Alice was good at many things, but keeping secrets wasn’t one of them, particularly if they were her own. Honesty being one of her numerous virtues, concocting stories didn’t come naturally and that is how she came to ruin nearly every surprise anything she had ever planned.
But, not this year, she vowed. This year would be different. This year she would surprise her husband, Bren, for real and he wouldn’t have to pretend. This would be the year to beat all others.
And so, Alice set about her plans for his birthday, making reservations, scheming and concocting a plan that even she couldn’t destroy with her need to tell the truth.
A month before his birthday, Ben asked ever so slyly, “So, what’s my birthday present?” He’d done this every year, teasing and knowing she would be so excited she’d blurt it right out.
“Come on,” he said. “Just a tiny hint?”
“Is it a car?”
Alice laughed. “It’s better than a car. It’s an elephant!”
Bren just shook his head. “You are such a bad liar.”
A week later he asked again.
“Is it a new bike?”
Alice shook her head. “It’s for eating, not riding. Though, bikes may be involved.”
“What is it?”
Alice smiled. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”
Bren couldn’t help but let the excitement build. She was being clever, he thought. But just exactly what she was planning, he couldn’t decide.
Two days from his birthday, he pried again.
“Is it big? Is it small?”
“It can fit in an envelope,” Alice said.
“Then it isn’t an elephant,” Bren said.
“Wait and find out.”
The evening of Bren’s birthday, Alice took him to his favorite restaurant, a Thai place downtown. Outside the restaurant was a huge stone elephant. Bren smiled, pleased at having been so simply duped. Alice was nearly giddy with having kept her secret so well. They sat down at a corner table and ordered their favorite curry dishes.
As Bren sat back happily, having stuffed himself as full as he could, he sighed, “Some day babe, we’re going to go to Thailand. And, we’re going to eat so much curry we’ll never want to eat it again. And we’ll see elephants and climb mountains. Some day.”
“I know,” said Alice, digging in her purse.
She handed Bren the envelope. “Your birthday gift.”
“You weren’t kidding,” he said, fully expecting a gift certificate to the restaurant.
What he pulled out instead were five neatly folded pieces of paper. He smoothed them out on the table.
Itinerary for Chiang Mai, Thailand
December 20-30, 2015