Joe doesn't believe in surprise parties
|Joe had never been a big believer in surprise birthday parties. He'd always thought the recipient was in on it.
Until it happened to him. By his wife, Cathy.
He came down the stairs, fastening his cuff links, to find Cathy at the CD player beside the door. Taken aback, he paused, mid--step.
"Bit late to be putting music on, isn't it?"
"I thought I'd left a CD in here earlier. I was just checking. Ready? The taxi's waiting."
Joe shrugged. "Yeah. Ready."
The restaurant was upmarket and elitist. Piano music tinkled from hidden speakers, and the guests all spoke in hushed tones. Joe and Cathy were seated in a bay in the corner, away from the few other guests. Their meal was delicious and neither wanted to leave.
The house was in darkness, and the door locked, just as they'd left it, so when Joe flicked on the lights and his friends and family jumped out from their hiding places, he took a step back and collided with the wall.
"Surprise!" They yelled, clapping their hands, pulling party poppers and blowing on party horns. There were banners saying Happy Birthday in bright blue colours on holographic material, balloons in the corner, with a helium balloon taking pride of place in front of the window. The table was covered in a white cloth with confetti scattered around it.
Joe didn't know where to look as he stepped into the lounge, taking in each of his guests in turn.
"How . .. ? When did you . . . ? What. . .?" Then it dawned on him "I'm dreaming, aren't I? This can't be happening."
His brother Alan give him a light punch on the shoulder. "No dream, bro. We got ya."
He sensed rather than saw Cathy reach behind him for the CD player. She hit Play and party tunes filled the room.
"But . . . How did you even get in?" He didn't see Cathy disappear into the kitchen.
"Cathy lent us her key."
Just then, the lights went out. Joe went to take a step, when Alan grabbed him firmly by the forearm just in time for Cathy to reappear with the birthday cake.
"You didn't really expect us to have a party with no cake, Joe, did you?" asked one of his friends.
Joe laughed. "Of course! The cake."
They all gathered round and sang the Birthday Song as Joe got ready to blow out the candles.
"Make a wish!" His friends urged in unison.
Joe looked skyward as though looking for inspiration, then blew out the candles as everyone cheered.
The next morning, he was woken up by the smell of bacon drifting up the stairs. He jumped out of bed and pulled open the curtains. The sun was still low in the cloudless sky and cast long shadows up the street. Everything was as it always had been.
For a moment, Joe was satisfied, until he realised that he's been hoping for a small difference in his garden. His wish hadn't come true. He swallowed his disappointment and went to join Cathy in the kitchen. What had he expected? Wishes didn't come true just because you made them before blowing out birthday candles. How silly of him.
"Morning sweetheart." she smiled, cutting the bacon sandwiches in half and placing them on a plate.
"Morning, love," Joe smiled as he kissed his wife.
Joe blinked, feigning surprise. "Hm? No, oh no. What could possibly be wrong?"
Cathy had a shrewd look in her eye as she sat down beside him at the table. "So you weren't expecting a royal blue Porsche convertible in the drive this morning?"
Joe flapped his hand at her. "Who? Me?! Of course not. We couldn't afford a car like that!"
Cathy took a bite of her sandwich. She swallowed before saying, "In that case, I'd better tell them not to bother delivering it this afternoon."