I was standing in a courtyard, surrounded by hundreds of people. I looked around anxiously, trying to find someone I knew to ask what was going on. I was just starting to panic when I noticed my parents. Their backs were turned towards me but there was no doubt it was them. I pushed my way through the crowd until I was right behind my dad.
"Dad!" I cried, reaching up and tapping him on the shoulder. "Dad, what's going on?"
But there was no reply. Confused, I reached over to pull on my mom's sleeve instead, but then I saw that her attention was entirely focused on my baby brother, who was in her arms, clapping his hands and smiling. My parents were captivated by this. I jumped in front of them and clapped my hands too, but their gazes never left my brother.
Dejected, I turned and saw my two older sisters standing in front of me, talking amongst themselves. I tried to get their attention but they ignored me too. What was going on?
Suddenly, everyone in the crowd backed away as one. I tried to follow, but my feet were glued to the ground. I was left standing alone. I opened my mouth to let out a scream to alert someone - anyone - that I was there...
I was woken abruptly by a high-pitched cry. I opened my eyes slowly, as in my mind I separated reality from dreams. Satisfied that the event in the courtyard had never happened, I glanced at my clock. I was annoyed to find that my mom should have woken me up ten minutes ago. I got ready for school at top speed before going downstairs to the kitchen to get some breakfast and to interrogate my mom.
The kitchen was a hive of activity. My brother was in his chair in the corner, screaming at the top of his lungs, while my older sisters sat at the table, bickering.
My mom was taking something out of the microwave. Carrying a bowl and spoon, she walked towards me.
"Mam, why didn't you - ?" I began, but she walked right past me to the baby in the corner.
I sighed and poured out my cereal myself. I sat at the table, thinking I might strike up a conversation with my sisters, but they were too busy fighting over who had broken the pink GHD to acknowledge me.
I glumly munched on my cereal, thinking that I might as well still be in my dream.
I ate quickly, and went upstairs to finish getting ready for school. Despite waking up later, I was the first to finish getting ready and sat outside waiting for the bus to come for five minutes before my sisters joined me. They seemed to have gotten over their fight by joining together in complaining that the black GHD just didn't make their hair straight enough. I was going to point out that both their hair seemed pretty straight to me, but figured it would be a waste of time.
The bus journey was uneventful. I separated from the girls as I got the primary school bus and they got the secondary school bus. I sat on my own, gazing at the window as drops of rain rolled down the windowpane.
I was hoping that my first impression of the day had been wrong as I walked into school. I went into my classroom and made a beeline for my two best friends. That was when I found out that my first impressions were, in fact, correct. They were too busy discussing an adventure centre they'd gone to over the weekend to acknowledge me.
I was starting to feel really depressed at this stage and I was totally sick of trying. I sat down and did my work silently. At break and lunch I kept to myself as my best friends told everyone about their amazing weekend without me.
Things didn't improve when I got home at last. It was just the three of us - my sisters and I - and they were now the best of friends again. They talked amongst themselves as they heated a pizza for dinner while I sat on my own, watching TV.
After dinner, I went to my room to do my homework. At this stage, I was feeling that my voice might just wear away from lack of use.
A while later, my parents arrived home, one after the other. I hurried downstairs to greet them, but they were having a conversation in hushed voices as my sisters cooed over the baby.
I retreated to my bedroom. On my way, I went into the bathroom. I stood in front of the full-length mirror, half-expecting to see nothing but the room but there I was, looking miserable. My lower lip was starting to tremble. If everyone could see me, why did I feel so invisible?
I went to bed, reasoning that the earlier I went to bed, the sooner this day would be over but I couldn't sleep. I listened as the house got quieter. The baby's cries faded away as he fell asleep.
I was surprised when my door opened and my mom flicked on my lightswitch.
"Hi," she said.
"Hi," I replied, blinking rapidly to adjust to the light.
"How was your day?" she asked.
"It was..." I began, searching for the right words. "Well, it's over."
My mom looked at me hard, and I knew she understood. She always did... when she tried, that is.
I could tell she was waiting for me to speak, so I did. I told her all about my dream and the terrible day that followed.
"...I just felt...invisible," I finished, "like no one could see me, or if they could that they just didn't care."
My mom sat at the foot of my bed, and spoke in a soft, calm voice that instantly made everything OK.
"I know you don't want to hear this," she said, "but you can't always be the centre of attention. I'm sorry you had to have such a bad day to learn this, but it's all a part of growing up."
"I don't want to be the centre of attention," I protested. "I just want to feel like someone cares."
"We all care," said my mom, putting an arm around my shoulders. "Sometimes we just don't show it as much. Now think - did you keep trying today? Did you make an effort to have a good day?"
I thought about that for a minute.
"No," I admitted. "I just gave up at the start of school."
"There are an awful lot of people in the world," said my mom. "It's easy to fade into the background. But you have to keep trying. If you don't try, you'be already failed."
She got up. "Goodnight," she said, her hand hovering over the lightswitch.
"Goodnight," I replied and lay in the darkness once again.
It had been a bad day, but I had learned from it and tomorrow would be better. Of that, I was sure.