Karly King was not looking forward to her ninth birthday, too many presents and a big party at the local bowling alley. She didn’t even like bowling and everyone would be watching as she sent the glittering pink junior bowl straight into the gutter.
Everyone was up, she could hear her brothers fighting already and Dad was yelling Breakfast Readeee. Karly wondered what concoction he had come up with today; he was having a vegan phase, ever conscious of the need for new challenges. Her mother was exempt from the vegan menus as she was pregnant.
Breakfast in pyjamas as it was her birthday, new pyjamas chosen to look good in the photos. Her parents had gone completely over the top as usual and the big family kitchen was adorned with number nine balloons and Happy Birthday Girls banners everywhere. Why did she have to share her birthday, how she longed to be an only child. Out of habit she put on her video face and smiled.
‘Last one down as usual Karly, just like when you were born. Happy Birthday Darling, our little miracle.’
The breakfast was quite nice. Karly smiled to herself as she spotted the flattened ‘Happy Earth Breakfast’ delivery box peeking out of the recycling bin.
‘Lovely breakfast Daddy.’
She would not give the game away, everything in her family must appear real and of course HAPPY.
At school other children envied her family, either wanting to be best friends or teasing them mercilessly. Karly only had one real friend, shy little Betty who lived in a pokey flat with her abandoned mother. She loved visiting Betty as she was treated like a normal child and neither mother nor daughter asked her how the rest of her family were. Betty was too scared to go round to Karly’s house and Karly guessed her protective mother would not let her anyway. The rest of the family did not even know Betty existed, everyone assuming Karly was with one of the others if they noticed she wasn’t at home.
At the breakfast table everyone was debating who would do best at the bowling alley. They had all been practising so they would look good on the day. Her sisters were arguing as to who was going to wear which colour to the party. Identical outfits, lurid leggings and jazzy tops with matching patterns, but each a different colour scheme, had been made by their personal designer. If Karly ever tried to complain about the family lifestyle she would be reminded it was their living and how envious other girls were and how Karly would not like being poor.
It was not easy being a sextuplet, especially in the middle of a huge family whose lives had been documented since before the girls were born, with a few changes of television channel along the way. Six Children Plus Six More had been a big hit, with viewers fascinated how parents who already had six children had found themselves expecting sextuplets. Then before interest could wain, twin boys were on the way. The six girls were Mrs Knight’s only caesarean delivery; quintuplets had been expected, but Karly had been found lurking at the back, the tiniest of the bunch and not expected to live, adding gravitas to the series.
Mr and Mrs Knight gazed lovingly at their huge family, they did love all their children, even if they couldn’t remember their names. It was not easy competing with all the other Big Family documentaries, Twenty Two Children and Counting, Twins Every Time, Tripple Tripple Trouble and Conjoined, The Family That Sticks Together. So it seemed natural to keep having more babies and thinking up more domestic dramas. It was unfortunate that the new headmaster at the primary school had banned cameras; rather hypocritical as the production company had given a lot of books, musical instruments and other extra curricular items to the school. But at least the first programme in series ten would have the annual drama of the birthday party, the Hollywood Bowl taken over completely by the family with two guests for each child. Excitement on the lanes would be followed by the ‘Fantastic Feast’ then over to the park for the girls’ birthday surprise, a pony each.