Today will be my second public submission for Creativity Boot Camp! I've chosen writing as my medium, but specifically, fiction writing. Short story style. I won't promise myself to always go with fiction for the boot camp, but I'd like to come close. I'm excited to snoop around at some other participants' creations, as well, so leave me a comment if you're here from CBC so I can be sure to stop by your place as well!
When she woke in the morning, it was through layers of life.
First, her sleepy mind unfurled through the quiet, abandoning dreams for reality. Then, she became aware of the air, cool and thin on her face, warm and soft around her middle. She tested her muscles, her joints, feeling the hard work she'd done yesterday. Finally, with resolve, she opened her eyes.
Today was her 86th birthday.
She lay still, not stretching, not yawning, only observing. The light tinted the edges of her curtains, timid in its yellow newness. Each day begins for the first time, she thought. She felt buoyed by the knowledge of new light, fresh and innocent despite its inevitable march towards ferocity.
Well, I know for certain that I won't be marching fiercely. More like shuffling carefully she chuckled to herself. She raised her shoulders off the bed, propped her elbow beneath her, and swung her legs over the mattress' edge. Sitting in her room -- the room that had once been filled with companionship -- she was mostly happy. She was whole and calm. Today was going to be a good day. An adventure, even.
Her work from the days before was ready in the kitchen, the dining room, the back porch. Stacked neatly were trays and pitchers, ready to be filled. New flowers stood in her favorite vases around the place. She'd cleaned and arranged and trimmed and planted, and her house and yard were inviting. There would be a party, wonderful and secretive. One that wasn't expected of her and would probably have been taken from her if she'd told anyone of her plans.
But it is my birthday, after all, she reasoned with herself firmly. I've lived long enough that I don't really care what's accepted or expected of me. She stood from the bed, gingerly, coaxing her body into movement, and walked to the window. Pushing aside the thick curtain, she blinked in the strengthening light. She had more work to do.
After readying herself for the day, she headed to the kitchen. Into the silence of an empty house, she sang in a quiet, thin pitch a song she hadn't voiced for years. If I knew you were comin' I'd'a baked a cake, baked a cake, baked a cake! If I knew you were comin' I'd'a baked a cake, how d'you do, how d'you do, how d'you do!
Humming, she set about her work with pleasure. There were three layers of cake waiting in the freezer, half-assembled. A fudgy, chocolate double-round for the bottom, a smaller, moist raspberry double-square for the middle, and on top, a lemon-almond pound cake, trimmed into a short cylinder. Each would be frosted within a few minutes and stacked with its partners to make a perfect birthday cake.
It wasn't for her, though she'd enjoy it well.
With the finished cake resting on the counter, she pulled out the simple lunch she'd made, arranging it on platters and in bowls, and she waited. Her guests would be arriving soon, and she was ready.
She'd wanted a celebration worthy of her happy years, and she hadn't left it to chance. Her grown children and grandchildren would be arriving soon with the little ones -- her great-grands, as she called them -- and those were her intended guests.
The little ones, with their shining eyes and feathery hair. They, with their misspoken words and exuberant hugs. They, with their joy and laughter -- she'd planned this party for them, on her birthday, as a present to herself. On this day, of this year, she wanted life and simplicity and noise and innocence to surround her. She wouldn't deny the rest of her family the chance to celebrate, no. But she'd made a place where the little ones would have more fun than the adults, on purpose.
So she waited for her birthday present to arrive. In the chair she'd preferred for at least 40 years, she sat. And where she was mostly happy before, she was completely happy now. As if she could feel the press of little arms and lips before they'd even arrived. As if she could hear the laughter and life.
She closed her eyes for a moment while the sun climbed higher in the sky, on its march towards ferocity.
She understood that the innocent light of morning, after reaching the fierce apex of its heat, would be surprised by its sudden and unexpected decline. The light would dim and fall, and the horizon would be waiting expectantly to accept the sun's final beauty. Each day ends only once, she reminded herself. And knowing she'd be happy with this day when darkness came, she waited for the party to begin.