Birthday Party

The lights were down and the speakers at full volume.
 
“Everyone jump up and down on one foot!” came the thunderous shout of the entertainer who was dressed as a mouse. And the children, like frantic robots, jumped furiously up and down on one foot.
 
“Remember how crazy we would get when we were seven?” the birthday girl’s smiling father asked one invitee’s mother, shouting into her ear so she could hear.
 
“And why not? We didn’t have TV,” answered the woman, not expecting to be heard.
 
They hadn’t noticed that Silvia, the birthday girl herself, had pulled away from the confused scene and was speaking with the entertainer who was dressed as a rabbit. The lights came on.
 
“Silvia wants to show us all a magic trick,” said Mr. Rabbit. “She’s going to make someone disappear!”
 
“Who do you want to make disappear?” asked Miss Mouse.
 
“My little sister,” said Silvia, speaking into the microphone.
 
Carolina, a little girl of five, cute as a button in her little pink dress, confidently walked to the front. It was obvious they had practiced the trick before the party because she let her older sister put her under the table and pull down the tablecloth until it touched the ground.
 
“Abracadabra, alakazam! It’s done!”
 
When they lifted the tablecloth, Carolina wasn’t there. The children weren’t even impressed by the trick: they were tired and just wanted to eat the cake. But the adults were truly impressed. Silvia’s parents looked at each other with pride.
 
“Now make her reappear,” said Miss Mouse.
           
“I don’t know how,” said Silvia. “I learned the trick on TV and Dad made me change the channel before they talked about reappearing.”
 
They all laughed and Miss Mouse reached under the table to get Carolina. But Carolina wasn’t there. They looked in the kitchen and the upstairs bathroom, under the cushions, behind the study. They looked carefully, covering the whole upstairs, inch by inch, without finding her.
 
“Where’s Carolina, Silvia?” asked her mother, a little worried.
 
“She disappeared!” said Silvia. “And now I want to blow out the candles. I get a corner piece with lots of frosting!”
 
The girls’ father had been standing by the stairs during the trick and no one could have gone down without him knowing it. Nevertheless, they continued the search downstairs. But Carolina was nowhere to be found.
 
At 10:00 p.m., long after the last guest had left and every corner of the house had been searched multiple times, they began to call the police stations and hospitals.
 
*   *   *
“How foolish I was that night,” said the adult Silvia many years later to a group of friends who had come to help her through her husband’s wake. “How nice it would be to have a sister at a time like this!” And, once again, she broke down crying.