He cowered in the shadows.
Outside he could hear the screams and the howling.
The others had left him. They promised to return by nightfall.
Until then he was on his own.
Footsteps pounded past the opening. He held his breath until they faded away.
How long did he have left? How long before they found him?
He felt hungry and thirsty but he dared not leave his sanctuary.
Then he heard the piercing cry.
He had no choice now. He had to leave and confront them.
He approached the doorway, blinking as he emerged into the bright sunlight.
They spotted him instantly.
‘Dad,’ Maisie cried, running over. ‘Sammy just pulled my hair and stole my ice-cream.’
‘Did not,’ Sammy shouted, ‘it was mine to start with.’
Around him swirled a perpetual whirlwind of energy as the group of eight-year-olds played, fought, chased, wrestled and laughed.
He jumped as a balloon popped behind him, followed by loud squeals of delight.
He never thought he would live in fear of a children’s birthday party.