I was still staring a little blankly at the phone having hung up when Tess popped her head round the door. 'Come on Dani! You need to eat your cake because then you can't make a wish!' She grabbed my arm and started leading me to the dining room.
'Tess, I could've sworn that you made the wish when you blow the candles out...'
'No no no.' Tess liked to know she was right, so I had given up on bickering. She is a good seven years younger than me. 'The cake is magic and then the magic wishes stay in the frosting until you've eaten it. Then you make the wish.' I loved my birthday because we always sat together for dinner and...well, it felt the most like a family. Half the time we had some stranger in the house looking after us while Dad was killing some terrorists or other (though having said this I know most of the guys' names), and Freddie would always be in the garage working on some engineering project, and Tess would be in her room watching Disney films. We had little time together as a family unit. It was nice just to catch up: Dad had no idea that Freddie had a girlfriend, or that Tess had won the spelling bee at school. Just then there was a ring at the doorbell. I hoped that it wasn't somebody for Dad: I hadn't seen him all this week, and it was my birthday...not that I should complain. I mean, the good of the United States and all. A maid came to the door.
'A young man to see you Miss Richards.'
'Really, it's just Dani.' I muttered, without really registering what she had said. 'What a minute- who?'
'He's from your school, says his name is Thomas...'
I practically leapt out of my seat in excitement. Freddie stifled a laugh: I could tell he was itching to tease me in a younger sibling manner, but he knew that I could come up with equally snappy comebacks. Tommy had come to my house. On my birthday. Of course, I knew that he couldn't be here for the reason that I secretly wished. He was not going to declare his undying love for me. There would be no sweeping off my feet, no romantic moment worthy of Hollywood, no one moment that I would play over and over in my head. Because he didn't like me like that. And I didn't mind: we were still really good friends. It was just...it was still exciting. I couldn't help it if my brain raced through a thousand possibilities as I walked to the door. 'Hi Tommy!'
'Hey, Dani! Sorry if I interrupted, but I didn't see you in school and- well. Happy Birthday.' He passed over a small photo frame and a card. 'Sorry I didn't get a chance to wrap it...'
I looked at it. Inside the frame, which had been painted a deep purple, was a picture taken from last summer. I remembered it well: a group of us went out to the beach for the day, and it rained as soon as we'd arrived. So we'd ran inside an ice cream parlour and hid out there until the sun made a reappearance. The photo was of Tommy, Clara and I over a giant toffee ice cream sundae, which had by now been diminished to a slither in a giant sundae bowl, and the three of us were holding our spoons up like the Three Musketeers. I grinned at the memory. 'Tommy that is so sweet! Thank you so much!'
'Heh..I couldn't think of anything you didn't have and then I thought, you can never have too many photos of your friends.' He grinned cheekily and a little part of me wanted to just hug him and not let go. But that wasn't going to happen: at least it wasn't in a while. Or if I were to actually not let go, Tommy would probably be very scared. But it was still so thoughtful of him... 'I should probably get going now, hope you've had a good day.'
'It's been great.' For that moment, Matthew was wiped from my mind. He had been worrying me all evening, but one grin from Tommy and he vanished and I didn't have a care in the world. When Tommy smiled at me my Dad wasn't in a special crimes investigation team and I didn't worry for his safety on a weekly basis. When Tommy smiled....well. It was a shame he was so unaware of how much of an impact he had on me.