Birthday surprise

By Nicola Mabbott

Today was no ordinary day. It was Jamie’s 11th birthday. When the alarm clock woke him he was in the middle of a wonderful dream. He was dreaming that his mother had finally given him the one present that he had begged for every day as long as he could remember. A dog.

He sighed as he realised it was only a dream, and promised himself that he wouldn’t be sad on his birthday. Then, as he did every morning, he got dressed as quietly as he could. He carefully positioned a pillow horizontally on his bed, and silently pulled his bed cover over it. He didn’t think that his mother would check on him, but if she did, she would think he was fast asleep with covers pulled over his head.

Jamie looked sadly at the family photograph on his bedside table. It had been taken before the divorce, before his dad had left and gone to work in Madrid, long before mum’s new husband, Martin, had come along and spoilt everything. “My dad would let me have a dog”, he thought angrily.

The old window opened without a sound, and Jamie climbed out carefully onto the kitchen roof. Then he slid silently down onto the back yard wall. Next door’s dog was watching him expectantly. He put his finger to his lips in an attempt to stop the cry of excitement that could wake his mother and stepfather. Jess jumped obediently over the garden wall.

“Good morning young man”, said a middle-aged woman as he walked past the bus stop. “What a good boy you are, taking your dog out every morning, even during the summer holidays!”

He didn’t say that Jess was not his, but his neighbour’s dog, and if his mother knew where he was, she would be furious. He was too busy watching a family getting on the bus which was waiting at the stop. An announcement on the side of the bus caught his eye: “This month’s special offer: a family ticket for the airport service (2 adults and up to 3 children) - just ¬£15!”

He’d been to the airport with his dad on their way to Madrid. “So you could get there by bus”, he said to himself. It was a pity he was too young to go alone, and anyway, he would need his passport to get on a plane, and his mother had hidden it away somewhere.

Unless …

When he returned home he opened the front door slowly, picking up the birthday card that lay on the mat. He heared his mother voice crying out “Where have you been? You know you can’t go out alone! Go to your room! I don’t care if it’s your birthday!”

With a heavy heart, he walked slowly up the stairs. With the door closed behind him he looked at the anvelope. He recognised his aunt’s writing. He began making a plan in his head. He tore open the envelope and pulled out the card, anticipating the ¬£20 note which he would find inside. Then he remembered how that morning the woman had thought that Jess was his dog, just because they were walking together …

He pulled out his secret box from under his bed. He found his dad’s address in Madrid written on a piece of paper. He folded the ¬£20 note and put it with his dad’s address in his jeans pocket. He climbed back out of the window, down the roof and closed the garden gate behind him. Five minutes later he was on the same street as the airport bus stop, scrutinising the queue for the airport bus. Minutes before the bus arrived a family of four joined the queue. Perfect! He took his place behind them.

“A family day ticket”, said the man, as he handed over ¬£15. Jamie followed the family on board and sat as inconspicuously as he coule behind them. So far, so good. He could hardly believe his luck. Once at the airport, Jamie followed the family through the antrance to Departures. Then he tried to remember what he had done with his dad on the way to Madrid. No one seemed to notice the unaccompanied eleven-year-old. He looked at the list of flights on the screen. The next flight to Madrid was scheduled for 10.05. Then he remembered everything. He and his dad walked through the metal detector and put their luggage through the X-ray machine and then waited in the departure lounge before getting on the plane at gate number 41.

With this in mind, Jamie used the same strategy of waiting behind a family that he had used to board the bus. He could hardly believe that he had managed to pass safely through the security check. He then took his seat near the family in the departure lounge, and waited anxiously. When the boarding gate was announced, he felt his heart beating so loudly that he felt sure the people around him would hear and give the game away.

As he felt the piece of paper with his dad’s address in his pocket, he saw a large group of children of about his age on a school trip. He kept closely behind as they followed two teachers to the front of the queue. The teachers were too busy checking that no one was missing to notice that an extra student had attached himself to the group. Before he knew it, he was sitting by the window watching the houses and fields getting smaller as the plane took off. Five minutes later ha was fast asleep.

While Jamie was sleeping on the aircraft a tall dark-haired man was handing over his boarding card at the secutiry check at Madrid Barajas Airport. He smiled with enthusiasm as he thought that in about four hours he would be with his son for his eleventh birthday. What a surprise it would be for Jamie!

Jamie’s dad was already queuing to board his flight when the passengers from Jamie’s flight started to enter the airport terminal. They were just on the other side of the glass screen in front of him. He watched the passengers from Jamie’s flight walking by: businessmen, a family of four, a young couple, a group of excited schoolchildren and a boy who looked about Jamie’s age, who seemed to be travelling alone. “He looks just like Jamie!” he thought to himself.

[SpeakUp, aprile 2014]

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