Happy Birthday

An unexpected gift.

“Happy Birthday Conner! I see you’ve added a few pounds.”

I responded with a smirk, “Glad you’ve noticed Tim.”

“What are you doing with yourself these days?” he asked.

Before I could answer, I noticed his eyes wandered away from me. I glanced over and locked onto the tan woman with wavy, thick black locks that flowed gracefully over her shoulders and partially covered the spaghetti straps of her red string bikini. Tim’s presence faded from my memory, and the noise of strangers chatting up one another disappeared.

The ravened haired goddess waved and began to saunter our direction. Can this really be happening? I had never had such a beautiful woman show an interest in me. She opened her arms, my heart started to race, and then Tim’s frame invaded my vision and hugged her passionately.

“Conner, this is my girlfriend, Debbie.”

“A pleasure.” Her bikini-clad body wrapped me in a bear hug. Debbie released me, winked, and traced my cheek with her fingertip. I shuddered and prayed that no one noticed.

“Tim, you didn’t tell me the birthday boy was so cute.”

George, Cindy, and Julia mercifully walked up, and Debbie’s bottom lip stuck out in a mocking pout. Tim took Debbie’s hand, and the two went wandering off on their own towards the other side of the roof deck.

“Conner, where were you born?” asked Cindy. “I was telling George I thought it was somewhere in Kansas, but Julia said you were born in St. Augustine. I have a steak dinner riding on the answer, so make sure you get it right.”

I was just about to disappoint Cindy when I heard someone yell, “Time for the Birthday Cake! Get Conner over here.”

Thirty people surrounded a table and waved me over. A large white sheet cake with red printed words, “Happy Birthday Old Man.” took up a large part of the table. I walked up to everyone encouraging me to make a wish.

Various voices in the group gave their opinions and advice concerning my wistful aspirations. I smiled and inhaled deeply. I somehow manage to blow out all thirty candles. Julia handed me the first piece of cake, and I walked over towards the pool as friends and acquaintances lined up for their sugar rush.

The quick bite of chocolate cake and buttercream icing sent a wave of pleasure over my body. As good as the cake tasted, the quiet waters of the swimming pool beckoned me to slip under their surface for a quick respite.

I put the cake down, looked over my shoulder, nodded towards my well-wishers, and then jumped into the freshwater. I slowly let the air release from my lungs and allowed my body to gently rest on the bottom of the pool. I closed my eyes and let the stillness and watery embrace wash away the stress from the workweek.

The sound of a small object plopping against the surface of the water six feet above caught my attention. A second plop and both my eyes looked up towards the wiggly image of my best friend dropping ice into the pool. I broke the surface of the water to find out why he had interrupted my short meditation.

Trey stood by the ladder with a towel extended.

“What?”

“I thought you’d like to know that Tim left the party with Debbie’s red handprint on his face.”

He had my attention. I quickly cleared the pool steps and tore the towel out of Trey’s hands. “What happened?”

Trey shrugged, “I would guess another woman. The fire in her eyes tells me Tim won’t be coming back.”

My lips pressed together tightly as I thought for a moment. I caught a glimpse of Debbie standing alone at the far corner near the condo entrance from the pool deck.

“I should go say something,” I said to myself as much as to Trey.

“All’s fair in love and war, eh?”

I ignored Trey’s quip and tossed the towel on a chair, grabbed my birthday cake, and walked over to console Debbie.

Debbie kept her back to me and waved me off, “Some friend you are.”

“Excuse me?”

Debbie’s voice cracked as she spoke, “You just came over here to steal your friend’s girl while she’s brokenhearted.”

I took a bit of cake and took my time chewing. Finally, I responded, “So, do you always leave your handprint on the side of Tim’s head when you two argue?”

She crossed her arms and turned to me, “No.” Her eyes began to pool up.

Before I could stop myself, I held Debbie in my arms. Coconut wafted up from her suntan lotion. She released her arms and pulled me in tight. Debbie whimpered, and I could feel her tears trickle against my chest.

“He cheated on me,” she stammered.

I chose my words carefully, “Tim is a fool.”

I gently stroked Debbie’s silky hair. I thought I felt her soft lips pressed against my chest, and then she pushed away.

“Thank you.”

I pointed over my shoulder, “Why don’t you join me in the pool? I promise it can do wonders.”

Debbie cocked her head, and her black eyes twinkled, “Only if you take me to dinner afterward.”

“I would enjoy nothing more.”

Debbie brushed against my body as she walked by towards the pool. Then, she stopped, looked over her shoulder, and said, “Happy Birthday.”