Paper Magic (excerpt)
‘Spin me faster!’
‘It’s my turn on the swing…’
‘Race you to the top…’ Words ghost into the room.
‘Just once,’ Marina wishes. Tears well up in her eyes.
She sits by her bedroom window looking out. The park is like a diorama, a miniature world of blue-gloss carnival glass, paper trees, and tiny play-dough children. Except, the park is real and she is the one trapped inside the box.
A child appears, just for a moment at the top of the climbing frame. Marina imagines which voice belongs to this boy with the mess of copper-red hair.
‘Beat you!’ He cheers then disappears from view again.
Marina desperately wants to play in the park, to be like the other children. But she can’t.
She just can’t…
‘Have you tried on your new uniform yet?’ Mum asks from the doorway.
‘No.’ Marina looks down at the blue check tunic neatly folded and untouched at the far end of the window seat.
‘Come on this is the third time I’ve asked.’ Mum plants her hands on her hips. ‘School starts tomorrow.’
Marina folds her arms tight across her chest.
The tone in Mum’s voice gives her a start.
Mum stalks across the room, shakes out the folds in the uniform, and starts to pull it over Marina’s head.
‘I can do it myself.’
Mum thrusts the tunic into Marina’s hands. She slips it over her T-shirt and struggles to work it past her hips, tugging the hem down to just above her knees.
‘Happy?’ Her arms cross again.
‘Yes, Cranky-Pants.’ Mum smiles, ignoring Marina’s attitude. ‘Now you can take it back off and fold it ready for tomorrow. I’ll be in the garden.’
Morning sunlight slants through the lace curtains, turning dust motes into specks of coloured light. Marina stirs the gems of dust with clever fingers. The specks swirl and disappear into the shadows patterning across her useless skinny legs.
‘All knobby knees and ankles. Yuck!’ She thinks.
‘I’ll wear the stupid tunic, but I’ll wear it over my long pants,’ Marina calls to the empty doorway.
She hopes there are no boys like Colin at her new school. Delight used to squint-up his eyes into glittery slits each time he could sneak close enough to whisper mean things so only she could hear. ‘Wheely-bin’ hurt her and being called, ‘Gimpy’ left her eyes stinging with tears.
Sitting there, seeing her uniformed reflection in the glass brings it home. Her stomach does fish-flips. The holidays are over. She’s starting at a new school tomorrow and she doesn’t have any friends. Marina pulls the tunic off and throws it onto the floor.