."
"Well, that one from Morocco that time, you said that was late."
"Three weeks," I told her. "I was only eight. I watched for the postman every morning."
"I know," Sara sighs.
I also cried myself to sleep every night, stopped eating, stopped talking. Then the postcard came and everything was okay again. Dad said the postal service in North Africa was probably a bit iffy. It definitely wasn't Mum's fault. Not like she'd forgotten or anything.
"Anyway," I say brightly, "Dad's ordering in a pizza. Three cheese and mushroom. And I can have MTV on all night if I like."
We leave the park, cross the street. Sara lives in a red brick house halfway along. The garden's stuffed with violently colored flowers and the grass is so short it looks like it's been ironed.
"Coming in for a bit?" she asks.
"Nah. Pizza's calling. Thanks for the posters, Sara, I love them. See you tomorrow."
I turn away. My chirpy mood has disappeared along with Sara. There's a heavy feeling inside my chest, like I just swallowed a small iceberg and not a huge slice of hot chocolate-fudge cake. Suddenly, I feel a whole lot older than twelve.
Our flat is right down at the end of the road, a tall townhouse divided into three apartments. We're in the ground floor one, so we get to use the workshop (which was once a garage) for Dad's studio. I turn into the drive and see a big, grubby van skewed across the driveway, one front wheel squashing a straggly patch of flowers. Mr. Desai from upstairs will have a fit.
It could be someone delivering sacks of clay for Dad, although there's no courier logo on the side. The van is mostly red, with one blue fender and one gray one. One of the back doors is purple, and someone's scrawled "wash me" in the thick grime of its window. Lovely.
I let myself into the flat. Dad's left a pile of cards from the second post on the hall table for me, and I take a deep breath before scanning it quickly.
Nothing with her handwriting.
I open the cards, trying not to feel bad. Twenty quid from Auntie Mel, a card with kittens on it from Mr. Desai, a book token from Mrs. Coulter, my old babysitter. If they can remember, why can't she?
I can hear Dad talking to someone in the living room. I hope it's not Lucy, his girlfriend. She's okay, and I'm getting used to her, but I don't really want to share my birthday with her. Birthdays are for me and Dad.
"Home, Dad," I shout, scooping up my mail and pushing open the bedroom door. My new guitar sits proudly on the quilt. Next to it is a little blue camera from Lucy. She let me open it last night, showed me how to load the film, how to work the flash and the little zoom lens. Cool.
I dump my backpack and pull a T-shirt and jeans from the drawer.
"Dizzy?" Dad shouts back. "Can you come through here a minute?"
I drag off my tie and wander through. It's not Lucy. Lucy's young and smiley with fair, wavy hair. She wears wafty, trendy tops with fluted sleeves, and hipsters with embroidery on them. She wears toffee-colored lipstick and smudgy eye shadow, and she smells of lime-flavored shower gel.
This woman is older, small and tanned with smiley wrinkles and hennaed hair so short it's practically shaven. She has about a million earrings, all in the same ear, as well as a stud through her right eyebrow. She's wearing weird stripy trousers that are baggy at the top and tight around the ankles, and a faded tank top with no bra underneath. Yeuchhh.
I can tell without asking that she's the owner of the patchwork van, but I can't work out why she's staring so hard at me.
"Dizzy, hi," she grins.
"Hi," I mutter, looking at Dad for clues.
He just stares back, looking shocked and scared and flustered. He's still in his studio clothes, his jeans all streaked with clay, his hands and arms still stained reddish-brown.
"Happy birthday," she says.
I still don't get it.
"I can't believe how much you've grown," she says. "How beautiful you are. I can't believe this is really happening...."
My mouth feels suddenly dry, and the floor seems to shift under my feet. I look at the tanned, smiley face with the shiny blue eyes and the glint of gold studs. I take a deep breath in, frowning.
"Hello, Mum," I say.
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