This story was inspired by the following word prompts
Today’s things are: circus, carnival, freak show
The Awkward Surprise
It was his wife’s fiftieth birthday and he had managed to convince her he had forgotten all about it.
When they woke up that Saturday morning, he behaved like there was nothing special about the day ahead.
He’d got up, had a shower, fed the cats and then went to the corner shop to pick up the Saturday paper.
On his way back he quickly accosted the postman who was about to post some birthday cards through their letter box. He took the cards and put them in his coat pocket and only allowed the bills to pass through.
The postman gave him a strange look as he continued on his round.
Hiding round the side of the house he heard his wife open the inner door and pick up the few measly bills and slam the door again.
Stifling a laugh he opened the door with his key and went in.
“Has the mail been love?” he asked, how he kept a straight face, he had no idea.
“Only the gas and electric bills and a letter from the council about the drains, that’s all. I was expecting…”
“What were you expecting?” he asked as innocently as he could.
“Oh, Nothing. Nothing at all” She replied then went into the kitchen and slammed the door.
At that moment the phone rang and he quickly jumped up to answer it before his wife could get there.
“Hello? Who is it?”
“Hi Dad it’s Jennifer, so what’s the plan then? Can you talk?”
“Hi Love, Yes she’s not a happy bunny at the moment. If you come round about 6 or 7 pm and greet people as they arrive, I’ll take your Mum out for a drive, make her think I’m taking her out then when I bring her back here, if you sneak everyone into the back room so they can jump out and surprise her. Can you think of a mundane reason to come round?”
“Yes, I’ll pretend my washing machines broken down again and I’ll ask if I can bring my washing round to do it there. Go on, call her.”
“Darling? Jennifer’s on the phone and she wants to speak to you” He raised his voice. Laura came running out a smile breaking on her face as she rushed to him and took the phone out of his hand.
“Jennifer how lovely, er, what?…..
Yes you can come and do some washing here, you know you don’t have to ask, come round any time. Is that what you wanted to speak to me about? …..
Oh, OK dear, See you later. Good-bye” Her voice sounded quite forlorn as she hung up.
“You know Darling, I really fancy some bacon and eggs for breakfast, what about it?”
Laura slammed the kitchen door again. If he kept this pretense up too much longer all the doors will need their hinges repaired.
Oh well, he was rather enjoying the game.
He managed to keep it up all day and of course her pride never let her say anything at all. The hardest thing was to keep from breaking into laughter at every hurt look, every door slam and every moody word she gave.
Eventually their Daughter arrived about five pm and she acted her part well too. She came in lugging a large laundry bag full of unwashed garments.
“Hi, Mum, Hi Dad. Thanks for letting me do this, It’s a real godsend. You don’t look well Mum, did you remember to take your blood pressure pills?”
“OH Yes, I remembered, there nothing whatsoever wrong with my memory. My memory is pretty damn good. It’s everyone else’s that seems to be going.”
“What do you mean Mum?”
“Oh Nothing. Nothing at all” She replied crossly.
“I think I’m going to have a long soak in the bath and put on something nice. I fancy dressing up for a change” Announced Stephen getting up out of his easy chair.
A look of hope appeared in Laura’s blue eyes, which only increased when he reappeared in one of his best suits, all clean-shaven and wearing aftershave.
“If you don’t mind me saying so dear you look a bit down. Why don’t you go and make yourself look nice? It will make you feel a thousand times better, I bet.”
“OK Darling, I will” She was positively glowing when she left the room.
Jennifer giggled at her father “It is rather fun this, but I hope you don’t take it too far. One of these days she’s going to blow-up you know.”
“Don’t worry Jenn, it will all be worth it. I’ve invited Keith and Sandra round, we used to go on holiday with them every year and she hasn’t seen them since they moved away. I’ve got Stan and Olive coming round too and we used to double date when we first started going out. She’s going to love it. I’ve got all the buffet food prepared and it’s down in the extra fridge in the shed at the bottom of the garden, the one I normally keep my beers in. There’s also a crate of champagne. I tell you she will absolutely love it. If you get it all ready for us for when we get back. I’ll take her for a drive past that restaurant she likes, to get her hopes up, then bring her back here for about 7:30 OK?”
“If you say so Dad, but I think you ought to tell her now. You’ve had your fun.”
“No, we’ve got to see it through.”
His wife entered the room and looked amazing. She had put her hair up and had on the pearl earring and necklace set that he’d bought her for their twentieth wedding anniversary. Her long black dress showed off her slim figure to perfection.
“You look absolutely lovely love. Right get in the car. Jenn’l keep an eye on the cats while we’re gone.”
“So where are you taking me, you sneaky man?” She asked with a beaming smile.
“Oh, just for a drive” He winked at Jennifer then he and his wife got in the car and drove off.
When they got back to the house his wife was no longer smiling, she was furious.
“Why on earth did you encourage me to dress up for? To go for a drive past my favourite restaurant? Fantastic, Stephen, you’ve reached a new low, even for you. Have you really forgotten it’s my Fiftieth Birthday? Have you?”
He realised he had taken it a bit too far. She was red in the face and the hair that she’d pinned back was starting to escape giving her the look of a slightly deranged woman.
“Sorry Love, I’ve asked Stan and Olive, and Keith and Sandra to come round…”
Before he could say any more his wife started shouting.
“Not Stan and Olive! I can’t Abide them. Not since they took us to that Circus and I had to sit through those poor Elephants. I’ve never forgiven them. And as for Keith and Sandra, I couldn’t bear having to go there for dinner, with both of them having chronic wind problems it was like some kind of freak show.”
“But they’re your friends, You haven’t seen them in years” He interjected.
“That’s because I didn’t want to, Stephen. No I’ve had enough of this. You think living with you all these years has been one long Carnival? Well it hasn’t, I have been in hell, in purgatory, Stephen. I want a divorce.”
At that point, the door to the back room opened, their daughter, Jennifer and her husband, Sean came in carrying a large cake all lit up with candles.
Stan and Olive, Keith and Sandra followed them, all wearing their best clothes but as the old saying went, you’re never fully dressed without a smile, and there wasn’t one to be seen.
“Well, This is awkward” Sean said, putting the cake down on the table and hugging Jennifer who was fighting back tears.
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 05/August/2018