A Memorable Birthday – Joyce Janes


George and dad had been planning for months.

Everything was organised to the last detail, timings set to the precise minute, everything checked and re-checked, it had been planned like a military operation.

‘Organisation is the key,’ George told his dad.

They had discussed every tiny detail a hundred times.  This was going to be the best, most memorable birthday mum had ever had.

Her 35th birthday was to be a never forgotten event.

At times George was almost beside himself with excitement, and to be quite honest, at times he felt as if he would burst with the weight of so many secrets.  He went tingly all over when he pictured the surprise on mum’s face when she realised what they had organised.

George had lists, detailing even the smallest things, stashed away in the most unlikely places around his bedroom.  He had calculated how many pieces of cake were needed, the exact number of balloons required to decorate the restaurant where the momentous occasion was to take place, everything was going to be perfect.

Their plans would go like clockwork.  Nothing could possibly go wrong.

It wasn’t only a party, no, the two conspirators decided she deserved more, a holiday as well.  Once the party was over the plan was to whisk her away to Cornwall for a week in the new trailer tent.

George could almost hear her cry of delight, her happy voice, ‘how on earth did you two keep this a secret, you must have been planning for weeks,’ and that would just be the party, she wouldn’t realise more was to come.  When she knew about the holiday as well she would be speechless.

Now he would just be happy when the day came and there were no more secrets.

One week to go.

3 days to go, 2.

The day before the party George could hardly contain his excitement.  Every time he thought about the surprise he broke into a smile, and because it was all he was thinking about, he permanently had a silly grin on his face.

Dad kept warning him, ‘you’ll give it away if you’re not careful,’ but even he had to smile.

Mum caught them giggling together.

‘What are you two laughing at.’

Instantly they both put on a serious expression and said in harmony ‘nothing,’ then ruined it as they looked at each other and burst out laughing.

Mum smiled, tutted and walked away, ‘you are both crackers.’

‘Do you think she knows? George asked quietly.

‘Of course not,’ said dad.

It was on the morning of the party that things started to go wrong.  Breakfast in bed was to be the first treat.

Bacon and eggs on a tray with two red roses, one from each of them.  George was sure it had been dad’s job to get the flowers, dad was sure it was George’s.

‘There have to be flowers,’ George said.

‘I’ll start the breakfast, you go and see if there is anything in the garden we can use.’

George ran outside but his slipper caught on the step and he fell headlong onto the stone pathway.  Dad rushed out to see him, sprawled out, face pouring with blood.  It took dad about 5 minutes to stop the bleeding and apply an emergency repair to the gash across his George’s nose.  He watched as the flesh around his son’s eyes change colour from red to purple.  George looked as if he had done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson.

‘Daad,’ George said, sounding as if he had a terrible cold, ‘I dink the bacon is burning.’

‘Oh damn,’ shouted dad as he grabbed the pan, totally forgetting the handle always gets hot.

By the time they had run his hand under the cold tap, picked up the charred bacon and cleaned the floor mum was shouting downstairs.

‘What are you doing?  Do you want some help?’

‘No, everything is fine,’ dad replied and winked at George.

They looked like two wounded soldiers.

‘What about scrambled egg?’ George suggested.

Neither of them knew how it happened, but as George carried the box of eggs across the kitchen, dad turned around, knocked into him, and somehow the eggs slipped gently from his hands and smashed on the floor.

Mum sat up in bed and George laid the flowerless tray on her lap.

‘Toast and coffee, my favourite,’ she smiled up at her two boys.

‘Oh my god, what on earth have you been doing? she cried as she inspected the face of her champion boxer son and his father’s 3rd degree burns.

‘Happy birthday,’ they said in unison, smiling weakly.

They spent a quiet morning at home, George with a cold compress on his eyes, dad with his hand, now expertly bandaged, and mum running around getting them drinks and making sure they were ok.

‘Lets go out for lunch,’ said dad.

The party was at 2pm and everyone would be there when they arrived.

They set off in plenty of time but George was surprised to see so few cars in the car park.

Dad smiled at him as they entered an empty restaurant.  It was totally empty apart from the ‘Happy Birthday’ balloons tied to each chair.

‘Dad what time is it?’

‘2 o’clock, I don’t understand it, where is everyone’

‘Didn’t the clocks go back last night?’ George sighed.

By two the party was in full swing and mum was having a great time.  They ate, then it was time for speeches.  Much to George’s embarrassment he was asked to say a few words.

‘Happy birthday mum, he said, ‘it’s not over yet,’ he smiled then, ‘oops mustn’t say too much.’

Everyone enjoyed themselves and it was 6 o’clock before people started to leave.

‘We need to get going as well,’ said dad.

The three of them walked out of the restaurant together and there was the car with the trailer tent in tow.

‘What?’ mum was puzzled.

‘Surprise,’ shouted George, ‘we’re going to Cornwall.’

‘This is the best birthday I have ever had,’ mum told them and, as tears trickled down her face, she gave them both a hug.

‘I’ve booked a bed for the night about 40 miles away so we can get an early start tomorrow,’ dad said.

The hotel was lovely.

Next morning dad put the overnight bag into the boot.

Mum watched him then asked, ‘where’s the rest of the luggage?’

Dad looked at George, George looked at dad, they pointed at each other in disbelief and said sadly..…’surprise.’



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