On May's eighth birthday, Pat spent the party off in a corner by herself, looking at the noisy crowd with a disdain that sat oddly on the head of such a little girl. May had all the things she liked best at her party: presents and games, good food and the chance to be centre of attention. Nevertheless, when the remains were being cleared, it was May, not Pat, who went out into the garden to have a good cry.
Part of it was the amount of sugar and overexcitement May had indulged in, but most of it was that, in her secret heart, she had hoped Pat would be impressed; she had imagined Pat's yellow cat-eyes wide with wonder at the lavishness of the celebration. Had imagined Pat wanting to be her best friend at school next week. Had imagined herself scornfully refusing at first and, then, maybe, consenting to sit with her as a great concession, if Pat would promise her a Silver Bush kitten all her own. How May craved a kitten from Silver Bush! Even more, how she craved to have one of the Silver Bush children beg to be her friend!
Instead, that stuck-up Pat had spoiled everything. She might as well have called them all rabble to their faces as sit there with her hands primly folded, disapproving. May couldn't help thinking that she was too loud, her gifts too extravagant, the food too fancy, everything wrong. Especially May herself.
May's mother followed her into the garden and scooped May up onto her lap, big eight-year-old that she was. She put a finger under May's chin and lifted it.
"My sweet cherub of a May," she said, "those Silver Bush folk won't like you for just for wishing it. You have to force them take notice of you. I'm sure you can manage it, May."
May never forgot that.
And she never stopped trying.