Belinda pressed her nose to the window and glared at the rain coming down as if it was never going to stop. It was the first day of the school holidays.
She stroked her kitten, Senna Two. He rolled over with his paws in the air and let out a small snore.
Her mother stood in front of her easel. Her smock was blotched in black and purple paint, and her hair fell over her face. There were paints all over the table, and a strong smell of turpentine hung in the air.
"It's raining," Belinda told her mother.
"So it is," her mother said vaguely. "Where are your friends today?"
"Kate will be at basketball; Julie has violin lessons; Amanda's probably gone away," Belinda recited gloomily.
There was a thunderous knocking at the front door. Belinda rushed to open it.
Kate Kennedy dripped on the front door step. Her curly hair was plastered to her head, and her runners were a sodden grey.
She gave Belinda a cheerful grin as she wriggled out of her plastic coat. "Too wet for basketball, so I thought I would drop around."
Behind her a large black umbrella bobbed up to the front door. Under it was Amanda Jones, not as wet as Kate, but just as cheerful. "Thought I would visit. Mummy and Daddy are out, and Mrs. Smith is in a bad mood."
"Hello, Mrs. Robinson," the two girls chorused as they followed Belinda into the kitchen.
"Nice to see you, Kate and Amanda. Would you mind playing in the other room? I want to finish this painting."
They went through into the lounge-room.
Amanda pounced on the kitten and it let out a protesting squeak. "Hello, Senna Two. Isn't he growing beautifully?"
"I changed the name of mine to Benna," Amanda said.
Kate giggled. She sat on the floor drying her hair, and her blonde curls stood on end like a golliwog. "I changed the name of mine to Tenna, because he doesn't stop yowling."
The three girls had been given a kitten each from the same litter. They were odd-looking kittens with the narrow Siamese heads of their father, and the fluffy fur of their Persian mother.
"Senna, Benna and Tenna make it still matching names," Belinda said.
Kate put the kitten down and glared at the rain pouring down outside. "Nothing much to do in wet weather."
"Can always cook." Amanda spent all her spare time experimenting with new recipes.
"And if you cook, we can always eat," Kate agreed. "But what is there to actually do?"
"There's a police car pulling up outside," Belinda said as she looked out the window.
There was a knock on the front door. They waited. Belinda's mother answered the door. They heard the murmur of voices as people walked into the kitchen. Then silence.
"Something must be wrong," Belinda said uneasily.
"Probably only after street directions," Kate said.
Belinda sneaked open the kitchen door. Her mother sat at the table looking at nothing. One policeman patted her on the shoulder and the other one was at the sink getting a glass of water.
There was something wrong with her mother's face. It was almost as if she had gone blind. Belinda got a funny feeling in the pit of her stomach.
She walked into the kitchen. The two police, one woman and one man both had strained expressions on their faces.
"What is it?" Belinda asked.
"There's been an accident." The policeman sounded uncomfortable.
"An accident," Belinda repeated.
"The car skidded off the ocean road, probably late last night. The rain undermined the road. They are waiting for low tide to salvage the car," the policewoman explained as she gave the glass of water and a tablet to Belinda's mother.
"Daddy?" Belinda gasped.
Her mother washed the tablet down with the water, and dabbed at her face with her paint-covered rag. Her eyes focused. "They think your father might have gone over with the car, Belinda."
The funny feeling in the pit of Belinda's stomach tightened into a painful knot. Suddenly, rain on the first day of the school holidays was unimportant.