I chose the image of the chocolate cake with candles for my twenty-minute sprint this time.
Riah didn’t know what they were going to do now. They’d manage to get invitations to everyone, get the cake baked, frosted, sprinkled, and studded with candles, and even hidden everyone’s cars out of sight around the corner so there would be nothing outside to tip Jaime off about the surprise party when she got home.
And that was the problem right there. Jaime had just sent a text to her brother that she was going to be late. To the tune of three hours late. How were they supposed to keep two dozen people happy for two hours and still manage to surprise Jaime when they didn’t know exactly when she’d be home now?
“Relax,” James said, draping his arm across Riah’s shoulders. “You are far too freaked out about this. It’s going to be fine.”
“But the surprise part,” Riah protested.
“Will still be a surprise. So, we might not manage to all be hiding around the corner and yell, but I think that’s going to be a blessing in disguise. When she gets home, she’ll be surprised to find us all here and delighted we care and that will be that.”
“What is everyone going to do for three hours?”
“Exactly what they’ve been doing for the hour they’ve already been here,” James replied with a laugh. “We’re all going to hang out and have a good time catching up. Remember that most of us haven’t seen each other in over a year just like we haven’t seen Jaime in over a year.”
“Alright, fine, I’ll try to relax,” Riah agreed.
“Good,” James said, kissing the side of her head before wandering off to talk to someone else.
“She’ll appreciate this more than a perfectly executed surprise party anyway,” someone said quietly from behind Riah.
She turned to find Eddy, one of Jaime’s grad school roommates sitting in the rocking chair in the living room. Riah hadn’t realized anyone else was in the room. None of the lights were on and it was already dark out.
“What are you doing hiding in the dark?” Riah asked.
“I’m always hiding in the dark,” Eddy replied, laughing.
“Fair,” Riah replied. When she’d visited Jaime in grad school Eddy’s room always had the lights off. He seemed to use only ambient light from outside, other rooms, and electronics to see by. “But why are you hiding alone? I know Tacia and David are here too,” she said, since all three of Jaime’s grad school roommates had made it.
“I see them all the time,” Eddy replied. “They’d rather hang out with everyone else and catch up. I’m still jet lagged and not great company anyway, so I was planning to pseudo nap until Jaime arrived.”
“Am I disturbing you?” Riah asked.
“It’s fine,” Eddy said. Mostly I just want to sit here half zoned out and relax. I’m going to be a zombie for the next thirty-six or more hours anyway.”
“It must have been a long trip for jet lag that bad,” Riah replied, unable to not be curious about where Eddy had been.
“I got back from Japan yesterday morning,” Eddy said.
“Wow.” That was a lot of jet lag, for sure. “What were you doing in Japan?”
“Research,” Eddy replied. “A friend from undergrad moved out there to teach English and had kept in touch. They’d made some good contacts in the cosplay world, so I came out to interview people and get some good photos and samples of their work. They were really great, and my friend even translated for me when needed. It was pretty awesome.”
“Sounds like a pretty amazing trip,” Riah said. Eddy did something related to theater and costuming but not with an actual theater according to Jaime.
“Good news!” Jaime’s brother shouted from the kitchen. “I got her coworker, and he said the boss hadn’t even asked anyone else if they could stay and help. He told everyone and he didn’t even have to ask, they just all volunteered to take over and send Jaime home because it’s her birthday. They all dressed down their boss for it too, trying to put all the work on her just because she’s fast at it and not asking the whole team to help when it’s a deadline. She just left and will be here in fifteen minutes.”
“So you can orchestrate the yelling if you want,” Eddy said with a laugh.
“James is right, isn’t he?” Riah asked. “She’ll be happier if we’re just all here having fun and she shows up not expecting us. She’d hate us yelling surprise.”
“She wouldn’t hate it,” Eddy replied. “But she’d enjoy it more if it was just all of us hanging out and hollering joyfully when she showed up.”
“Okay, new plan,” Riah called to the assembled. “No gathering and turning the lights off, just make a joyful noise when she walks in, yeah?”
“Yeah!” they all chorused back.
“She’ll love it, you’ll see,” Eddy said, grinning up at Riah.
“Thanks,” Riah replied. Eddy had lived with Jaime, so he’d know how she’d react to surprises. She’d trust in his opinion today.