The origami stars were finished and hung up all over the living room like stars in the night sky. Selma's mother was in the kitchen, mixing and whisking and baking a cake that was more full of emotion than it was of the ingredients themselves. She had bought a special tray earlier on just for this masterpiece, wanting even the smallest detail to be perfect. The shape of a love-heart, it gave everything that final touch that it needed. On top of a light, chocolatey sponge dough, she spread an orange gel, decorated with the number "25" in a swirly fashion, the swirls themselves made out of soft chocolate cream. Selma had never liked cake, but the hard work and dedication that had been put into this one made it impossible to resist. As it cooled in the fridge, Selma's mother got ready, dressing up and completing her look with a smile that Selma had never seen on her mother's face before. That afternoon, the children and their mother stood at the bedside of the birthday boy, the bed which used to be Max's, until Uncle Ahmed started sleeping over more and more. Now, him and the children's mother would often nap on it together. In between Selma and Max's involuntary giggles, they woke him with a merry tune of "Happy Birthday". He seemed flattered and surprised at the same time, and as they began celebrating, Selma was confused to find her mother shushing her every time she mentioned the number "25". She had meant to say "happy 25th birthday daddy!" because her mother had told her that he liked it very much when she referred to him as 'daddy'. But she hadn't made it halfway through her sentence before her mother pinched her arm and glared at her. She decided to wait with her congratulations until the evening, when her mother served the cake. As they all clapped at the blown out candles, Selma finally said her part. Her new daddy's face suddenly seemed to harden, and he snapped at her mother furiously:
"What did you say to them about me?" he questioned, refusing to look her in the eye. She nervously, hesitantly replied, unsure of how she could explain her way out of this.
"Oh.. nothing my love.. I just.. " her voice faded away, shaking as she glanced at her daughter desperately, as if to say "You're the one who got me into this, now get me out". But Selma was oblivious to her mistake, and she simply smiled and repeated her sentence:
"Happy 25th birthday! The cake is really pretty isn't it?" she tried to get the young man's attention again, but he gruffly told her that he wasn't twenty five. He claimed her mother had only written '25' on it because he liked that number. Even to a young child of seven, this seemed like a silly explanation, and Selma struggled to understand her mistake. The cake was eaten in awkward silence, and strangled emotions were making the air heavy. The next morning, 'daddy' was gone, leaving behind an array of colourful origami stars, a heartbroken mother, and a confused child. Selma asked her mother what happened, and when she got no reply but a shrug, she tentatively apologised, to which the reaction was a simple shushing wave. Selma couldn't understand why her beloved daddy had acted so strangely on his very own birthday, or why her mother's face contained not so much as a trace of last night's euphoric smile. Unsure what to do next, the young, confused girl, began blaming herself for how things turned out. The special cake seemed pointless now. Just a tray of cold, half eaten dough. Cut straight down the middle. Like a broken heart. Although too young to understand what true love meant, Selma knew enough about love to know that what she was seeing between her mother and her newly found daddy, was little more than a forced love. Unable to voice her thoughts however, she simply dwelt upon her mistake, and tried to find a way to justify what she had done. Thoughts of the upcoming summer vacation quickly made her forget the ordeal, and she looked forward to telling her grandparents about her new daddy. Although their relationship had suffered some downs, Selma's mother seemed confident about what she and Ahmed had, even going as far as writing down all his text messages in a special notebook.. Almost like a teenage romance. It will soon become clear though whether she can draw the line between being a lover.. and being a mother..