New Year's Eve, aged 10

"Now, everybody," Bree's mother flounced into the room, her great dress sweeping behind her and brushing on the mahogany floor. It was the annual family New Year's Eve party, hosted by Bree's grandparents, and she had learnt the hard way that it was, by all means, a most formal occassion. When she was just five years old she had been scolded to within an inch of her life by her mother, when she was seen eating with her fingers. A very besmirched Bree had been punished by being sent to bed early- the grossest injustice she could imagine on New Years' Eve, for in her young mind there was nothing worse than missing the countdown, the cheers, the balloons that were timed to cascade from the ceiling at the stroke of midnight. Now, five years later, Bree was five years older and knew all the etiquette there was to know. All the same she clutched the beam of the doorframe, hidden by her mother's grand ballgown.

"Gather round, everyone!" Bree's mother continued to coo in her unnaturally sweet voice. "Bree would like to sing for us all." Her eyes darted around the room, looking for her unwilling pianist. "Michael!" she hissed, and an awkward gangly boy with wide rimmed glasses coughed and shuffled his way to the old pianoforte, plinking with his deft fingers the opening bars to Auld Lang Syne. Bree's mother floated out of the way, leaving Bree standing nervously at the doorway, with the entire room's eyes fixed on her. Her fingers plucked absentmindedly at the pleats of her navy dress, and she took a couple of steps forward in her patent pumps, taking a deep shaky breath to calm her nerves. Why her mother insisted on her singing for the family was beyond her- she enjoyed performing for her friends, but here? In front of grown ups?

"Should auld, acquaintance, be forgot-" She saw her mother beaming round at her sister, full of pride and almost looking smug, as if her magnificent singing daughter trumped the thirteen year old, hard working Michael, who had put years into his music under strict tutorage. "-and never brought, to mind? Should-"

Bree froze, as she realised that all of the words had fled from her mind this second. She fumbled, and her brow furrowed in concentration and embarassment. Michael, comprehending almost immediately, kindly played the same line for her, willing her silently to remember.

"Should- Should..." It was no good. Bree felt her face flush, and saw her mother frown. It was as if she was angry, angry at Bree for making her look silly. Bree's eyes darted to the uncertain audience, then she felt tears rising and falling down her cheeks, threw up her arms and ran from the room, up the stairs, sobbing. As she ran, she heard two things.

Firstly she heard Michael stop the piano, before nervously carrying the tune himself, much to the glee of the audience for she heard a ripple of applause. Clever Michael. Clever Michael.

The second thing, Bree heard her father say to her mother as she ran out of the room, but only fully comprehended once she was sitting on the landing, wiping at her red eyes angrily.

"I told you we should have concentrated on her schoolwork instead of bloody singing lessons."

The End

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