Lucy looked up at the red brick house surrounded by similar red brick houses with uniform white picket fences and smiled from ear to ear. She looked at shiny bicycles lying on the porch and felt a wave of excitement. It was so different to the ranch she lived in where there was no home in sight for miles and her bike's tread marks were the only ones seen by the dusty paths.
The city had come as a surprise to her. She'd heard it was bustling with busy people and was contrary to the peace and quiet her grandpa enjoyed at the ranch. But there were few people out and about. It was eerily quiet, everyone moved at a distance from each other. Some people who Lucy felt did not want to be seen were even wearing masks.
Lucy skipped inside and began putting up things in her bedroom. Tomorrow was her birthday and her mom had invited all the kids in the neighborhood. The neighborhood society president was very friendly and wanted to use the party to welcome her family to the suburb.
That night before sleeping, she laid out her new dress and smoothed its wrinkles. She found a matching bow from her box of treasures and looked at the new blue shoes near her chest of drawers. Perfect. Before sleeping she heard her parents in a whispered discussion. She looked back at her shoes again and slept dreaming of sharing her cake with other kids for the first time in nine years.
Lucy got up and looked at the shining sun, it was a good day for a birthday party. She'd chosen a tea party theme. On other birthdays, her mother would dress up her dolls and soft toys in nice clothes and make them sit through teatime. But this time, there'll be real kids eating cupcakes and the sweet honey tea her mom had bought.
She freshened herself and put on the dress with great care. The polka dotted bow sat like a crown on her hair and she slipped on her blue shoes. She did a little pirouette before going out to the living room.
"Lucy you're up early! Happy birthday darling." Mom gave her a tight hug.
Dad walked up to her with his hands behind his back. As he approached her, he waved his hands in front of her and made a sad face.
"Happy birthday Lu, looks like I forgot your present."
"That's okay dad, the best present is my tea party." Lucy looked at her parents. Their smiles were replaced by worried looks.
"What's the matter? Is no one coming?" she whispered.
Her mother gently made her sit on a chair.
"That's not the problem Lu, many kids wanted to come. But Lu something bad is going on in the world. A disease called COVID is spreading and making people sick. The best way everyone can protect themselves is by maintaining distance. It's for our and their safety."
"So, they can't come because they might get sick?"
Her father nodded.
"It's okay, I can't have them sick, can I? I'll have a tea party with you." Lucy smiled and walked back.
She opened her present and spoke to grandpa and tried not to think of the party that might have been.
Near 4' o clock, she dragged her feet to the living room. There was a small table setup with her dolls and toys like old times. Mom and dad were on the phone, so she went to the table and waited for them.
They came back smiling. Then proceeded to attach their phones to the soft toys. They also got their tablets and laptops. Lucy looked at them cluelessly. One by one the screens lit up and children her age started waving to her.
Lucy smiled and waved back. "Hi, I'm Lucy, welcome to my party."