On Friday I said, 'I will miss eight-year-old Fred.'
Una said, 'In the middle of the night eight year old Fred will take off all her clothes and then she will be in her birthday suit. She will run away outside and nine year old Fred will come.'
Fred said, 'I think nine-year-old Fred will be the same girl as eight-year-old Fred' but there was a flicker of uncertainty in her voice. 'Eight-year-old Fred will rise up and go to Heaven,' said Fred.
For her birthday, Fred wanted to get her ears pierced. I made an appointment and took her to the chemist (I wanted to go to a tattoo parlour, but Martin didn't approve). 'Do you want me to count to three?' Lauren the Beautician asked. 'Or do you want me to just do it?'
'Just do it,' Fred said. Bang. Bang. She flinched. It hurt more than she thought it would. She didn't cry.
Later she joined the conspiracy. 'It didn't really hurt,' she told Una. 'It just felt like a pinch.'
'I just got my ears pierced,' Fred would tell people after we left the chemist - the ladies in the toyshop, people in the cafe. Only women though. She leaned forward to me at the cafe. 'All the women here have pierced ears.' My ears are pierced but I don't usually wear earrings. I was nine like Fred when I had mine done. I still remember the shock of pain, the loud noise of the gun.
Fred kept saying to me, 'I just got my ears pierced.' It was like she had to rethink herself.
Our appointment was at 12.30. She was born in the early afternoon. So eight year old Fred really left then. And nine year old Fred, in the end, is really quite a different girl after all.
The ghost of the girl you once were is everywhere Frederique. She slips in and out of the shadows of your face, and in your brother's face who is so much like you. She brings messages from the past, but I cannot send a message back to her. She does not stay to notice what the world has become without her. She is a spirit of the wind, and nothing will pin her down, she is the moment between breaths, she is here, she is here, but when I reach out to touch her she is gone.