“I hate birthdays,” Ciara muttered to herself as she ripped down one more copy of Annette’s invitation on the wall. The sign said, “Ciara is 30 years old today. Come celebrate with us at The Pub in the Basement tonight at 6:00.”
“Hey, hey,” She could see from the corner of her eye her best friend, Annette, running up to her. “What are you doing? Leave those alone.” Ending her request just as she reached Ciara, she placed a hand over the top edge of the sign.
Ciara dropped her hands in frustration. “You promised me you wouldn’t make a big deal of this. Remember?”
“It’s your birthday,” Annette said, “An event to celebrate.”
Ciara sighed heavily. “I don’t want to celebrate.”
“C’mon, girl,” Annette moved her hand from the sign to Ciara’s upper arm. “How many times in your life do you turn 30?”
“That’s just it,” Ciara turned and started to walk away. “Thirty is no longer 20.”
Annette jumped in front of her, “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’m going to my cubby now.” She tried to walk around Annette. She was in no mood to discuss it now. Get to work, face down the day, and get it over with.
“No, not yet,” Annette swayed to her side to block Ciara’s path. “I have to warn you first.”
“What now?” Ciara growled.
“Okay, here’s the deal,” Annette said, concern building on her eyebrows. “You can tear down every sign you see around the office, but you are not touching the cubby until tomorrow. Got it?”
“What have you done to my cubby?” Ciara pushed her friend aside and rushed to her work area.
Ciara stood in front of her cubby, feet glued to the floor, mouth open, red rushing to her cheeks. A large streamer was draped over her area reading “Ciara is 30 TODAY.” Underneath it a sign that read “Come celebrate with her tonight at The Pub in the Basement: See Annette for directions.” Crinkled streamers of all colors fell like rain from the top, curling their way to a large bow on the bottom. Glitter lined a path around her desk.
Inside, a brightly colored Happy Birthday sign was taped to her computer monitor. Her inbox had been emptied and a mound of greeting card envelopes with her name on them overflowed within its walls.
Annette caught up to her as she stood staring at the decorated space. “I think I outdid myself. What do you think?”
“Lovely,” Ciara sighed, “You really shouldn’t have.”
“Okay,” Annette said, grabbing her by the arm. “What’s the matter? It can’t be the birthday thing because you’ve never had a problem with birthdays before.” Pushing Ciara gently down into her chair, she continued, “What’s really going on?”
Ciara paused to gather her thoughts, “The last three men I’ve been involved with have dumped me for 21- and 22-year-olds. Maybe, it’s not so much I hate birthdays, as I hate that as I age, I lose more and more ground in romance. I can’t turn the clock back, and all I ever run into are men who want younger women.”
“Those guys are not worthy of you. You need to stop trying to please them, and find Mr. Right for you.”
“Easier said than done,” Ciara said resigned.
“Look, you need to go to our celebration tonight. My friend, Jordan, owns this place and I’ve told him to go all out for you. It’s going to be great. And, you never know, you could find your Mr. Right tonight. They’ll be lots of eligible men there.” Annette was off in a hurry, yelling back at her, “I’ll bring Jordan around to meet you. He’s coming in to square up the details.”
“I’m not in the mood to meet anyone today,” Ciara said, mostly to the air around her.
As the afternoon wore on, Ciara buried herself in her work, ignoring as best she could the festive nature of her desk. She, on more than one occasion, got up to rip the decorations down. But Annette had gone to so much trouble, she couldn’t bring herself to do it.
“Ciara, I’d like you to meet Jordan.”
Ciara whirled around in her chair. Annette and a striking gentleman were standing just behind her. She stood up, “Oh, hello, Jordan,” she said extending her hand in a professional greeting.
“This is the birthday girl.” Then, looking at her, Annette said, “This is the owner of The Pub in the Basement, where we will be having the party tonight.”
Jordan smiled warmly at her. “Ahh, you’re having a special birthday today. I’m honored that you will be celebrating in my establishment.”
“Yeah, well, time marches on,” she said with as much of a smile as she could gather.
“Come, Jordan.” Annette, who always seemed to be in a hurry, was off again. “We still have some things to discuss.”
“It was nice to meet you, Ciara,” Jordan said, “I’m looking forward to your party tonight.” He started to follow Annette who was out of sight by now, but turned back toward Ciara, “For what it’s worth, I think that women gain a certain elegance and sophistication when they turn 30 that they are incapable of in their younger years.”
Ciara watched Jordan walk away, her mouth falling open, unable to respond to his compliment. Maybe she would go to the party after all.
Annette led Ciara into the doorway to The Pub in the Basement. “We’re in a private room in the back,” she said.
There was a line of tealight candles running along the wall leading to their private room. Inside, along the back wall were a row of 30 candles. Starting on the left was a small tealight, followed by a single votive. As the line progressed, each candle grew increasingly more detailed and ornate. The final and 30th candle was exquisite, delicately detailed with tiny flowers and fine silver netting. Three wicks flared with a brilliance that illuminated the room. Standing beside it was Jordan, smiling intently into her eyes.
“What the . . .“ Annette said. “Poor decorating choice there Jordan.”
“No,” Ciara said gazing back at him warmly, “It’s perfect.”
Copyright 2023, Monica Nelson