By the time Howie was set to age up, both Esme and Alfie had already moved into the later stages of their lives. At Alfie’s insistence, Esme finally got rid of her infamous leggings where she did not leave much to the imagination. She opted for a more cultivated ensemble that suited the image as the other half of a respected Gallery owner much more. Alfie did not look any different – he just had a few more creases around his eyes that Esme thought added to his refined character.
Because Georgia’s birthday had flown by without much celebration, Esme decided that it was high time for a party and hired out a section of the park for Howie’s birthday. She spent hours the morning of the party decking the area out with balloons, party hats and even hired out a trampoline for the party guests.
Anna was a little too old to help out so she sat in a corner watching her daughter darting around. She wished that she could help more and was so frustrated at the crippling arthritis that had taken over her body in the last couple of years. But the main thing to Esme was that she was still around and that’s all that mattered.
Alfie managed to get the afternoon off work to help Esme out with the final preparations. Well he tried to but such was Georgia’s excitement at the trampoline, he spent most of his time ensuring she did not bounce off and break something. “Hunny please be careful,” he called watching his daughter spring and leap around like a gazelle.
“Aww don’t worry daddy, I’m fine,” Georgia called back tutting loudly at her dad. He was such a boring old worry wart!
“Well just watch out will you,” he called back still not taking his eyes of her.
Farah arrived late with her offspring dragging behind. Adam and Janey were now teenagers and trailed into the party bickering and squabbling with their mother. “Why do we have to come to a freaking children’s birthday party on a Saturday,” Janey whined.
“Yeah,” Adam piped in! “My bands practising this afternoon and my mates are well mad at me for missing it.”
“And I am meant to be meeting Hannah at the Mall. It so not fair!”
Esme watched on and wondered how Farah coped with four kids counting herself lucky that Alfie and her had decided to stop at two.
Being so close in age, Georgia and Farah’s youngest daughter Amy were the best of friends. They were in the same year at school and were inseparable. Even though they had spent all morning gossiping on the phone together, they still ran into each other’s arms like they had not seen each other in years jumping up and down and spinning each other around.
“Come on,” Georgia squealed dragging along Amy by the hand. “Let’s get on the trampoline before someone else gets it.”
“Georgia time to get off and give the other kids a turn,” Esme called over seeing her daughter once again back on the trampoline.
“Just five more minutes mum,” Georgia shrieked back bouncing higher than ever. “Check this out,” she giggled at Amy flipping herself over and landing back on her feet only to bounce back up to meet her friends eye. She had never had so much fun before.
There was also one other special guest at the party that day – Ronny. Now she was a teenager she had realised that she did not have to abide by her mother’s rules any longer and had put her foot down turning up to her baby brother’s party even though Joan had strictly forbidden her. She was still a quiet, timid girl, but standing up to her mother had released her inner courage and she had finally set herself free. She integrated into the family like a flower, blooming from within and pulling the roots of the family together.
Gathering around to blow out Howie’s candles Esme looked around at her friends and loved ones. With Ronny here, her family was finally complete and she realised how lucky she was. Things could have turned out very differently and she reminded herself to never take anything for granted ever again. Having kids had finally put everything in perspective for her and she swore to herself she would never do anything to jeopardise it. Here was where she was meant to be!
As Howie aged into a kid Esme could not help but be a bit disappointed – he was another clone of Alfie. She had hoped after having, Georgia who looking a spitting image of her dad, that Howie would take after her but alas it was not to be the case. He had his father nose, cheeks, mouth and hair. The saving grace was that he had Esme’s eyes – she would have to make do with this. She was still keeping her fingers crossed that as Georgia aged she would start to resemble her more – she could only wait and hope.
It was not only Esme’s hopes that were confounded when Howie aged, Alfie too instantly noticed a significant change in his son that was not to his liking. Ever since Howie had been welcomed into the world Alfie had had big plans for him. He dreamt about him winning the Football world cup or being a brave astronaut – the sky seemed endless for his son. But since aging into a kid, Howie had become a cry baby. He cried because he did not like the cake Esme had made for his birthday. He cried when he tripped over the sing set and lightly grazing his knee and he even cried when Esme disappeared to use the toilet for two minutes, having a full out tantrum on the floor because he could not see his mummy.
Alfie watched his son closely all afternoon – maybe he won’t be the big brave strong boy Alfie had hoped for after all!
But overall they had a wonderful day at the party and when it was all over, both Howie and Georgia were so exhausted from all the fun that Esme and Alfie had to carry them home. What a merry bunch they were, singing all the way.
But despite how shattered Howie was Alfie was relentless with his quest. He dragged his son into the garden and insisted they play ball together. Howie reluctantly agreed and winced as he dad drew back his arm and hurled the big brown ball at his face.
He watched it coming at him in slow motion and he started freaking out, he knew this was going to hurt. “No no no,” he yelped, but it was too late – the ball hit him square on the nose. It took Esme all night to stop the tears from falling. Alfie finally gave in, a footballer Howie was never going to be!
But despite their initial reservations, one thing was for sure, they all adored Howie – he was the baby of the family after all.
And even though he would never be the man Alfie had envisioned, he was gifted in other areas. Esme remembered back to the day when she bought him his first xylophone. He would pound away at those keys like they were playing the most harmonious lullaby in the world even though the sound was far from it. So it was no surprise to anyone that straight after his birthday he begged for piano lessons from his parents.
Not one to deny their children anything, Esme and Alfie signed him up straight away. Howie would sit for hours fingering the keys of the baby grand, practising his scales.
If anyone needed to find him it was always easy, they would just follow the harmonious tunes drifting out from the sitting room. There, sat hunched over the piano was where Howie always was, never tiring of his endless practicing.
Sometimes the receptiveness of his playing grated on every member of the family’s placidity and they would put their hands over their ears trying anything they could to stifle out the monotonous sounds. But they never complained to Howie as they knew he was at his happiest when he was playing.
Georgia meanwhile was also busy with her own creative awareness. She had fully latched onto the idea of being a Fashionista and so poured all her time and studies into following her dreams. Her bedroom floor was constantly littered with discarded fashion magazines and sketches that never met her approval. She would leaf through the glossies, ripping out pages that gave her inspiration then trying to capture her visions on paper. But nothing was ever good enough – she was her own worst critic.
She also painted! At first she had begged her mother to buy her a Drafting Board to sketch her designs onto. But after getting a C on her last art assignment at school Esme had bought her an Easel instead telling her that until she raised the bar on her artwork, she would have to wait for the board. Sometimes she would get frustrated as it was designing not painting she wanted to do but she persevered. She started small, smearing paint onto canvas’s and trying to pass them as pieces of art.
Because of her low grade in Art, Alfie or Esme had to approve each piece of work she did before she handed it in. “Ta da,” she said showing off her latest masterpiece off to her dad. It had taken her all of five minutes to do but she hoped Alfie would not notice, she just wanted him to approve it so she could get her drafting board.
But Alfie was no fool – he studied art for a living and could tell instantly the quality of a piece. “Georgia Jane Starr,” he said looking his daughter in the eye. “Are you trying to tell me this is the best you can do?”
“Yeah daddy,” Georgia replied cautiously. “I tried really hard with this one.”
Alfie looked back at the painting then down at his daughter again. He did not want to hurt her feelings but he also knew she was capable of much better.
“Darling, you came up here five minutes ago and splashed some paint around. There was no effort here. You won’t be getting your drafting board until you try a bit harder.”
“Ok daddy,” Georgia replied realising that she was not going to get away with this.
“Practice makes perfect sweetie. Take time with your painting, feel each stroke, sense each touch of the canvas. You have the skill darling; you just need to set it free.”
Georgia knew her dad was right and so she started taking the painting more seriously. She practised on the small canvas’s day and night perfecting her skill until her parents finally graded her to a medium sized canvas after she got her first A at school.
To help spur her on, Esme even hung Georgia’s favourite pieces on the wall for everyone to see. Every day Georgia would look at her artwork on the walls of her home and she was filled with pride for herself, her father was right – practise did make perfect!
Although her painting improved, her heart still lay with designing and fashion. As she did not have access to any fashion just yet she had to exercise her passion through hairdressing for now. She practised on her all her friends, coiling and twisting their lank and dowdy hair into cool and fashionable styles.
“Come on just a little snip,” Georgia begged Amy one day at school. She had mastered the art of up-doo’s and now she wanted to be let loose on someone with a pair of scissors.
“I said no Georgia,” Any retaliated. “My mum would kill me if I came home with a haircut. She has never let me cut my hair and she would be devastated if anything happened to it!”
“She won’t even notice I’m just gonna trim it.” Georgia could see her friend wavering. “Come on Amy I need to practice if I’m going to be a fashion phenomenon. Come on, be a friend,” she whined.
“Ok ok,” Amy puffed knowing that Georgia would never let it go unless she agreed. “But don’t take too much off ok?”
“Of course not,” Georgia squealed swiping up the scissors she had pinched from her homeroom earlier that day and sitting her best friend on a bench.
She stood back and surveyed Amy’s long brown locks. She knew she had promised not to take too much off but there was so much of it a bit more than a trim could not do much harm.
Her hands shook with excitement as she lifted the scissors to Amy’s brown mop and started cutting. She hacked off a bit here and bit there. The more she cut the better it was looking. Amy’s gonna love this, she thought to herself as Amy’s hair floated to the floor.
When it was finished she stood back and examined her handy word. “What does it look like,” Amy asked cautiously.
“It looks amazing,” Georgia chimed. “Now don’t touch anything, I want you to see it.” She covered Amy’s eyes with her hands and walked her back into the school building and into the girl’s toilets.
“Ta da,” she sung releasing Amy’s face and spinning her towards the mirror. “It’s amazing right?”
Amy starred at herself in shock fingering the ends of her cropped hair. “What have you done,” she finally gasped swinging around to face her friend. “You’ve butchered me,” she shrieked bursting into tears.