The Valentine Day Birthday
Marcie watched him fidget and turn for what seemed like ages before he finally settled himself into the armchair.
He looked sad, a lost look about him, she thought.
Maybe he missed the train, lost something, or some other irritation that seemed to be bothering him.
'Hi, what can I get you this morning...? she chirped.
' Just a large black coffee thanks...' he replied as he fan shaped a handful of coloured envelopes through his fingers.
' OK, sir, one large black coffee, I'll bring that right over...'
And tapped the order into a little palm - held tablet.
' Mmm, they look nice, are they Valentine cards ...?
'...I will give you a free heart cake if so...only a small one though...'
' Well...actually...its birthday cards ' he whispered. '... I should have waited until later before opening them...but...'
'What...that's wonderful' she trills. '... a birthday on Valentines Day, so romantic, you will be the second person in this morning to have a Valentines Day birthday..!
She nodded in the direction of a young girl sitting at the window shuffling birthday cards and picking bits from a small pink cake .
'...I'll take your photo later... for the gallery and sing Happy Valentines Day Birthday to you, and the young lady... you can still have a heart cake, but no candles...' and skipped away humming.
'...Happy Birthday to you...Happy...'
Candles he thought.
Birthday candles on Valentines Day with their welcoming soft flickering glow.
Wafting their sweet smelling fragrances until they gutter to a black smouldering wick.
Snuffed out like his daughter, the night before her twentieth birthday.
One day to go, that was all...one day, then no longer a teenager.
They shared the same birthday date, VB Day they called it.
A double celebration of fun.
Silly games, daft hats and teasing boyfriends.
No more of the fizzing colours that leapt and sparkled from the blazing red heart of her last birthday cake.
The laughter...wishes...the plans for the future...
How cake can taste so bitter.
Memorial candles lit now instead.
Sturdy white slow burning candles that lack life as they flame.
The young girl sitting at the window looked like her he thought.
But then all the young girls he looked at reminded him of his daughter.
Lounging against the window, small and wearing an old patched jumper twice her size with rolled up sleeves, glasses perched on a thick pile of hair tied with a red ribbon.
She appeared lost.
Her heart cake uneaten.
Marcie tidied and cleaned the counter as the machine whirred and hissed a measure of coffee into the cup.
Just what is it about birthdays, she thought.
Aren't birthdays on a Valentines Day supposed to be extra special occasions.
Here's me giving out free heart cakes and both of them sitting looking miserable.
Moping, flicking through their cards of best wishes with kisses.
They should be happy.
You only get one birthday you know, you don't get two or three shots at it for goodness sake, plus a Valentine day thrown in as well..
she sighed with exasperation.
She looked over as the waitress approached a man sitting in one of the old armchairs.
'There you are sir...one coffee and one lovely birthday heart cake ...enjoy...' she overheard her say.
Her father's birthday was today, Valentines Day, he would have been forty years old.
He would always announce to everyone that she was born one minute fifty-five seconds before midnight .
'... you just scraped in to share my day, so I'm having a triple slice of cake for all my troubles...' he used to say at every birthday.
He always put tiny candles in the cake that wouldn't blow out, and then make a show of huffing and puffing, covering everyone with sugar icing.
Lousy jokes, singing out of tune to karaoke, dancing like a demented puppet.
She watched the man slide the small cake to one side and wipe tears from his eyes.
He bore a resemblance to her father, she thought.
Handsome, tie askew, scratching the beginnings of a new beard, squinting to read birthday cards with spectacles that dangled from the tip of his nose.
But then all older men she looked at reminded her of him as tears slipped down her check.
' ...Hey, wait... wait ...mister you can't leave yet... I haven't sang Happy Birthday...to you...or do you want my Funny Valentine song instead...? ' called Marcie passing by his table.
'Harry...Harry...quick...' she calls over to a waiter.
'... Get the camera, and please young lady, would you mind standing together...'
Both stood awkwardly as Harry fiddled with the lens cover.
'How old are you today'? he asks.
'Twenty...and getting old' ! with a shake of her thick hair
'Forty...even older...'! as he removed his glasses.
It seemed natural and quite appropriate for two complete strangers to link arms and kiss each other on the check and share a Happy Birthday song on Valentines Day.
'...Hey you two, stop crying... my singing can't be that bad...all together now..'
'...Wow...this... is a really great photograph...!' announced Harry as he viewed the screen.
'... Here...come and take a look... like a father and daughter celebrating a special birthday together...don't you think...'?