The Story of My Birthday, Version 1
In the yellow tint of the bathroom light, she leaned familiarly toward the mirror and drew a steady line of charcoal black along the soft edge of her eyelid, pausing only to take additional care while navigating over the small, wrinkly bump of a chicken pock scar.
"You look beautiful," he said, cupping a warm hand on each side of her hips while leaning on her back and over her shoulder to look at their joined reflection in the mirror. "Imperfections and all," she read in his eyes.
The warm hum of conversation and the bubble of laughter welcomed them in from the cool and quiet of the small town square. She loved them both--the cafe and its patrons like a group of old friends, a shared joke, a heartfelt toast at the end of a night warm with too many beers; and the empty town square lit with street lamps, sweet and simple like a quiet, anointed moment of solitude and peace.
Walking over the worn wood floors to their table, his hand on her back guiding her and her upper body leaning slightly into the solidness of his side, she closed her eyes for just a moment and breathed deep. She felt as if she were floating over those soft, scuffed, love-worn floors.
He turned his head to her and smiled, "Happy birthday."
The Story of My Birthday, Version 2
"Why the heck won't my eyeliner EVER go oooon straaaaight," she complained, dragging out the last two works as she pressed her hands to her cheeks and dragged them down to her jaw in exasperation.
"What are you even talking about?" he asked, poking his head in the doorway. "It looks nice."
"This stupid chicken pock scar, it makes the line all wobbly and it looks dumb."
"No it doesn't. It looks good. I'm going to start the truck."
In a final act of frustration, she contorted her face in the mirror, mocking herself, and went into the bedroom to change.
The outfit was so much more "to-die-for" in her mind. Standing before the mirror, she realized the dress was lower cut than she had remembered, two sizes too small, and clingy in all the WRONG areas. She swapped her granny panties for underwear covering less acreage, but even the skimpy number left tell-tale signs of too many evenings with a spoon and a pint carton of pistachio ice cream. The strings on the underwear cut into the blubber on her hips, dividing each one into a jiggly mountain separated by a deep chasm. She decided to ditch the dress.
He walked in to find her standing in her underwear and socks in the middle of the room with her mind blanked by deep thought.
"You're not ready?" he asked.
"Just gimme a second."
He retreated to the living room, and she, defeated, squirmed back into the dress. She considered ditching the underwear all together, but grabbed a long cardigan instead. "That'd just be weird," she murmured.
"Do these boots look strange?" she asked as she met him in the living room. "Should I push them down or pull them up? Do they look too clunky? Or maybe they're too casual? Is it hot in here? What's the heater set on? I'm burning up."
"I think they look good both ways," he answered, getting up, kissing her, and putting his arm around her as he guided her toward the door. "You really do look really nice."
The restaurant was full of people talking and laughing, and the atmosphere was bright and cheerful. As they waited for the the hostess to gather their menus, she began anticipating the rich, satisfying food she'd soon be eating. "I'm going to get an appetizer AND desert," she thought. "And wine. Lots of wine."
They started through the bar toward the back section of the restaurant. She walked in front of her husband, the chunky wooden heels of her boots softly thunking on the wood floors of the restaurant. The bar and restaurant were separated by a stone wall with a wood framed opening as a walk-through. From the bar into the restaurant, the wood floors sloped slightly downward. And apparently, some one had polished the $*!# out 'em. Because, as she walked through the opening and took a sharp left toward their table, her polished wooden heels slid across the polished wood floors like a greased whale on a Slip 'N' Slide.
It happened fast and hard. Her legs flew out and up to the right, and the entire surface area of her massive left thigh slammed into the ground with an ugly, reverberating THUD. Tables rattled, ice clinked in glasses, and pictures trembled on the wall as if a freight train bearing straight for hell had flown by just feet from thin walls of the quaint, unsuspecting cafe. Quicker than she could ever have imagined possible, propelled by the powerful and inspiring force of shame and humiliation, she sprang back to her feet in an awkward, tactless, and unladylike convulsion of splayed legs, grunting, and sheer panic.
"Don't say anything, please. Let this moment pass," she whispered in denial as she jerked away from her husband and the hostess and attempted to elegantly resume her original course to their table.
"Oh my GAWWWD, are you oKAY?????????" the waifer-esque hostess screeched, pressing her bony hand against her chest.
"Umm, yes. I'm fine. Just a little embarrassed," she answered, the pain shooting through her quivering thigh. A colossal, knotty, eggplant of a bruise was already rising.
"Oh don't WORRY. No one saw you FALL like that," the hostess blurted loudly as the party wound its way through the tables packed with gawking patrons.
"Thanks," she replied curtly. She grabbed her menu and plopped in her seat, wincing.
The bobble-head smiled and bounced away, leaving them at their table. She looked at him for the first time since her Richter-scale rocking collision with the earth. His eyes were warm and understanding. "Are you OK?" he asked softly and with a smile.
"Yeah," she replied with closed eyes and a succinct nod of her head. "Thank God I wore underwear."
He smiled, "Happy birthday."