I woke early, feeling excited. It was my birthday. My 23nd birthday to be exact. The first since I left home to live alone in the city.
Then I realised my apartment was silent. No power!
The room was a lot colder than on other days. I groaned and climbed out of bed, ready to wash my hair and bath, ready for a day at work, and then………
No one had made any plans with me for the evening. Maybe the friends at work didn’t know it was MY day, but surely one or other school friend would remember?
The water for my bath was not hot enough. My hair felt sticky even after it was rinsed a second time in what was now rather cold water. Shivering I dressed and went to turn on the hairdryer, only to realise my mistake. No power meant no hairdryer.
Feeling very annoyed I went into the kitchen and turned on the kettle. Then I stopped and realised the same dreadful fate had struck that. No hot water.
Wondering how my mother always seemed to manage to provide something warm for us to start the day, even if there was a power failure, I went back to my bedroom, rubbing my hair with a dry towel in an effort to dry it.
My cell phone rang. It was mum phoning to wish me a happy birthday. Well at least SOMEONE remembered. She said something about how she expected I’d be out with my friends tonight, and that I must enjoy it. We said goodbye, with our usual reassurances about mutual love for each other.
By now I was feeling extremely lonely, no sister and mother coming in with my first cup of coffee, no special breakfast, opening presents, no special phone calls from aunts and uncles, cousins.
The I realised I’d have to walk down the 5 flights of stairs and hurriedly pulled on my coat and a woolly beret, hoping that would keep my head warm enough. The staircase was dark and cold. I’d never realised how little natural light came into it.
Out on the street it was normal daylight and I felt a little happier.
I warmed up walking briskly to work. At least there the electricity was working, and I did not have to climb 12 flights of stairs to get to the office.
No one seemed to think the day was any different. Last year, while I was working at Mr Dumont’s legal office at home, his wife brought in a birthday cake and they all sang to me. What a difference.
By home time I was despondent. No other phone calls, no one at work wishing me well. I couldn’t complain, everyone back home had warned me of the lack of friendliness in the city.
I walked home slowly, feeling the air was colder and glad I had the beret on. I knew how dreadful my hair would look, drying under that. At least no-one wanted me to go out looking like that.
When I got home, at least the power was back on. I had another bath, this time nice and hot. I use the hairdryer to tame my hair a little. Then I dressed in my new dark blue dress and high heels and went out, determined to have supper somewhere to cheer me up.
I went into the little Italian restaurant nearby. It was well lit up. As I walked in I saw the sign hanging “HAPPY BIRTHDAY”. It cheered me for a second, then I realised it was for someone else.
Feeling a little silly with myself I sat, ordered a glass of wine and a salad. Then I thought about my birthday meal. Hmmmmmmm, what would make me feel special, yet not break the bank?
A cheerful stream of people kept arriving and going through the archway to the area there that had been set out with one long table. People carrying presents! It was a birthday.
Then in walked the nicest looking man I had ever seen. Something about the way his eyes twinkled when he saw the people, something in the way he bent over the hand of an elderly lady. Something in the way he tossed a young boy into the air. A real family party, and he the centre of it.
I sighed, wondering if I should just move back home.
I quietly ate my pasta, enjoying the wonderful flavours, watching the happy family party. I was contemplating the menu and a gelato for dessert when I looked up, into his smiling face. “I see you are alone tonight.” He said. “No one should be alone on my birthday. This is my family’s restaurant and I invite you as my guest to come and finish your meal with us, drink some wine with us, and later dance with us.”
Feeling brave I accepted. He carried my wineglass across, and introduced me to his parents, grandmother, siblings, and their children. All noisily cheery they welcomed me with easy grace and goodwill.
When the dancing started Tony (yes how corny for a man of Italian descent) and I danced a lot. When the party broke up he asked me if I’d like to go on elsewhere. So we went to a club and danced and talked.
Many months later when we announced our engagement his mother asked me when my birthday falls, so that she had it in her calendar. I smiled my secret and said “I’ll just celebrate on Tony’s day, after all it was his birthday party that brought us together.”