She woke in a panic, scrambling out of bed and running to the bathroom, where she stared at her reflection, breathing heavily. Her red hair was wild, and her eye patch was crooked, but she was here, and that was all that mattered. Reassured that her dreams had not come true, she went back to her bedroom and drew the curtains. The sun was lighting up the sky but had not risen yet, and the city looked dreamy in the half-light.
She sat down at her desk, switching the lamp on. She reached for her special paper and folded it over and over. After she first learned origami, she made paper cranes when she had nightmares and couldn’t get back to sleep. There was something in it that soothed her. It was making something ordinary into something beautiful. Something good could be born from the darkness of her nightmares. She threaded them onto a string with a needle already blunt from use, slipping rainbow beads on, and tied it up on the hook she made Lauren put up the day before. She had thirty in her room now, each with ten paper cranes on. She was planning to make a thousand. Her friend had shown her a book when they were younger, about a little girl who made a thousand paper cranes and wished for world peace. It was a sad story, one they both loved and read as often as they could.
The clock read 8:00 AM. She had been awake for quite a while. Lauren and Anneka wouldn’t be awake for another hour yet. She settled down on her window seat, to watch the sun, and the cat wandered in, jumping up on her lap. They looked as the sun rose higher, while she thought about her life.
Anneka knocked on the door at 9:20AM, and walked in the room holding a plate full of toast and a glass of orange juice. She put them down on the desk and hugged her daughter.
“Happy birthday, Ashley.”
“Thanks, mum.” She hugged her back and smiled.
“I can’t believe you’re sixteen today!” Anneka squeezed her hand.
“I know. I’m gonna blink and I’ll be thirty.”
“Not quite,” Anneka tutted and laughed. Lauren came in the room, grinning.
“Oh, happy birthday, my special Tiger-Lily!” She hugged Ashley tight and gave Anneka a kiss.
“We’re doing the usual today?” Anneka asked.
“Definitely.” Ashley grinned.