Linda tossed and turned, crammed under her velvety soft duvet, reluctant to shut her eyes even for a second, who otherwise dozes like a baby. With every feeble tick-tack of the clock, the barking of street dogs, distant hoots of owls or the clamorous noise of the bustling trucks, that rose against the serenity of the night, she was seized with a palpitation of heart. It's the day that wrecks her tranquility the most, out of a whole year. The so-called April fool's day, with a history of its own in her life, a tragic one at that. She loathes being outsmarted over gigs, and abominably she has never managed to escape the drill of this day. Her personal little bubble of a world, comprises hell of a lot people, her near and dear ones, who goes to the ends of the earth, just to trick her once at the minimum. But not today! She scrunched her eyes with resolve.
She apparently restrained from drifting off into a peaceful slumber, just because she was hell-bent on, to stay vigilant from the moment the day kicked off, i.e; 12 am. Even getting tricked in her sleep was out of the question for her, as her husband and kids were very much adept at doing that. A couple of years back, she'd barely passed out after an exhausting day of work and was awakened by her son Jamie's, hard nudging in her ribs. His squeals disrupted the hush of the wee hours. His flailing arms in the air, screaming about a (non-existent) fire in the oven, which led her scampering towards the kitchen, only to realise the folly later-on. It had taken all the patience and composure she'd mastered over the years, to refrain herself from thrashing the boy for pulling that stunt.
Linda whipped out of her trip down the memory lane, as Steve stirred in his sleep. She grew wary, just as his snores were replaced by steady breaths. His eyes shot open, fingers foraging instantly for his phone, to discern the time. It was twenty minutes past three. He spared a groggy glance at his wife, whose sleeping posture was a mere facade, unbeknownst to him. In a quick jiffy, he skulked into the kitchen for a brief spell and promptly executed the needful. Besides her suspicions, whatever he did there remained a mystery. Linda huffed slightly and rolled her eyes in exasperation, "Do you think I'll fall for anything you've done there?" She scoffed to herself. So yeah, today she vowed to stay on her toes, watching out for spoofs.
She stealthily opened her eyes when the morning alarm on her iPhone, perched on the bedside table, blared with her favorite Anna Marie lyrics. Her eyes sought for her husband who was snoring beside, deep asleep. She descended one leg down on the carpet, pressed her toes to check for any pranks, as an early morning, welcome by her kids, on this tiresome day. Making sure that the coast was clear, she sprung up off the bed to sneak into the bathroom. After a refreshing hot shower, she went through her closet to pull on a robe and tiptoed out. Slow and very cautious, peeking out every darning second, persistent on being overly careful about every step of hers, she surreptitiously breezed into the kitchen for a quick coffee.
Linda heaved a sigh, as she arrived at the kitchen counter unbeaten, without any mishaps and ensued to switch on the coffee pot. The first prank, she came across turned out to be a silly one. The sugar and salt jars were switched on the kitchen aisle that she almost fell for it. However a short wave of enlightenment awoke in her in the nick of time, and made her scrutinize the content inside beyond a shadow of doubt. Shaking her head with a chirpy grin, she switched them back. Next, she came upon an unwrapped package delivery on her working desk, addressed to her. She pulled a hand across her face in exasperation, since she was well aware that it's a spoof. Right as predicted, it turned out to be an empty box with a hand written April fool note. Soon enough, Steve butted into the living room.
"Morning, Honey! " He croaked, thumping on the couch, grabbing the day's newspaper. Her eyes fell on her yawning husband, "Good morning! " She smirked.
"Salt and Sugar switching, an empty gift box? You can do better! " She chuckled, tucking an unruly, damp tendril behind her ear as she concentrated on whisking an egg. Steve continued reading with a nonchalant air, as if there wasn't an interruption. Then came Jamie with Leah in tow.
"Good Morning, babies!" She beamed. By the time she'd started flipping pancakes in the sizzling hot frying pan, emitting steamy hiss. "Morning Mommy! They both greeted back with dopey grins, sniffing the aroma around the cooking area, as pancakes were their favorite.
Linda focused her attention back to her kids, since both of them had barged in together which was a rare phenomenon, making it look all the more suspicious. So she stuck around beady-eyed, while she made herself busy with the morning chores before she left for work. Once she was done, they all plopped down together in their respective chairs for breakfast. While she was squirting maple syrup on her pancake, her eyes landed on a cover stuffed with bagels at the far end of the dining table.
"Where did these bagels come from?" She quizzed at her family, who merely shrugged feigning naïvety. But Linda wasn't one to fall for that. She approached the bag with caution and in fact, they did look real. But she knew something was tricky with them since these bagels had appeared out of nowhere. Taking a look inside she reached for one, and smiled as the smell of bagels filled up the air. But instead of sinking her teeth in them straight away, she split them into two halves. To her not-so-surprise, the bagels were injected with white glue into the interior.
"What the hell, guys? " Grumbling at them for spoiling a perfectly good bagel, and making it inedible with a prank. She shuffled back to her seat, tucked in the rest of her breakfast in a record speed.
"What's the hurry, mom?" Leah enquired, arching her eyebrows.
"Got some papers to grade before today's class, so gotta run!" She wiped her mouth with a white napkin, all set to take her leave. While shouting out farewells, she secured her handbag firmly around her shoulders and nestled some of the files she'd carried home the previous day, against her bosom and trudged out of the house to board her car. She revved up the engine to life and took off to her workplace.
Once she signed into the school, she carried on with her classes as is the regime. Linda was a Teacher in an elementary school, so it's safe to say none of her students were old or daring enough to play pranks on their teacher. But the same can't be said about her best friend Becky, who tried a couple of varied tricks on her. Firstly, she'd left a rubber snake in her drawers where she usually dumps her stationary supplies, phone-charger etc. As she opened her drawer to grab a green pen to grade the papers, a green, slithery tail came into view. Expected nothing less on this day, she instantly got alarmed. She took out the rubber snake and chucked it at Becky. "You can do better, Becks" She winked, crackling hard at her disappointed face.
Becky tried one more time when Linda rushed to restroom during the morning recess, so when Becky tugged along, she knew something was up. Hence, she stayed cautious, and checked the toilet for any sarong wrap trick, but to no avail. That's when her view fell upon the toilet-paper roll. There was a small black thing on the top end, she rolled them out further to find a black hand-drawn spider on the toilet paper. Chuckling mad at the effort, she came out.
"Snake, spider, wow! Becks, gotta give it for your creativity" She cackled gleefully, clutching her stomach.
"Oh come on! There's gotta be something you'll fall for. Just wait and watch." She yanked her dirty blonde hair in frustration, but her silly giggle ruined the seriousness of her words. Linda harked back to her next class, to find a heap of sheets with their science project, right there on her desk, that was supposed to be submitted by the 2nd.
"Very good, kiddos. Everyone has submitted your projects a day before? I'm impressed! " She chortled with a clap of her hands.
"Mrs. Brown, it is the 2nd of April today!" Susan the class monitor stated, as a matter of fact.
"What?" She frowned at the tiny tots, gobsmacked at this little detail. Because, how on earth can she make a mistake with the date, being a teacher, of all professions? It doesn't seem plausible. A call from Becky came at the right time, saving her from further embarrassment, since the class was gawking at her as if she's grown a second head, informing about an emergency call from her family. Wondering if it was another prank, she dashed off to the staff room. All along, her mind still reeling with how this date misconception happened to her. She was preoccupied with this oblivion, only to find her entire family and friends assembled in the staff room, awaiting her arrival as she unbolted the door.
"What are you guys doing here? All set for another prank? In school? Guys, gimme a break! I'm so exhausted already! " She cribbed. But to her surprise, it honestly didn't look like they were in on a prank.
"Mom, it's not an April fool thing. But for your birthday. Happy birthday, mommy!" Jamie said, striding in with a beautiful chocolate cake, smiling ear to ear, leaning in to plant a kiss on her right cheek.
"What? It's really not the 1st of April?" She froze, a blot of pink appeared on her cheeks.
"No, honey! It's the 2nd of April and it's your birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY! " Steve screamed and others joined in on a chorus.
"How did you manage to do that?" She looked aghast, while her daughter Leah fastened a birthday cap on her head.
"Mom, 31st March was a Sunday, and you'd slept till late afternoon due to the previous night party's hangover. So that's when this brilliant idea came upon us. We switched the date back to 30th in your phone and you failed to notice, thanks to your stupor. And we included Becky and others in on our plan, to change the date in their phones and calendars just to play along! " Leah explained with a giggle.
"So you managed to fool me even this year? " She moaned, her heart drooping with defeat and disappointment. "No, honey" Steve cradled her face gently, to make her look at him in the eyes. "This wasn't about fooling you. Just to make you forget the aching guilt that you've carried on with you all these years ago, till this day." Linda blinked back tears of remorse. She was guilt ridden on this day more than anything ever since that unfortunate blunder, in her adolescence, during her high school. She played an utterly idiotic prank on her Nana, that had cost her life. Thinking that it'll amuse her grandmother, she arranged her friend to make a call from her girl's hostel, and sent word that Linda had started home in a cab for the holidays and the cab met with a fatal accident.
She had thought she will surprise her Nana, by showing up at her door, right after the prank call. But things hardly pan out as she had planned, stupidly as she might add. What she found after she entered her Nana's house still haunted her peace. There she was unconscious on the floor, in a pool of blood. She rushed her to the hospital only to be declared dead. Later, the doctors informed after the autopsy, that she must have had a heart attack hearing the news and when she collapsed, her head must have hit hard on the cold tile, resulting in an instant death. Tears soaked the front of her shirt, as she recalled that nightmarish incident once again. It was from then that she stopped celebrating her birthday.
"Honey, Jamie had been harping about throwing a surprise birthday party for you since last month. And when I told him the story, that's why we don't do that, his determination only strengthened. We want you to enjoy the day, just because you never do, as it falls right after the ill-fated April 1st." He sighed, kissing away her tears.
"And, You know why we always do pranks on you? Only to deviate you from the unfortunate past. Accidents happen. Life doesn't go according to our plans. But we are all together for you, and we all love you. In fact, your Nana would still want the best for you, which is your happiness and we all do too. Each and every one in this room cares for you. So please forget everything and enjoy the day with us, baby! Happy birthday Li! " He greeted, planting a quick peck on her lips.
"Thanks!" She whispered, her voice thick with emotions, beads of tears spiraling down her cheeks. However, they weren't for the past grief, but for the unconditional love of her dear ones. Steve was right. It's time to forgive herself, and enjoy the day with one and all. And she did exactly that.