Magnolia tore open the box she’d drawn the picture of the knives and forks on. ‘What if it sucks?’
‘Maggie, honey, don’t use that language.’ Dad sighed, then pulled the tape from the top of the next box. ‘It has a nicer playground than your last school.’
She bundled the tape together, pressing it into a small ball, feeling the sticky residue on her hands. ‘Not that I’ll see it,’ she muttered, ‘I’ll be in detention all the time.’
Her dad raised his hand and pointed his pinky at her. ‘What did we say? What did we promise?’
She shrugged, and began to sort the knives and forks from the box, and place them in the drawer. ‘I dunno.’
He walked over, and laid a hand on her head. ‘Just promise me you’ll try with this one.’
She sighed. She didn’t want to argue, but there were some times when he was just wrong. ‘Why is it always me that has to try? Why can’t they try instead?’
‘Because you’re daddy’s special little girl, and I’m asking nicely.’
‘They other kids aren’t special-’
‘-freaky-’ she said, and blew a raspberry.
‘-like you are.’ He smiled at her. ‘Are you finished with your room?’
She blew out a long breath, blowing a lock of white hair out of her face. ‘I still got boxes left.’
He wiped his hands on his jeans. ‘Think you can get them finished for me?’
She shook her head. ‘I’m tired, and I’m hunnnngry.’
Her dad tapped his hands on the box in front of him, then the three boxes behind him. ‘I haven’t found the fry pan yet, let alone an oven mitt. If you want to help me here, we should be able to start cooking soon.’
She pouted, and grabbed her tummy, making growling noises. ‘But I want to eat noooow. We’ve been working all day.’
Her dad sighed and pulled the wallet from his pants. ‘Well, all right, I guess we can eat out tonight. What do you feel like?’
‘A Happy Meal!’
‘Maggie, that won’t fill you up.’
‘Two Happy Meals!’ she said, bouncing up and down,
He smiled. ‘Of course, but this means you have to finish cleaning up your room tomorrow so we can get your school shopping done in the afternoon.’
‘Ok!’ she said as she jumped down.
‘Go get your jacket, and I’ll just finish unpacking this box.’
She ran to her room, jumped onto the bed, hearing the old springs squeak, and pulled her jacket from the bottom of the pile of clothes she’d left there after unpacking her suitcase.
The jacket was covered in patches, hearts, stars and moons, a tiny lovey-dovey night sky, but it made the jacket awesome, or at least her dad so – well, really, he had said it was “rad”, but she’d taught him better.
She shook her money box, hearing the collection of coins inside, unscrewed the head of the teddy bear, and took out enough for an ice cream.
She knelt and tied her shoes, the silver shoelaces glittering the light of her small room.
‘Ready, Maggie?’ her father called from the next room.
She ran from her room, through the small unit, to the front door, where her father was slipping on his shoes. ‘Got everything you need?’
She tugged on her jacket and nodded.
‘It’s not far, did you want to walk, or take the car?’
He smiled. ‘Come on then, we’ll get to know the new neighbourhood.’ He ushered her out, and locked the door behind them, slipping the key into his pocket.
‘See those?’ he said, pointing the flower beds that circled the block of units, ‘that’s why I picked here, a pretty place for my little princess to grow up in.’
‘You already showed me them,’ she said. ‘And they’re only daises, they aren’t that great.’
‘They’re better than the plastic flowers that Mrs Wilson had at our last place, at least these ones are real.’
‘Why’d you give me the big bedroom?’ she asked as they walked down the street.
‘So that when you make friends here, you’ll have plenty of room for a pizza party and sleepover.’
‘If I make friends.’
He smiled down at her. ‘When you make friends. It’s going to be good here, I just know it.’
She skipped ahead of him. ‘Why, are you psychic or something?’
He shook his head. ‘No, but sometimes you can just have a good feeling about things. I mean, we managed to find a nice place here, pretty much straight away, flowers and everything, I really like the look of your new school, and so far there’s no barking dogs, which is a plus for me.’
‘I still don’t get why you’re scared of them.’
‘Not all of them are cute and fluffy, Maggie.’
She ran a little ahead and slapped the button for the crossing.
‘Careful of the cars,’ he called, jogging to catch up with her.
She looked left, then right, then left again. ‘What cars? There’s no cars.’
‘You always have to be careful, you never know who’s going to speed through and try and make the light.’
‘I don’t see annnnny cars.’
‘Indulge your father anyway, please,’ he said, ‘hold my hand as we cross.’
‘I’m not a baby!’ she said, tucking her hands into her pockets. ‘What if someone from my new school sees me? I’ll hit them if I’m getting teased.’
‘Oh. Right. Sorry, didn’t realise you were so grown up already. I must have missed that, want to borrow the car?’
‘Maggie, your feet don’t even reach the pedals,’ he said as they crossed. ‘How about we wait until you grow up?’
‘But that takes so long.’
‘Believe me,’ he said, ‘it’ll come soon enough.’