Present and incorrect for birthday wishes - Janet Christie

A look at the calendar reminds me it’s a friend’s birthday.

Covid birthdays might be muted but still have the ability to throw up a surprise.
Covid birthdays might be muted but still have the ability to throw up a surprise.

A covid birthday yes, therefore muted, but we can still go round and sing Happy Birthday on the doorstep, leave a gift that can be fumigated then opened later.

After a trip to the supermarket for a present and card, Youngest wants to come too, and we arrive at the flat, one in a crescent of identical houses.

“Looks different,” she says.

“You’ve not been here for a while,” I say. “They must have painted,” I ring the doorbell and we sing Happy Birthday.

They’re out. Jealousy consumes me. “Bet they’re at the supermarket, or dentist. Birthday scrape and polish treat.”

I look around the yard.

“Looks different. Tidier. I know, we’ll leave it in that new wood cupboard they’ve been busy building, next to their new bike. Nice.”

The wood cupboard takes a bit of forcing open (they won’t mind) but I’m in eventually and stow the pink party bag on top of the logs, take a photo and send it to my pals, telling them where to find the gift on their return.

“Look,” I say to Youngest, peering through the living room window. “They’ve got new furniture and a whole different colour scheme. Bit of a departure from their usual style, but very smart.”

“Stop pressing your face against the glass, Mother,” says Youngest. “Not a good look.”

She’s right so I stop, but as we walk away a shaft of sunlight hits the room and I catch a glimpse of someone sitting on the sofa, face illuminated by a laptop.

“Look. There’s someone in! Working. Headphones in. Hmm, looks busy. They don’t look themselves, to be honest.”

“Leave it, mum. Seriously,” says Youngest, tugging my sleeve. “You’ve rung the doorbell and phoned. Come away. Anyway, I want to show you something,” she says and heads off through the gate. I follow her, crashing into her back as she comes to an abrupt stop, two doors up.

Ah. This is in fact my friends’ house. I recognise the door, the decor. Oops.

“Do you think you could go back and get the present from the neighbour’s,” I say to Youngest.

“No. YOUR mess. YOU can do the walk of shame. The explanations. I hope they catch you in their wood cupboard. Snigger.”

Shame? It’s the most excitement I’ve had in ages. And we get to sing Happy Birthday all over again.

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