The Birthday Surprise
YOU South Africa|9 December 2021
Turning 30 seems to be a bit of a downer, but three colleagues beg to differ
TSHOLOFELO DIRE
‘SO, WHERE is my invitation for the party?” Maria asks. I take a deep breath as I look up at her from my computer. She has on the bright smile and does a silly little dance.

“No party plans,” I reply in a hushed voice, hoping she’ll take the hint and leave me to work in peace. I hate people making a fuss about birthdays, but this year’s I especially want to forget.

Too late. Maria is not exactly quiet. Our other colleague, Lebo, joins us and they both stand there staring at me, their eyes gleaming with mischief. “That’s what you think,” Lebo says under her breath, but I hear her. They exchange conspiratorial looks and grin.

“No, you didn’t,” I say, shaking my head as realisation dawns on me – these two!

Lebo is almost levitating with excitement as she comes around my desk and pulls my arm. “Now, come on,” she says as Maria firmly clutches my other arm, “you thought you could get away with keeping your birthday a secret? Not on our watch.”

I reluctantly let them drag me to the conference room and, suddenly, I’m faced with a crowd of colleagues, some of them whose names I do not know, from other departments, shouting, “Happy birthday!”

My eyes turn to the round chocolate cake sitting in the middle of the table, with one tiny candle. I awkwardly watch as they sing, and after I blow the candle, I brace myself for the big question: “So, how old are you?”

YOU could hear a pin drop. This is worse than being expected to make a speech. It’s as if everyone is waiting for a grand age reveal, or is it just my anxiety?

I take a deep breath and for some rea son, I just cannot get it out. The room seems to be getting smaller.

I feel the tears rolls down my cheeks before I realise I’m crying. I look around as everyone’s face turns to concern. Now I’m even more embarrassed. Why am I being so dramatic? Why can’t I just spit it out – it’s nothing but a number, after all.

With every passing second, my anxiety grows and when I feel like my head is going to explode, I run out of the boardroom heading straight to the bathroom.

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