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Rated: E · Short Story · Family · #1807003
John said he would try to be at his daughters party, but the big gift box was empty.
A Birthday Surprise

By: Bikerider

Miriam smiled and inspected the yard from the shade of her porch. The grass was cut perfectly, the bushes were trimmed, and all the tables were covered in colorful paper and arranged around the pool. Karen and Diane put tiny slabs of colorful plastic against the nozzle of the green cylinder and suddenly a red, blue, or green, balloon appeared, the pzzzz from the oxygen canister competed with their giggles. Miriam’s smile faded when she thought about Jenny’s special present. The box she had placed in the yard for John to hide in sat empty.

“Hang the balloons around the tables,” Miriam instructed the girls, “we want the yard to look especially nice today.”

“Okay, Mrs. George,” they looked at each other and smiled. “Don’t worry about anything.” More giggling.

But Miriam was worried. John called and said he’d try to be home in time for Jenny’s eleventh birthday party, but she hadn’t heard from him since that phone call. She understood that Afghanistan was far away, but he could have called.

Jenny walked out onto the porch. “Mom, some of the kids are here already.”

Miriam turned to Jenny. “That’s okay, hon. We’re just about ready. Why don’t you go ahead and put on your bathing suit.” Miriam knelt and kissed her daughter’s cheek. “I hope this is the happiest birthday ever.”

“It will be mom, I just know it will. I’ll go change if you go inside and let everyone in.” She skipped back into the house and down the hall.

I hope he makes it, Miriam thought as she followed her daughter into the house. She went to the front door and greeted the guests.


The party was in full swing and Miriam couldn’t stop looking toward the front of the house…hoping to see John walk into the back yard. She remembered what Jenny had said when she asked her what she wanted for her birthday. “Dad, I want dad to be here.” She had answered.

Miriam looked at the main table and took a deep breath, she smiled trying to conceal her disappointment. At the shady end of the table there was a birthday cake, and all the kids were now licking their lips as they eyed the colorful frosting. It was time to cut the cake, and John was still not there. Miriam hoped Jenny wouldn’t be too disappointed.

Jenny and a group of her friends were huddled in a small circle. Miriam smiled and wondered what they were up to. Oh well, she thought, it’s time to get the party started…John or no John.

“Jenny,” Miriam called, “I think it’s time to cut the cake, are you ready?”

Jenny stood at the head of the gaily decorated picnic table while her friends sang Happy Birthday. Miriam noticed that she Jenny had eleven gifts to open. Well, ten anyway, she thought. Ten gifts were stacked on top of a large, brightly wrapped box that Miriam had placed there for John to hide in—but it was now empty. She would explain to Jenny after the party. Her father would have come if he could have.

With the cake out of the way all the girls began to shout, “Open you presents, we want to see what you got.” Jenny walked to the pile and picked up a gift bag and began to read the card.

“Open the big box, Jenny.” One of the girls called from the gathering of chattering kids.

“No, honey,” Miriam said, “You should open the presents from your friends. I’ll tell you all about that big box later.”

“But mom,” Jenny replied as she began to lift the box. “It’s the biggest box, I want to see what’s in it.”

Miriam knew the box was empty so she started around the table to comfort her daughter. Suddenly there was a howl of shouting and laughter from the girls. Miriam looked up to see John, in full uniform, standing where the box had been. Her hands flew to her face and tears of happiness flooded into her eyes.

“John,” Miriam shouted, “What on earth…?”

“I told you I’d try.” He winked at his daughter who was smiling up at him.

“But…but you…”

“I told you I wanted Dad home for my birthday, mom,” Jenny said as she hugged her dad. “But what I really wanted for my birthday was to surprise you.”

“Well, you certainly did that, hon.” Miriam ran to her husband and threw her arms around his neck.

Miriam let go of John long enough to find her daughter’s smiling face in the crowd. But what she found was a weeping child.

“Don’t worry mom, these are tears of joy,” Jenny said as she ran to her parents and threw her arms around them.


Submitted for the 9/1/11 Writer’s Cramp

Word count 805

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