As I shielded my eyes from the bright sunlight, I saw it.
It was much smaller than I remembered. At only 2 stories I guess it was because I was so small.
Memories came flooding back – my father chasing me from one room to the next, then once he caught me, I chasing him giggling away like the infant I was. The smell of mum’s cooking all day in the kitchen and me incessantly asking when it would be ready. Having snowball fights in the huge tiny garden with my older sister Lottie. Good times.
The detached 2 bed house was perfectly well kept, from the outside anyway. The brickwork looked cleaned and free of overgrown vines, the tiled roof glistened as if brand new. As I cast my eyes down to the oak front door, I noticed it was slightly ajar.
I wanted to walk up the steps and peer in but then thought “would that be weird?” I looked around and saw no one along the street, no cars in the drive. Curiosity got the better of me.
“Just a quick peek” I figured. The worst case scenario is that I let them know the door wasn’t shut properly or shut it myself.
I held my hand to the door and felt there was something happening on the other side.
A flicker of doubt crossed my mind but then proceeded to press my hand against the door and push it open.
I jumped in shock and felt my hands rush to my mouth in surprise.
A rapturous applause filled with cheers, whoops and congratulations.
I looked around and saw all familiar faces, family, friends (some I hadn’t seen in years), all smiling from ear to ear. My heart filled with joy.
“We’ve been waiting for you!!” I heard my mum shout.
“I’m sorry, I had no idea.” I said.
“We know, that’s why it’s a surprise!” my dad said, laughing.
Everyone I could have wanted to surprise me was there, my best friends who I’d known since Grammar school, my old college lecturer who got me through some of the toughest times growing up, my grandparents, my parents and of course my husband Rick and our gorgeous baby boy Jacob. I instantly ran over to them and gave them both the biggest hug. He gave me our boy to hold in my arms and said:
“We’ve been so excited for this moment, how do you feel?”
“Completely overwhelmed!” I replied.
“I can imagine.” he smiled.
“How did you managed to invite all these people? I haven’t seen some of them in years!” I asked.
“It didn’t take too much effort.” he said with a wink. “We all love you so much.”
I gave him a long kiss in response.
Still holding Jacob I walked over to Mum and Dad:
“You two look great!” I said. “Did you do all this?”
“It was a joint effort” said Mum.
“How did you manage to get THIS house?”
“We know a guy who know’s a guy.” Dad said with his usual charm.
“But, I don’t understand, why are you all -”
“Ruby!” I heard my friends shout, interrupting. I passed Jacob to Mum and raced over like a young school girl.
“Oh my godd – I’ve missed you all so much!” I said as I initiated a big group hug.
“We missed you too!” said Terri. “It’s been too long!”
“What have you all been up to?” I asked.
“So much there’s no time to go through it all now, you should enjoy yourself, go round everyone and we’ll catch up later.” Liz said with a smile. “Want a drink?”
“I’d love a glass of red” I said.
“Of course. Come on ladies, let’s leave her to keep mingling..” she said as they walked away.
“See you in a bit!”
I shook my head in disbelief “How were they all here?”
I felt a tap on my shoulder..
I gasped and turned around to see my sister smiling back at me.
“Lottie!” tears filled my eyes and I hugged her so tight she could barely speak the words:
“Glad to… see you … too.”
I quickly let go. “Wow! Look at you, you look so.. so.. healthy!”
“I’m all better now.” she smiled.
“Listen Char, I am so so sorry, I just found it difficult to-“
“It’s okay.” she interrupted. “There’s nothing to be sorry about.” she placed a finger under my eye to catch the tears and hugged me. “There’s still two more people you need to see”.
My eyes glanced towards the two armchairs in the corner where I could now see my grandparents sitting and chatting. They caught my gaze and beckoned me over.
I let them stay seated, hugged them both, and knelt down at their feet.
“Are you enjoying yourself? Grandma said.
“It’s incredible, all my favourite people are here. But I still don’t know what all this is for?”
“It’ll all become clear soon dear… oh, perhaps sooner than you think”. Her eyes looked up to behind me.
I swivelled round and noticed our dining room door was open with a friendly looking middle-aged man looking at me.
“Who’s that?” I said.
“A friend of ours” Grandad said, “he’s very nice – go and introduce yourself”.
I made my way tentatively over to the dining room and stretched out a hand:
“Hi, I’m.. “
“Ruby, yes I know.” shaking it. “Very nice to meet you again.” he replied.
“Again? Have we met before?”
“Why don’t you come inside.” He answered.
There were two chairs set opposite each other at the dining table and a flat screen TV at one end facing us. I sat down first as he shut the door behind me then made himself comfortable in chair opposite.
“How do you feel?”
“Confused.” I replied.
“That’s completely understandable. Do you want to know why you’re here?”
“Yes please”. I said.
He turned on the TV and a movie started playing.
It was a hospital room decorated with bright coloured flowers and “‘It’s a Girl!’ cards”. The Parents, my parents, were standing over a baby sleeping peacefully in the crib.
“Let’s begin your review.” he said.
The Applause. Written by Stephen Bradley. Copyright Stephen Bradley. Originally Written 8th January 2017.