LOVE AND BIRTHDAYS
Julia exhaled, a sharp headache throbbing at her temple. She only had an hour of work left, but she was desperate to get home for her son’s ninth birthday party.
“Julia, hey,” A soft voice called, and she looked up to see the receptionist, Kylie, standing at the door. “I’m so sorry, another patient has requested to see you. I know it’s nearly your finishing time, but she’s insistent.”
“It’s Majorie, isn’t it?”
“I’m afraid so. I don’t know how many times I’ve told her she needs to book an appointment, but she likes to do as she pleases.”
“It’s alright, Kylie. I’ll come out and get her in a minute.”
“Thanks, Julia.” The door shut gently, and Julia sighed, long and hard. She looked at the family portrait on her desk, Pauline holding her hand, Hudson with a toothy grin, and Dexter with a small smile on his face. When was the last time the four of them had been able to go out? She looked at the framed photo one last time, the picture giving her strength to keep going. She got out of her seat, smoothed out her skirt, and walked down the corridor.
“Majorie? I’ll see you now.” She addressed the patient, before walking back to her room.
“You’re coming soon, right?” Dexter asked her.
“Well, hello to you too, Dex,” She replied teasingly. “And yes, of course, I’m coming.”
“I just wanted to make sure. A lot of people back out on birthday parties for nine-year-olds.”
“I didn’t back out when you first spoke to me, did I?”
“That’s true. Sorry, I’m moving upstairs. Ma is making smoothies and the blender is really loud. Hudson is supposed to be getting ready, but he isn’t. As his supervisor, I have to make sure he puts on clean clothes.” Dexter sighed, and she laughed.
“That sounds like a war. Do you want me to come over earlier and help out?”
“Could you? Ma and I would be so grateful.”
“Okay, I’ll come over now. See you in a bit.”
“Thank you, I love you.”
“Love you more, Dex.” She smiled to herself before hanging up.
Dexter had never loved a kid’s birthday party so much before. Most of that was because of Ophelia, his girl that never seemed to run out of energy or kindness. She had even managed to get Hudson in appropriate attire in two minutes flat. If it had been him, Dexter would’ve had to wrestle his little brother into clothes.
“Hudson,” Ophelia called out to his little brother as the two of them sat on the floor. “As the leader of your birthday party, you need to say hi to all your friends when they ring the doorbell, okay?” His younger brother nodded so eagerly his party hat nearly fell off.
“Yes, ma’am!” Hudson cheered enthusiastically and rushed off to go sit and wait at the front door.
“You’re amazing with kids, Lia,” Dexter said in awe, now that they were alone. “You’d be a great mother.” His girlfriend blushed, and it took him a minute for my words to register in my head. He winced, “I didn’t mean like you and me having or with, uh, kids. I meant in general unless you do want kids with- I’m not going to finish this sentence,” Ophelia stared at him with amusement. “I’m going to shut up now.” He blabbered in a rush, his cheeks growing hotter by the second. He sat on his brother’s bed in defeat, putting his head in his hands.
“I know what you meant,” Ophelia chuckled, lifting his face. “If you wanted to make out you could’ve just said so.” She winked slyly.
“Ophelia!” He cried out in shock, and she burst into laughter again.
“Sweet Dexter, I was kidding.”
“Sweet Ophelia, next time I’ll just ask you straight up.” He scooped her up into a hug as he stood, and she smiled.
“Even if we were going to do it, I can’t say I would do it in your brother’s room.” She whispered in his ear, kissed his cheek, and ran out of the room. Dexter stood there in stunned silence, his mouth quivering into a grin. Ophelia was going to be the death of him. God, he loved her so much.
“I’ll be heading off now, everyone. Have a good weekend.” Julia farewelled the other doctors and nurses who were in the staff kitchen.
“You too.” Someone called out, and Julia immediately rushed out of the clinic to her car. The headache was still prominent, but the thought of her smiling sons distracted her as she drove home. Music played idly in the background, but she couldn’t stop thinking about everything. The first thing on her mind was worry. Worrying about Pauline, whose company was just making ends meet, worrying about Hudson not making friends, and worrying about Dexter, who was going to college soon. At least Dex had Ophelia and a big group of supportive friends. That eased her mind a little. Julia stopped at a red light, massaging her temples, as she impatiently tapped her finger on the steering wheel. One day she was going to pass out from the sheer effort she put into her life when that day came? Julia wasn’t sure.
“Hudson, one of your friends is here!” Pauline called out to her younger son. Pauline opened the door, and there stood a woman and her son, who was hiding behind her.
“Happy birthday, Hudson.” The boy said so softly, Ophelia almost didn’t hear him.
“Thanks, Miles! Do you want to come in and play Legos with me while we wait for the others?” Hudson asked, looking at Ophelia for reassurance, and she gave him a thumbs up.
“Well, who would’ve guessed my brother was quite the host?” A deep voice said in her ear, and Ophelia turned around to face Dexter. His usual charm and calm composure had returned, his flustered nature gone.
“I knew he had it in him,” she replied. “Is Julia still working?”
“Yeah, Mum said she’ll be home in time for the cutting of the cake.” Dexter’s birth mother was probably the most hardworking woman Ophelia had ever met, and that was saying something after meeting Pauline. The doorbell rang once more, and two more boys and their parents entered the house, greeted by the birthday boy.
“Ophelia, dear, thank you so much for all your help,” Pauline thanked her, “you and Dex don’t have to have to stay for the party.”
“It was no problem. We’ll come down when it’s time to cut the cake, or when Julia comes home.” Ophelia replied, and Pauline nodded, before turning her attention back on her son and his friends. Dexter squeezed her hand gently.
“Do you want to come up to my room?”
“Yes, but only because your attic bedroom is so cool.”
“Not because you love me?”
“Nope, not at all.” She joked, and Dexter smirked as they walked down the hallway. Reaching up to grab the cord, he pulled it and the stairs opened up.
“Would you like me to help you up?”
“Ladies first, thank you.” She smiled, climbing up the ladder without a moment of hesitation.
He climbed up the ladder and pulled himself into his room, before pulling the hatch back up, the stairs folding back into itself.
“So, what do you want to do?” His girlfriend asked, staring at the glow in the dark stars stuck on the ceiling.
“Well first, I’d like to kiss you, if that’s alright.”
“It’s always alright with me.” She blushed, taking a step closer to him.
“And that’s why you’re always wonderful company, Ophelia.” He smiled, kissing her softly at first, then deeply and hungrily. His hands were in her hair before he could register what was going on, and her hands were sliding up his back, under his shirt.
“Dex, Dex, Dex.” She gasped as they backed into his cupboard door. He kissed her lips, then her cheek until he heard Ophelia yelp. He pulled back instantly.
“What’s wrong? Are you okay? Did I hurt you?” He asked, concern flooding him. She gave him a small chuckle.
“The cupboard handle was digging into my back. How do people do that in the movies? Do they not notice the handles for the door?” The puzzled expression on her face made Dexter choke with laughter.
“How can people be flirtatious all the time? That’s what confuses me. We lasted ten minutes.” He scoffed, and Ophelia giggled. She grabbed his hand and dragged him onto his bed.
“Sit.” was all she said, before kissing him again. He ran his finger down her cheek, then trailed it down her neck, as she kissed his earlobe. Ophelia stopped for a moment, their faces so close they were nearly touching, and she pressed her forehead against his.
“Thank you.” She whispered, her eyes closed.
“For loving me as much as you did when we first started going out.”
“You don’t have to thank me for that, love. That’s not going to change no matter how much time passes.” He placed a kiss on her temple, and she leaned her head on his shoulder, their bodies still opposite each other.
“We’ve been dating for nearly a year and a half, isn’t that crazy?”
“Yes, I can’t believe I didn’t love you sooner.”
“Good one, Dex. Imagine if our friends never dragged us to that party.”
“We wouldn’t be here, would we?”
“No, we wouldn’t,” Ophelia paused, “but I’m glad that we are.” She kissed his nose and then ruffled his hair like he was a puppy, but he didn’t mind.
“I can’t believe this is what we’re doing on my brother’s ninth birthday.” Dexter voiced aloud, and Ophelia chuckled.
The sound of crashing made Ophelia look up at Dexter. He was watching an action movie, her head on his chest, as he kissed her hair slowly. They were huddled under a blanket, the T.V erupting into explosions as Dex chuckled. She couldn’t stop staring at him, he was hers, and she was his. His arm was around her waist, his hand holding hers as he stroked it gently.
“Dex?” She murmured, and he averted his eyes from the screen to her.
“What’s up, Lia?” He asked, a gentle smile set on his face.
“It’s you.” She said, and her boyfriend gave her a lazy laugh.
“What’s that supposed to mean? Yes, I’m me.”
“I mean, it’s always going to be you.” She tried to explain as Dexter gave her a quizzical look. “It’s you that I love most, you that I want by my side, and you who makes me happy.”
“That’s…” Dexter faltered, thinking about what he was going to say. “That’s very sweet of you, love. I promise the same thing, except that I love you more.” He lifted his other arm to pick up the remote and turn off the T.V.
“No, I love you more.”
“Nope, I do. I said it first.”
“But I originally said I love you first!”
“I was the one who talked to you first the night we met!”
“I asked you out first.”
“I met your mum before you met mine.”
“I love you more.”
“You’re so stubborn, Dex.” She laughed as they bantered playfully.
“So are you, missy.” There was a moment of silence as neither of them backed down.
“I love you more!” Ophelia cried the same time Dexter said,
“I’m clearly the winner.” They locked gazes, before bursting into joined laughter.
“We should go downstairs now,” Dexter said, checking his watch. “Mum will be home soon.”
“Does that mean I win?”
“No, it doesn’t. I’m still competing, Lia.”
“Say it then.”
“You know what I mean.”
“I love you, Ophelia.”
“Hah! You fell for my trap. I love you more, Dexter.”
“I hate you.” He mock-pouted, pulling the blanket off them.
“No, you don’t.”
“No, I don’t. I could never.” He admitted, putting his shirt back on.
“Let’s call a truce for now.”
“Fine, truce?” He held out his hand, and she shook it vigorously.
She turned into her street, the car nearing her house with every second.
“Breathe, Julia. Breathe, you’re home now.” She tried soothing herself, her headache lingering in the back of her mind, the least of her problems. She pulled up into the driveway, taking out the garage door keys and she waited for the door to open before she drove in. Hopping out of the car, she grabbed all her bags from the boot of her car, fiddling through her handbag, looking for her house keys. After a moment or so, she successfully found them, closed the garage door and put the key into the front door.
‘Smile, Julia.’ She thought to herself, ‘Wait I left Hudson’s birthday present in the car.’ She rushed back to the garage, opening it up, and unlocked her car. The present was neatly wrapped in a paper bag, and Julia prayed Hudson would like it. If he didn’t she could always return it, if she had the time after work. Julia exhaled slowly and unlocked the front door.
He could hear keys jangling at the front door when Dexter walked downstairs. The front door opened, and his mum walked in, with a smile on her face.
“Hey, Dex. How’ve you been?”
“Good, Mum. I helped Ma with the preparations, but Lia was the one who got Hudson ready.”
“Did Ophelia come early?” His mum asked as Ophelia entered the living room. “Hey there, baby girl.” She winked at Ophelia who waved, grinning widely.
“Hi, Julia. Did you have a good day at work?” She asked as Dexter took his mum’s bags and put them beside the couch.
“Hmm, it was busy as usual. Now, where’s my little birthday boy?”
“In the kitchen,” Dexter replied, slinging an arm around Ophelia’s shoulder. “I think Ma is getting the cake ready, it’s nearly half-past five.”
“Beautiful.” She turned to him, giving him a curious look. “What’d you guys do?”
“Nothing.” Dexter replied hastily, and his mum smirked.
“Liar. Your face is red, Dex. Ophelia’s poker face is way better than yours. Take some notes, hun.” She laughed, before striding into the kitchen.
“It’s true, Dex,” his girlfriend said with a straight face, “your face is red.” She smirked, as he rolled his eyes. He was about to reply when he heard his mum starting to sing, so the two of them rushed over to the dining table. Five boys sat around the table, Hudson at the head. He watched as his ma brought the cake onto the table, and noticed Ophelia’s eyes lit up exactly like Hudson’s when she saw the cake. Once the singing ended, his little brother blew out the candles, and all the boys at the table cheered, clapping aggressively.
“I’ll be right back,” Ophelia nudged him, “I need to go and get Hudson’s present from my bag.”
“Lia, you didn’t have to.”
“Too late, I already did.” She winked, rushing upstairs.
Ophelia handed the present over to the younger Rogers son, smiling widely. All his friends had eaten cake, given Hudson his present and then had gone home.
“Here you go, Hudson. I hope you like it!”
“Thanks, Fi-Fi!” He gave her a tight hug.
“Fi-Fi?” Dexter mouthed, and Ophelia smirked.
“You don’t have any nicknames for me, Dexter. I think Hudson is my new favourite Rogers boy.”
“Haha, I’m stealing your girlfriend, Dex.” Hudson snickered, before sitting down on the floor, opening his present. He unwrapped it impatiently, tearing the paper quickly. He pulled out a box in the same of the letter ‘H’ with decorative patterns on the front.
“What is it?” He asked.
“Well, it’s a box, but there’s something else inside.” Hudson opened up the gift, and Ophelia caught a smile pass between Julia, Pauline and Dexter.
“Oh, it’s one of those mini-puzzle sets!” Hudson exclaimed, “I’ve been wanting one for ages! Thanks, Ophelia.” He said without looking up, shaking all the puzzle pieces out of the box.
“I should probably head off now. Thank you so much for having me.”
“No problem, baby girl,” Julia smiled, “you did more than we could ask for.”
“Come again soon,” Pauline added, making Hudson stand. “Come on, Hudson. Mummy and I got you a present too.”
“You did?!” Hudson’s eyes went as wide as dinner plates.
“Say goodbye to Ophelia first, then you can open it.” Hudson waved at her as she picked up her bag from the floor, heading to the front door.
“Dexter, make sure she gets home safe.” Julia reminded her son, and Ophelia smiled.
“Yeah, Dex. Are you going to drive me home?” She teased, as they walked out of the Rogers’ house.
“What happened to ladies first, with you being all independent.”
“Well, I like to be looked after now and then.” She chuckled, holding his hand.
“Is that so? Why didn’t you just say that?”
“I thought you knew.” She giggled, their playful banter continuing once more.
“Okay, but seriously. Do you want me to drive you home or not?”
“It’s alright, Dex. Go back inside and watch Hudson open his presents. I love you.”
“I love you more.”
“Not this again.”
“It wouldn’t happen if you would give in.”
“Never,” she shook her head, punching his arm playfully. They were at the end of the street now, where her car was parked.
“I’ll call you.” She kissed him slowly, letting herself be enveloped by him.
“Unless I call you first.” He pulled away and opened the door for her.
“Bye, love. Drive home safely.”
“Okay, I’m going to go now, otherwise we’ll be standing out here all night proclaiming our love for each other.” She sat down in the driver’s seat and shut the door. Dexter waved at her, and she smiled before starting the car and drove home.