Em's place

Writing, anxiety-wrangling, tea.

Friday Flash – No Surprise

By Emma on January 15, 2010

He stamped his feet as he waited across the street, trying to drive the blood back into his toes. He watched the office workers scurrying out into the cold and sighed. His wife wasn’t amongst them.

Ten minutes later, she burst out of the double doors, stuffing documents into her briefcase whilst trying to keep her scarf as the wind tugged at it. He looked for a hint of something sticking out of her pocket, or another bag slung over her shoulder, but there was nothing. His teeth clenched and he crossed the road.

“Hello love,” he said and she jumped, dropping a sheaf of papers.

“Scott! God, you made me jump, what are you doing here?”

He helped her gather up the pages and waited for her to finish fussing with the case. “I finished work early today.” He paused a beat, but she said nothing. He swallowed. “I thought it would be nice to come and pick you up. It’s cold today.”

She nodded, wrapping the scarf around her throat and tucking it securely into her overcoat. “That’s sweet, thanks. I wasn’t looking forward to the train.”

He thrust the flowers he’d been hiding behind his back towards her, five huge blooms, the names of which he’d already forgotten. He bit the inside of his lip as he watched for a flicker in her eyes.

“Oh! How lovely!” she gasped, and smelt them.

He gave her a few more moments and when it didn’t come, he said; “The florist told me they always look better in groups of five. Five of them. All together.”

“Oh, right,” she nodded. “They do look nice together. Let’s get home eh?”

He scowled. Another chance gone.

They wove their way through the rush hour crowds. He linked arms with her, drawing her close. “Yup,” he sighed. “Always cold this time of year, isn’t it?” She nodded but he could tell she wasn’t really listening. “What do they say about March… in like a lion and out like a lamb?”

“Do they?” she replied absent-mindedly.

He pushed his way past people, squeezing her arm close into his side. She had to hurry to keep up but he was glad, it was her own fault for wearing those stupid high heels. It made him feel better to feel her tottering along beside him, struggling to match his pace. It was just enough to keep his temper at bay.

They reached the car park and he unlocked the car with the remote. The lights flashed and he got in as she dropped her briefcase and the flowers onto the back seat. He gripped the steering wheel nervously as he waited. Would this one work?

She opened the door and stopped; five candles were strewn on the passenger seat. She scooped them up and sat down. “What are these doing here?” she asked as she buckled the seatbelt. He dug his nails into the stitched leather and said nothing as she tossed them into the back seat.

His temples pounded all the way home. Surely he had given enough hints? He glanced across at her. She was staring out of the passenger window, probably thinking about her latest case. It was the same every year.

“I’m in court tomorrow,” she said after a while and he sighed. He was right. He was the last thing on her mind. “It’s an interesting case; it’ll be on the news tomorrow night.”

“Mmm,” he acknowledged, wondering whether to give her one last chance. They’d been together for thirteen years, after all. “Could you find the cloth in the glove compartment for me? The screen’s steaming up.”

She opened the glove box and a paper bag fell out with a birthday card, still wrapped in cellophane, sticking out conspicuously. He held his breath as he waited for a gasp and a gabbled apology, but neither came. All he got was the grotty cloth. He wiped the glass as fat raindrops drummed on the other side, realising that this was it. She’d failed.

They drove the rest of the way in silence, emerging from the chaos of the town’s traffic onto the quieter country roads. He tried to decide whether to do it in the car or in the house. He settled on the car as he negotiated through the winding lanes, he’d prepared ahead and had everything he needed. He’d known she would fail.

Finally they pulled up onto the drive, the large trees sheltering the house from the worst of the rain. It was dark, and with no neighbours nearby, the only sound was the weather abusing the car.

She unclipped the seatbelt as he reached under his seat, felt for the handle and closed his fingers around it. “Jane,” he said softly, unable to stop himself from giving her one last chance. “Do you know what day it is today?”


The blade described an arc from his side into her chest. One, two, three, four plunges of the knife and she was silent, the last of her scream ringing off the dashboard. But four wasn’t enough.

“This is the fifth!” he yelled, plunging it in a last time. “The fifth, the fifth of March! My birthday godammit!”

He let the numbness settle over him. Ten years in a row she’d forgotten, ten years of apologies and late cakes. No more.

He dragged her out of the car and towards the house. He couldn’t think straight, he needed a drink and besides, he wanted her in the house on his birthday. They could have one last evening together.

He unlocked the door with her body slumped against him and then he pulled her into the hallway, slamming the door behind him. He flicked on the light as streamers and balloons were thrown into the air. Party poppers banged and fifty voices cheered as the blood drained from his face.



This week’s Friday Flash was brought to you by a large cup of tea and a marvellous writing prompt at Write Anything. I am grateful to both.

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{ 30 comments... read them below, or add one }

  1. Marisa Birns says:

    Brilliant! I am so impressed that you just sat and wrote this today.

    Two twists in one story? Very well done.

  2. Joanna Young says:

    You have such a wonderful dark side 🙂

  3. This is absolutely riveting. Couldn’t move my eyes from the words. I’m going, “What.what.what!” He must have felt like a real jerk when she didn’t forget after all.
    Is Marisa correct? You just wrote this today? (I am shaking my head)
    Loved it!

  4. Surprises throughout! To begin with, it seemed Scott was up to something sinister. Then all the things he bought her – a riddle to solve. The ending surprised me too. Wonderful 🙂

  5. marc nash says:

    Basil Fawlty’s misjudged surprise birthday bash for Sybil has got nothing on this.

    Remind your significant other never, never to overlook your birthday!

    marc nash

  6. Iapetus999 says:

    Ahh, you’re back.
    Ummm….by the way….just asking….when’s your birthday?
    I really don’t want to forget…..ever…… 😉

    But I kinda knew after he offed her that she hadn’t forget…that she was just pretending. So maybe there’s a second moral here…

  7. Lis Garrett says:

    Oh man! He’s got some explaining to do. 😉

  8. Diana Maus says:

    You are bad! Very, very bad, LOL!

  9. Skycycler says:

    Ouch! (ouch ouch ouch ouch)

    Brilliantly irreverent – she’s a legal professional!

  10. Tony Noland says:

    … and *this* ladies and gentlemen, is why open communication is so very, very important in a relationship.

  11. G.P. Ching says:

    ALWAYS check for the surprise party first (before soullessly stabbing your partner) !!! Classic! You know when my hubby forgets my birthday I just buy myself something nice with his credit card. 🙂 Fun story.

  12. Melissa says:

    Oh. My. God. Perfect ending. Glad I didn’t try this in my last marriage. 😉 Well-written and fun. 🙂

  13. Fantastic!! You certainly surprised me!

    *puts reminder for husband’s birthday in the Blackberry’s calendar*

  14. CJ says:

    I didn’t see the surprise party coming – well done!

  15. Chance says:

    I was reading this and got to the point where he stabbed her and thought , why are you continuing to write ? and then I read the ending and I’m glad you did

    This has to be one of the all time best endings in fridayflash

    Great Stuff !

  16. Holy crap! What a *surprise* party!!!

    Geez, I think this guy needs a little anger management! Wouldn’t want to cross him!

    That was brilliantly written!!!

  17. Entertaining ending. How embarrassing for the guy, and a real surprise. The middle feels long. Length increases ending impact, but I lost interest before the reward. Watch dialogue attribution: “absent-mindedly” unnecessary since reader gets that feel. Fun tale.

  18. Cascade Lily says:

    I actually thought she must have forgotten the anniversary of their child’s death or something for him to have been so upset by someone forgetting his birthday. Well, he’ll never forget the day again I suppose.

  19. Caroline says:

    Amazing ending. Sent shivers all down my spine! I really didn’t see that coming.

    And I’ve just posted my hubbie’s birthday in big letters on my calendar … just in case …

  20. Laura Eno says:

    Sometimes it’s just safer to say happy birthday instead of giving a surprise party, you know? Great story!

  21. Sam says:

    Superb! I really enjoyed this story. 🙂

  22. Oh. My. Gosh. This is absolutely brilliant Emma! At first I thought it was their anniversary she’d forgotten until the 13 years of marriage threw me off, making me wonder again. You played this so well. Bravo!
    P.S. Sorry I’m so late reading.

  23. Ann Collins says:

    Quite a story – such irony! Chilling!

  24. Josie says:

    Oh. My. God. Kept me guessing all the way through – superbly written, great twist.

  25. Mon says:

    It was a birthday story. It was a short story. I read on.

  26. Just a quick note to Emma’s readers – there’s less than 15 hours left to vote in the contest. Have you cast your vote?
    We’ll be partying at The Other Side of Deanna on Monday. I hope everyone can stop in!

  27. ganymeder says:

    I think the bastard deserved that surprise!

    Great writing though. 🙂

  28. Hi Emma. We’re having a party today – hope you and your readers can stop in: http://theothersideofdeanna.wordpress.com/2010/08/16/party-time/

    Thanks so much for entering the contest!

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