I cannot believe it.
My excitement is without bounds – my oldest trio of girls have turned eighteen! The happiness shines over me, even though I feel a twinge of regret. Every mother would – their children become completely independent and, slowly, slowly, will move away.
The day was today and, Tom being the jolly old chap that he is, helped plan the joyous occasion over several weeks. I’d wondered at why he’d come early this year, though I’m sure Midnight knew. It’s strange, Midnight didn’t believe in birthdays. According to her, there was nothing special “about being delivered from a birth canal, eighteen years prior” – but even she helped, and I didn’t know she was until this morning.
Only someone as insane as her would wake myself and Tom at 4 a.m. to begin preparations.
Kennedy, my youngest daughter of twelve years, had woken with a start to all the excited commotion. She was close to Midnight – perhaps, sometimes too close, seeing as Kenny walked into Midnight’s bedroom in the middle of the night more often than her own children did (which often proved disastrous, as Tom was usually… fond of his wife after his travels) – and had asked to help.
Tom began his day by picking Kennedy up in one arm, saying: “Your our customary alarum bell, Kenny,” and walked out of the house to fetch some water from the well, taking two buckets and a yoke with him.
I started out on the cake – Midnight admitting that she was horrible at baking – but she agreed to help with the decorating.
“It’s three birthdays in one,” she had said, “It has to be a hit, Georgie.”
“Agreed,” I had said, “what have you planned for the day?”
“Well, we have the gifts in place.”
“You and Tom bought gifts?”
“Aye, though Thomas’s are from overseas and would be greeted with more excitement,” she paused, “We won’t need to put them under a tree or anyth’un, will we?”
“That’s Christmas, Midnight, not birthdays.”
“All the same to me,” she scoffed.
“As in un-special and pointless?”
“Oi! Wait… yes.”
I shook my head, “What have you planned for the day?”
“I’m not tellin’ you, Georgie!” she laughed, “You’ll find out soon enough. Thomas’ll be cooking dinner.”
“Oh, Tom cooks?”
“It’s an uncommon hobby of his, but aye. He’s very good at it. I s’pose he’d have to be, there ain’t much to work with, out at sea.”
“Mm, I should think so.”
“The hansom cab’s arrived,” called Tom, coming in with two full buckets of water on a yoke, carrying it on his shoulder. Kennedy scurried in behind him.
“Hansom cab?” I asked.
“Aye,” Tom put an arm around Midnight, “we thought that… a day in town would be nice.”
“Isn’t that… unsafe?” I asked, “I mean, it’s the reason why the girls are home-schooled, why we live the middle of almost no-where, and why we have a barbed boundary up around the area they can’t pass.”
“Oi, that boundary is more for keeping things out, than it is for keeping things in,” Midnight snapped.
“Whatever. Isn’t a day out against whatever insane fear you have, Midnight?”
“We did some talkin’,” said Tom, “and we decided that… it wouldn’t be fair t’keep the girls cooped up at home on their eighteenth.”
“I’ll lay down some ground rules,” said Midnight, “Like no disclosing identity, not straying too far and having some regular meetings. They’ll be fine.”
“So, is everyone going?” asked Kennedy, “Or just Zoe, Brynna and Queenie?”
“Oh, Kenny-Neddy!” said Tom, picking her up and throwing her in the air. She giggled when he caught her again, “O’ course everyone’s goin’! You, Becky, Evelyn, Bethy – everyone!”
“You forget about your own children, Thomas?” asked Midnight, pecking him lightly on the cheek.
“Wait…” he said, his frown waining a little, “Kitty, Des and Ginny are comin’ too?”
“It’s a day out, so it’s a day out, Thomas,” she replied, taking a tray of finger foods into the dining room.
“Whoo, hoo!” said Tom, “It’s going t’be a festival!”
“What, then?” Tom said, frustrated.
“It’s a birth-day party, Thomas. And I don’t care how legal the girls are: no drinkin’.”
“I know, I know!” he said, shaking his head.
“Bring the driver in,” she said, laughing, “give the old chap a warm mug or some’un,” she turned to get whatever work was left, done.
“Sometimes I wonder why you and Aunt Midnight got married in the first place,” giggled Kennedy.
“Are ye kiddin’, Kenny?” scoffed Tom, “Your aunt’s marriage contract is longer that the old US Constitution! That’s not some’un ye turn down! It’s some’un ye commit t’memory.”
“Your marriage is a contract, Uncle Tom?”
“Everyth’un is a contract with your Aunt Midnight,” he laughed.
“I heard that!” Midnight called from the other room.
“And right well ye should, lassie!” Tom returned walking out to speak with the driver.
I shook my head and continued with my baking, watching and ignoring the fact that Kennedy was licking the batter out of the bowl…
* * * * *
It was such a good day! All the girls had fun.
After cake and opening gifts (Tom, much to my disapproval, had gifted a fine cutlass to Queenie), Midnight and Tom had planned a day at the theatre. We went in to watch a musical – Les Miserables – and it was glorious! I knew Tom was fond of singing (he sang his daughters to sleep when he was at home every night, and he knew many old ballads), but I was surprised to see Midnight join in with all the numbers. It was as if she knew the whole play by heart. It was one of those moments when you’d think that she and Tom were perfect for each other. The girls seemed to enjoy the play – it piqued all of their interests. It varied in themes, was catchy, and it had a decent amount of fighting in it.
The amount of argument Tom and Midnight had over choosing this musical I could only imagine!
Then Tom left early to cook his “surprise birthday meal”, as Midnight led us to a circus. We saw lions tamed and spears thrown, and clown that amused us. All in all, it was a good day – and I was surprised that nothing went wrong. We took the hansom cab home, and as we stepped through the doors of our house, I saw Midnight having a chat with the driver, handing him a thick wad of cash.
The smell of Tom’s cooking stopped us in our tracks. It was so delectable in its scent, that we hardly needed to taste it!
The only regret I have of this day… My only regret, is that Asa was not here to see it. He’d left twelve years ago, on a campaign in Vietnam… and, as Tom would put it, “no noise since”.
I just hope he’s alright.