M and J are awake before the sun, waiting and whispering in the living room. When I come down the hall they spring into action, run to grab gift bags and a yellow Happy Birthday sign covered in Sharpie swirls and stars. J runs onto the dew wet grass, blue plastic scissors in hand, and collects tiny red orange flowers, tucks them into a silver cup, debates about its placement on the table. M tears bits of masking tape, adjusts the bike and purple bow. When P appears in the living room, eyes still mostly closed, whimpering slightly with the effort of waking, we surround her, whisper Happy Birthdays, take video of her sleepy confusion. Later, she opens each gift with wonder, a yarn doll, a watercolour painting. The sisters hug and grin, share sips of their juice boxes.
P rides her new bike across the grass, introduces the world to her red and orange yarn doll.
We walk across the gravel driveway and see two Egyptian Geese, eyes ringed like Cleopatra strutting across the grass. Two giant hornbills stare down from the jacaranda trees. J says one flew by her so close she “felt its whoosh.” I tell the girls the harrier hawk floated down onto our yard earlier like a heavy blanket. M laughs. “We’re attracting all the exotic birds!” We walk into the house like royalty.
J tugs my shirt. I crouch beside her, lean in to hear her whisper. “My feelings are broken”, she pauses, builds courage. She tells me a boy in her class told her that her apology didn’t count because she didn’t say “Sorry” correctly, said it too much like a Canadian, her O too perfectly formed. She tells me she knows it’s okay to have a Canadian accent, but doesn’t understand why other people don’t think so. Tears pool in the corners of her wide eyes. I hold her close on the kitchen tile.