Twenty five of them, she’d counted as they’d sung Happy Birthday in the small restaurant that they insisted was her favourite. The other candle must have dropped off somewhere, or the staff at establishment had been given false information. Exasperated by their inclination to not really care. But there they were now, twenty five of them standing up in the frosty platform as her friends and family chorused in with the jubilation. She smiled patiently, looking at the other couples in the place staring at her in quiet satisfaction that it were she that were the spectacle.

The song ended, and they all applauded as she blew out the misleading twenty five burning flames that represented her life on the planet. She hadn’t done it for years, but this time she made a wish while she blew, closing her eyes to make them all disappear for her small moment of intimacy with the universe. The applause died down and she blinked back into reality, reaching for her glass to silently toast her desire. The cake was whisked away from her by the staff, to be dissected for all in attendance, and listened to the others at the table talking about their own progressive years and the fear of reaching thirty, or forty; or whichever milestone society had pegged out for them all to have achieved a certain thing by.

Her mother asked if she’d had a nice time so far. She sat there next to her in her one good dress, or so it seemed, the one she saved for extra special occasions. She had spilt a little something on it up by her neckline, a drip from the red wine she had eagerly been enjoying that evening. She wondered if it would come out, or if this were its swan song evening. She nodded in reply, saying something about having a lovely time and how nice it was everyone could make it.

It was a half-truth really. Though she appreciated the effort all had made, she would have been happy spending the evening at home. She drew a circle of eight on the tablecloth as her mother returned to her friend whom she’d brought with her that evening. Circling around the small stain of her own that had bled into the white landscape that stretched out before her. Her boyfriend squeezed her knee, chatting animatedly with her friend Paul next to him who had turned up late, pushing himself into a space at the head of the tiny table.

She sighed, and took another sip from her glass. It was already 10pm, and she could hear people talking about ordering another round and some coffees to go with her cake. She picked up the small travel journal that lay on the table behind her, a gift she’d opened earlier from her sister who couldn’t be there that evening since she was on the other side of the world. She’d sent her a small, yet expensive looking journal, tied up with old flight tickets from her own exhaustive travels around the planet. She opened it up, noticing a small message at the front:

“Time waits for no (wo)man”

Typical of her, she’d thought, and reached behind to put the book back onto the pile of gifts and treats everyone had nicely brought with them. She sat there again, quietly watching the others. For her own celebration, no one had really spoken to her much that night. She seemed liked a stranger at her own party, lost in crowd of noise, feeling like a spectator to someone else’s play.

She had work in the morning, and she was getting tired. She spotted Katy; her friend from the office who had come with her girlfriend and sat the other side of the table. Laughing and drinking with such ease. Unlike Katy, she hated her job, which she’d started about six months ago and had been miss-sold from the start at what it would entail. The office was grey and dull, and their building was tucked away on the side of town that bled into the industrial estate. She had promised everyone she would look for something else, but hadn’t done so yet; owing herself the biggest apology for being so lazy. Her boyfriend squeezed her knee again, his constant sign of being both there and absent as he drank his beer and chatted with her friend whom, she could tell already, had hastily becoming intoxicated.

The cakes arrived back at the table, the waiting staff smiling as they placed the tiny plates in front of the guests and took orders for more drinks. She pushed her chair back, about to excuse herself, when she realised either side of her were both consumed in their own conversations, so she said nothing. She apologised to a waiter as she accidently bumped into her, nearly sending the birthday slice high up into the air; and made her way towards the bathroom. She stopped, only for a second, and then walked straight passed it.

She left the restaurant, and out into the cold night air where she exhaled deeply, standing on the street. A few other diners stood by the door, sending their smoke swirling around the door like a revolving dragon. She stood there herself now, still in the night with her arms down by her side. Her fingertips moving to a secret rhythm only she could hear. She turned to glance into the restaurant, its glass steamed up slightly due to the dropping temperature outside. She watched as all at her table continued on their merry gathering, laughing and enjoying themselves.

“Avant que ça ne se produise.” She muttered under her breath, and started up the street, in the wrong direction to home.


15 thoughts on “26

  1. “…reaching for her glass to silently toast her desire.” This spoke to me. I wonder what her desire is.

    You conveyed her tension so very well, bringing right into the restaurant with her.

    Before what happens, I wonder….

    Nicely done. 💙


    • Thank you, yes i left it open for the reader to add their ending for her. I hope she found her way to the other side of the globe personally. Glad you enjoyed it, I appreciate the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. love all the hidden messages here, you weave an intricate tale well to my over active brain anyway, have to dash to that job I love so much, back later to dissect it further, but this will be on my mind today, in a good way. Have a good day/night/whatever time you are in!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah thank you, hope the job went well. What do you do for work? It’s morning here now in rainy Oxford. I’m glad you liked the salad bowl of the story, i left it so readers can pick their own ending in a way.


      • I work in an Oncology unit as a Radiation Therapist. I live and work in a suburb called Subang Jaya, about 20 km south of the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. It’s way past the evening hour now and it’s also been rainy and cloudy, tail end of the monsoon I hope. Oxford, nice, never properly been to England, but always wanted to. Just a long layover in London a few years back. So you must have a really cool accent. Yes your salad bowl offering is delicious and so many choices too. Probably need a whole page for the questions it raises in my mind. Delightful tale!


      • Very interesting role, and noble too. Anything in healthcare i feel is altruistic.I’m glad you enjoy it too, that is life’s big lesson…to enjoy your work.
        A layover in London doesn’t sound fun, but yeah England is definitely a place to explore. Not sure about my accent though, maybe too crisp. Hope the questions raised are not overwhelming, and some will probably ave no answers i would assume. Hope safe and dry from the monsoon’s last gasp.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I find 25+1 awesome. Your narration is captivating and intriguing . Thanks for sharing. I will love to read more of you.
    I thank Manache Poetry aka Vertige de l’Oiseau for introducing you to me. He has flair and a sensitive taste for beauty and perfection.


  4. but it also gives me too much compassion fatigue some days and I just have to retreat, but I am blessed, I get to do what I enjoy most, work that satisfies me. I am judging the accent by the many British TV shows I have seen. The layover wasn’t too bad, got to meet a friend who lives close to the Tate and we went for coffee. But surely a longer stay in the future, maybe not only in London, I want to go to Scotland, Inverness in particular.. Do you get snow where you live? Like heavy snowfall. I am safe and dry but sadly not for most on the east coast of Malaysia. Evacuation and relocation last few weeks but things getting back to normal again. Well back to the story…..There’s a significance with the number of candles it seems, why did she only blow out 20 of the 25, was she really upset that they got her age wrong and put only 25 candles there? I think she has everything planned out for her exit, out of the restaurant and maybe out of the dull life she thought she was having. Everyone seemed to make an effort to be at her birthday, I keep thinking why was she being so unsociable or did she have a secret she could not share. Now you have kept me awake with thinking of all the possibilities.


    • I can imagine, that feeling of being spent some days. Lots of karma in the bank though. Ah, yes, not so Downtown abbey esq though fortunately. The tate is excellent, i prefer Tate Britain to the Tate modern, but both wonderful. I lived in London for a while, is a nice city in batches. We haven’t had really heavy snow for a while, but sometimes it can be heavy: https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5202/5275203762_328b2b9081_b.jpg
      Oh no, i hope you’re getting some rest now. She is an interesting character. Its the type people could construes as selfish, but really she is just unhappy at how life is set up around her. Sometimes we are surrounded by good people, who just don’t see what is good for us.I think it was the amalgamation of the birthday party/journal that got her thinking of time to go. I’m glad she made you think though. Thanks always for being so kind, is nice to talk to people who are honest and intelligent.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lots of good karma I hope as I am not sunshine everyday. And you got that spot on, Downton Abbey! how did you ever know?! But I do watch some serious ones too ok. I enjoy the museums and galleries and so would find it so hard to cram everything in on one visit, too much to see!Thanks for the photo link. That looks like a lovely place to be in when it snows, I imagine it must be really quiet after a snowfall like that. Yeah she did let me rest a little, but it’s the after taste of reading something like that, real life staring back at you. It’s painful to live a life misunderstood and assumed. I can see why she needed an exit. It takes courage though or just finding enough fault with the right amount of people to make that exit. Thank you for always answering and entertaining my questions, that itself has been a real honour, your time as a writer is precious. It’s been such pleasure to talk to you, art of conversation is dying and you carry a lively one. I should say thank you for your sweetness and generosity of spirit. And I am. Hope you wake to a gloriously gloomy day full of clouds and grey skies that will inspire you greatly.


      • Nobody is, but we all try to be. Yes, there is an eerie calm after a heavy snowfall, like nobody knows what to do right away. Love it! You’r very kind, thank you for you. It’s nice to talk creatively with people of your own mind frame. Helps each others be inspired. Today is sunny and bright, but we’ll see what’s in store. Have a great day yourself…or night as i imagine it will be now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • We need to, inspire one another, the world has too much solitary activity! Yes I love the talk, keeps the mind alert and the heart pumping. Likewise it’s really great to talk to someone who gets what you mean to say! The silence after a snowfall and all those things that get muted out by white creates a world where your senses aren’t in overdrive and that’s why you say people don’t know what to do first, like there’s so much they never heard before! Oh how I long for snow! One day, one day…sigh. Night’s fallen on the equator but its far from a kind of hush here, night sounds here are amplified by the proximity of our houses. Have a sweet day whichever way the sun decides to shine on you. Me I have the rain and that’s how I like it.

        Liked by 1 person

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