Jen stood in the doorway of the classroom and just watched and listened. Kara was at the piano, totally lost to the music. Jen had to smile; this was the Kara she remembered from school. She had always had a passion for music and Jen had always thought Kara would go far with it. Who could have known that Greg would turn out to be such an asshole? He had been such a nice guy and perfect for Kara. She thought for sure Greg would be the one to help Kara achieve her dream.
Yet here Kara was, teaching elementary school children the finer points of do re mi and fa la la. Greg had messed her up to the point where her self confidence was in shreds and all she thought she was fit to do was hold up in this class room and teach. Not that she wasn’t good at it Jen thought, but it’s not what she was meant to be doing with her life. I hope Richie can bring her dream back and make it a reality for her. Jen sighed and moved farther into the room, stopping by the piano and laying her hand on Kara’s shoulder as the last notes of the song drifted away.
“Hey Jen.” She smiled; she always knew when Jen was there. Her perfume gave her away.
Jen sat down next to her, “how did you know I was here? My perfume again?”
Kara laughed and nodded, “yup, you’ve worn the same scent since the 10th grade. I’d know it anywhere.”
She stood and moved to her desk and Jen laughed, “it’s my signature scent, why mess with a good thing?”
Kara laughed, “I guess, so what’s up?”
Jen stood as Kara packed up her stuff, “apparently you’ve forgotten it’s your birthday and you’re having dinner at my house tonight.”
Kara had forgotten, not that it was her birthday but about dinner. She looked sheepishly at Jen, “I did forget, not that it’s my birthday but about dinner. Sorry.”
Jen went and put her arm around Kara’s shoulders, “well since it’s your birthday we’ll let it slide. You’re still coming right, the girls helped bake your birthday cake.”
Kara smiled, “how can I refuse that? Can I just check my e-mail first?”
Jen nodded, “go ahead, expecting something from someone tall, dark and delicious?”
Kara’s cheeks reddened, “I never expect it but I hope.” She booted up the laptop and waited. “Did I tell you he liked the picture?”
Jen sat down next to Kara, “do tell.”
The color in Kara’s cheeks heightened and she felt her entire face flush remembering just how well he had liked the picture. “He called me after he got it. Said it got him all worked up.”
Jen leaned back and looked at her friend, “you didn’t!”
Kara didn’t say anything; she just put her head in her hands and shook it back and forth.
“Oh my God you did! You little hussy you. Kara, what has gotten into you?”
They laughed and Jen went on, “here I am offering you a lopsided birthday cake and you already had your birthday surprise from Richie.”
They were both laughing now and Kara nearly shoved Jen off her chair, “You are so bad!”
Jen shoved her back and continued, “so, does he give good phone?”
Kara was laughing so hard she had tears streaming down her face, “God Jen that was awful. But to answer your question, yes he does.”
Jen nodded her head, “I figured as much with a voice like his, how could he not?” She glanced at the computer, “hey, you’ve got mail.”
Kara wiped her face and clicked on her mailbox. There was only one and it was from Richie.
Jen looked at Kara, “want me to leave you alone with your computer?”
Kara chuckled and nudged her, “stop it. No you don’t have to leave.” Kara opened the e-mail and sighed softly.
Subject: Happy Birthday!
Sorry I’m missing your birthday princess. I hope you are having a good day and not spending it alone. You should have a package waiting for you when you get home. I hope you like it.
We are in New Zealand now and the country is beautiful. I wish you were here so I could show you around. I attached some pictures from here and Australia.
Question time princess (I really am liking this part of our conversations). If you could take a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I’ll leave you with this even though I know you won’t know what it’s from… I didn’t mean to miss your birthday baby, I wish I’d seen you blow those candles out…
Take care princess. I’ll be seeing you soon.
“I’ll look at the pictures later” she told Jen as she shut down the machine. "Do you know what that last bit was from?"
“It’s from one of their songs, I'll be There for You. Do you want to go home and check for that package?”
She wanted to, she really wanted to but she also wanted to be alone when she opened it and if she went now she’d have to open it in front of Jen and, not know what Richie might have sent, didn’t want to take a chance opening with someone there. “No, that’s okay, I’ll just get it when I get home.”
They were greeted at Jen’s door by two very excited little girls, “Happy Birthday Auntie K!”
Kara swooped down and hugged the girls close. “I hear you two did a little baking for me. I can hardly wait!”
Maddie smacked a kiss on Kara’s cheek, “It leans to one side a little but it hasn’t fallen over yet.”
Kara laughed and took each girl’s hand, “let’s go see this leaning tower of cake, lead on girls.”
They dragged Kara through to the kitchen and there on the counter was, as Maddie had said, one very sorry looking cake that leaned to the right and was covered in thick pink frosting.
Kara looked at both girls, “this is the prettiest cake anyone has ever made for me.” She kissed both girls, “thank you both very much.”
They girls beamed, “can we have some now?” Kara opened her mouth but Jen stepped in, “after dinner girls, go wash up.”
By the time Kara left she was sure she would never look at a slice of birthday cake again. “Way too much sugar” she muttered to herself as she made her way to the door.
As she fumbled with her key her neighbor poked her head out, “Kara, I have a package for you dear.” Mrs. Johnson stepped back into her apartment. Kara had just gotten her door open when she reappeared with a box, “here you go dear. Happy birthday.”
Kara kissed the older woman lightly on a powdery cheek “thank you Mrs. Johnson, you’re the best.”
The older woman waved her off, “it’s just a package dear. You have a good night.” Kara closed and locked the door behind her neighbor.
After hanging up her coat and putting her things away Kara got out a knife to slice through the tape. Opening the box she found a bunch of styrofoam packing peanuts and a card. Happy birthday princess! I’m sorry I can’t be there but I promise we will have our own private celebration when I see you next week.
She set the card aside and after spilling the packing peanuts all over found a box with a big blue bow on it. She smiled as she lifted the lid and the smile turned to a gasp as she fingered the blue silk. It was a full length kimono robe in royal blue with a large pink lotus flower on the back. There was a card pinned to the robe with Richie’s handwriting on it, “Look in the box baby, there’s more.” She shook her head; it was as if he could read her mind.
She looked back in the box; there were two sets of matching underwear, one in a blue the same color as the robe and one in pink, the same as the flower on the back. She checked the sizes and was amazed that he got the bra’s right. Setting the robe down Kara stripped off her sweater and slacks and slipped into the robe. She groaned appreciatively at the feel of the silk against her skin. Glancing at the clock she picked up the phone and hoped he had a minute to talk.