The Birthday Wish

“Thank you dearest,” Emma replied. “Cheers!” She lifted her slippery glass carefully and gestured with it towards Peter, who responded with his, so that their glasses chinked a little too loudly, causing the people at the nearby table to turn and look at them.

“Here’s to the end of another fine holiday, and the start of another fine year in your life.”

“Forty Bloody Four,” Emma wailed. “I can’t believe it. Where did all those years go, eh? How did I get to be so old?”

Peter tilted his head slightly to one side, and smiled softly, like an indulgent father. “You’re not old”, he said. “You’re mature….like a vintage bottle of wine…or a really good cheese.”

“Oh, thanks a bunch…so now you’re saying I’m stinky as well as old!” Emma had never been able to take a compliment graciously. “Anyway, Mr Sweet-Talk, where’s my bloody birthday cake? How am I supposed to make a Birthday Wish, with no candles to blow out?”

“I’d have thought you were old enough not to need props for making wishes. Or maybe even mature enough to stop believing that birthday wishes come true.”

Emma pushed her chair back, and gasped in mock horror. “I’m shocked! That’s like saying you don’t believe in fairies. And you know that every time someone says that, a fairy dies”

“Yeah, yeah…” Peter chuckled, struggling with the sticky zip in the pocket of his bike jacket which was wedged like a headless scarecrow over the back of his chair. He pulled out a crumpled packet of Drum Light, and started to roll a cigarette.

Emma pulled her chair back to the table, and reached for the tobacco. Finding only a couple of pinches of dusty discards, she slid the packet back across the table, making a mental note that they should call into the tabac before they left. She didn’t really want a cigarette anyway; she’d smoked too much last night, and her mouth still tasted sour and dry. It was just habit that made her want to have one every time Peter did.