• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 12

Rainbow Cake

“Quickly! She's turning blue!”

Muffled and tight-lipped, her button-nose wrinkled, face puckered as her innocent, giggling mirth surged in a mighty force. A sticky spray of pink, liquid icing and particles of chocolate sponge squirted out from between her lips. Unable to contain her hysterics, Libby, with her cheeky, dimpled grin, gasped for breath. Her friend however was choking on cake.

Across the table, the snout of the Peppa Pig rainbow cake occupied the foreground amongst wibble-wobble jellies and unhealthy party nibbles. The last wizened candle was yet to be removed. By now, they should all be in a jubilant full circle, ready for ‘pass the parcel’ and even ‘postman’s knock’. Libby, suddenly aware of her parents’ concern, stopped wriggling and smirking. The party glee had switched to a cold glumness. Her best friend’s convulsions were no longer the shared twinkle-in-the-eye of conspiratorial laughter, but something else. Something ugly and sinister had unfolded.

Unaware of the sombre change in atmosphere, the youngest revellers had left the dining room table and corralled themselves into the corner, eager for musical statues. Unsupervised, they rallied and dared each other to operate the Dolby music system, cassette deck and record player.


Rainbow Cake

Libby’s parents were occupied, frantic in dual efficiency, skilled but thwarted by their sketchy knowledge of first aid. The Heimlich manoeuvre did little. Upside down, her friend’s limp, loose limbs were shaken. The child's body slumped. Mouth to mouth seemed ineffective. An icy blue pallor of desperate uselessness spread like a contagion throughout the room. Disheveled, her mother’s blouse gaped, her cleavage exposed, whilst her hair, coiffured, lay unmoved. Like a terrified fawn, Libby took refuge behind the sofa.

Libby's memory of that party would never fade. Her panicking parents, the shouts, a peculiar silent calm from her classmates, the way everything happened so fast and yet moved as if through water - a slow painting in aquarelle. Outside, sirens blasted, blinding blue lights flashed through the net curtains. Adults were everywhere as the party disbanded in shouts and tears. Booted strangers with a stretcher carried her motionless ‘bestie’ into an ambulance. Her father followed, escorted by police, his head bowed, bewildered. His red anorak spilled over one arm as he kissed her mother. Libby did not understand. The scene was awkward, foreign.

Her mother hung-up the telephone and the last child was collected. They were alone. Instinctively, Libby knew that this horrible shared event was the turning point. Though the outcomes would never change, in her mind’s eye it was re-played time and time again. It was her first and last birthday party and the shibboleth to slice them all apart.