Elegant Deception

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The morning of my weekend birthday bash. The least I expect was to have the morning to myself. However, I was completely mistaken when I heard a loud knocking coming from the main door of my apartment.

Once I reached the door, I didn’t have to ask who it was. Their voice could be heard across the door.

“Amy, I know you’re up. Open up.”

I pulled the door opened wide enough the knob nearly dented the wall.

“Why do we have to do it this early in the morning? Not everyone in this side of the world is awake yet.”

She didn’t allow me to finish as she interjected. “I’m here to oversee that today would go as planned.”

“I’ve already willing agreed to go along with this a week ago, April. Why would I sabotage my own birthday?”

“Maybe you’ve changed your mind… I don’t know. But I’m still sticking with you for the rest of the day and make sure you’re not messing up anything,” she replied in defense.

“And you think I’m going to mess up? Me? Someone people think whose very meticulous and very workaholic?” I challenged again.

She rolled her eyes. “Okay. You made your point. It’s highly unlikely you’re going to be the reason today won’t go as planned. Any other day, I might be a prime suspect. But since you’ve hired me to plan everything today, I’m not going to mess it up.”

I arched my eyebrow at her in question.

With that, she crumbled a bit on her implied façade. “Okay, maybe, I might slip or do something that’s very me, I admit. But I won’t do anything drastic that’ll need of your services.” She cheekily admitted.

“That’s better,” I smirked and gestured towards my kitchen. “Have you eaten breakfast? I’m about to make something for myself.”

She smiled and slowly made her way toward the kitchen counter. “Then, I’ll have an omelet and toast please.”

“You’re not even offering to help me out?” I asked, hoping.

“And do what? You know I’m dangerous around a stove. It’s why I always order or eat out.” She snorted.

“Of course. But at least help me make toast. You can’t do any damage there. Just let the toaster do the job.” I chuckled.

She sighed in defeat and headed there with me. “Fine. But if something happens…”

“The fire-extinguisher is close by,” I interjected teasingly.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

After we ate, we chatted a bit about my first upcoming party. This one was mostly family. Other than my party later that night, she was more forthcoming about the guest list. But I knew, since she’d already told me herself, I’ll have some more time to coerced her to give up that information as she’ll be accompanying me the whole day.

When it was close to the time for my first party, April suddenly drops one surprise under my nose.

“What do you mean Zoey and Julian offered Jeffrey’s service to us?” I stared at her coolly.

“Like what I said. To be clear, Jeffrey will be chauffeuring us today.” She replied.

“You can’t be serious. And how the hell did you managed that? Jeffrey is Julian’s trusted employee.”

“He had someone else drive him and Zoey for the day. From my conversation with Zoey, I think they had Albert on the wheel.”

I stared at her in disbelief. “My god, April. You can’t ask things like asking sweetly to our parent’s. And Julian’s my boss. Why do you keep forgetting that detail when you’re making all of these decisions?”

“Don’t blame me it all on me. I told Zoey that we might need someone chauffeuring us around based on the looks of our schedule today.”

“Of course, Zoey would offer help. You know that. But you’re the one benefitting their good nature. They’ve already offered to help us out with the venue, April. It’s unethical that they’ll continue giving us more for free.” I argued.

April studied my expression, whether trying to find that I was bluffing. But since I kept on glaring at her, she understood how serious I was.

“Okay, fine. I’m sorry. I should have told you. But I can’t refuse this offer. It’ll be rude now. So think of it as me benefitting on this.” She offered.

I kept on glaring at her. “Next time. Tell me, okay?”

“Sure.” She nodded.

Seeing a good window, I took my chance. “Since you did this stunt, I think you’re entitled to be open with me about that guest list. Who exactly are you inviting tonight?”

Finally, the tension uplifted and her sly grin was back. “I’ve said. Don’t worry about it. You know most of these people.”

“Most? You mean, you’ve invited strangers?” I stared at her in disbelief. “So help me god, April, if you’ve invited anyone I used to know…” I trailed off, overcome with emotion.

Like that, April understood the root of my distress about her being unforthcoming about the guest list. “Oh my god, is that what you’re worried about? That I might be invited…?” She trailed off in disbelief. “I’m not stupid, Amy. I won’t do that to you. My own sister. No. Of course, I haven’t invited anyone from your past.”

I stared at her, observing her expression. She looked sincere.

I sighed in relief and dropped my personal mission for now. “Good. At least I’ve ruled that out now.”

She rolled her eyes and chuckled. “Come on. You need to change. And I need to be there to judge your closet.”

“You don’t have to. I’ll wear something appropriated for today’s occasion.”

She snorted and gestured towards my bedroom. “Please. This might be just mom and dad, and a couple of our relatives. But it’s no reason enough to look like an uptight corporate woman.”

“Please don’t insult my style choice in front of my face. I think I have an elegant and chic taste.”

“Well, if all you do is work in the office all day of the week, suits aren’t half bad. But at least own something flirty or sexy. Pantsuits don’t even show enough skin to gauge interest.”

“Hey! Suits are sexy...” I trailed off in defense when she turned and gave me an eye roll.

She snorted. “On men.”

I ignored her remark.

As we got to my closet, she proceeded with rummaging my clothes until she found something manageable I could wear. She grabbed a maroon sweatshirt and navy denim skinny jeans and then ordered me to change. Before I got to zip up the pants, she placed a black booty by my feet and place a couple of silver bracelets by my bed.

“Wear these and those as well.” She pointed. “Where are your bags again?” She asked like she was on a mission.

I followed her instruction and put the shoes and accessories on while pointing towards the lower shelve where I stash what little purse I own.

“Do you own anything black?”

“Yes. Of course. You gave it to me last Christmas. Have you forgotten?”

“Just those?” She groaned and quickly found the said purse.

“Of course. Why would I buy another one that looked the same when I already have that?” I inquired in thought.

“Options, sister. You need options.” She sighed, knowing how practical I am when it comes to material stuff.

When I’m fully clothed and ready to go, April on cue got a call from Jeffrey that he was downstairs waiting for us. I greeted Julian and Zoe’s chauffeur with familiarity - like he was more of a family than a friend. When I worked under Rufus Fletcher, Julian’s previous assistant, I was an errand runner on most days. And luckily, Julian had been kind enough to lend me Jeffrey for business. That’s how I got acquainted with him.

“Before we head out to your first destination ladies, I’d like to say Happy birthday, Amy. I hope you’ll enough the big three zero.” He said giddily.

“Thank you, Jeffrey. And I’ll make sure that my first day being thirty won’t be completely wasted with activities I’ve done when I was in my twenties.”

“Actually, this is the only day you’ll have the last chance to live like you’re in your twenties. By the next day, I’m sure some sort of regret - or a hangover - will remind you of your age.”

“I’m just turning thirty, Jeffrey. Not sixty.” I jested.

“Well, thirty is when you realize you’re no longer in the younger side.” He pointedly out plainly.

I pursed my lips. Thirty is still young. Beside me, April’s cheekily grin while listening to Jeffrey and I’s banter was evident. “Why are you smiling like that?”

“Oh! Nothing. I just can’t wrap it around my head that you’re thirty. Still single. No attachment. And might adopt a cat or dog real soon.”

“What’s wrong with that life choice?” I scoffed at her implied judgment.

“I remembered in college, while you were still... you know, with him. That you said, by thirty you’ll already be married, had at least one child or pregnant. But now, between the two of us, I’m more likely to get all those before I hit thirty.”

I’ve been trying hard not to remember that mentality I had in my early twenties. I was naive. I was too confident with myself that I would be able to achieve that ideal without even considering my partner’s wishes. However, we did have that same goal in mind. But along the way, we so focused on our future that we forgot to consider our present. One way or another, it was bound to end.

When we arrived at our parent’s place, I wasn’t entirely in the right mindset to feel the festivity of it being ‘my day’. But I’m not a killjoy. I kept my emotions under-wraps and allowed my family’s aura to pull me back out of the gutter.

It was our mother who first greeted me before our father followed. I got a kiss on the cheek from both of them while they escorted me to the main room. And from the muffled voice I heard, I knew the rest of the family were there. So I put on more mask to get through it all.

As I guessed, our twin cousins, Jane and Jasmine were present. With their mom, our aunt Lucille. There was also a few of my parent’s friends, who I was also acquainted, an unfamiliar face in the group. From my guess on family gossip, he might be Jane’s new lover. Plus, how he kept his arms wrapped around her waist gave it away as well.

“Amy, happy birthday! I’ve missed you. It’s been a while since we last saw each other,” Jane was the first to approach me.

Then Jasmine wasn’t far behind with her husband, Rodney, in tow. “Happy birthday, Amy. Welcome to the thirty’s club. Jane and I are thrilled to have you on board. And don’t let anyone tell you that you’re getting older. They say thirty is the new twenty these days.”

“Thank you for the prep-talk and speech, Jaz. But really, it’s just an age. I don’t know why people are so keen to make it into a conversation about marriage and kids.” I argued back.

“True. But for us women, it’s just a reminder we aren’t getting any younger. And family and kids have a time limit.” Jasmine stated.

“That’s just a fallacy. And besides, my ovaries don’t start falling off anytime soon. And I don’t think it’s a race of whether you should have a family and kids by a certain age...”

“Amy, you don’t have to give us an excuse why you’re still single, honey,” Jane interjected. “We all know why you’re still single.”

“Well, not everyone knows why... I’m sure your boyfriend doesn’t.” I pointed dryly. “And excuse my lovely cousin here for not introducing us. I’m Amy, the birthday girl.” I said and offered him my hand to shake.

He chuckled and briefly shook it. “Quin. It’s nice to meet you, Amy.”

“Likewise.” I nodded and briefly studied Jane and Quin. “So, how did you two meet?” I feign with interest. Since Jane hadn’t bothered telling me any of the details through a phone call or message, I knew this was the only chance I’ll get her to tell the story before it’ll be old news to the family.

“Oh! This will be good.” Jasmine grinned mischievously, while Rodney snickered in agreement. He hardly was a man of words, especially in the presence of the four girls whose main entertainment was gossip.

I noticed Rodney on cue offered Quin to go somewhere to get us drinks. However, we all knew it was an excuse to leave us alone and do some girl-talk. Jasmine gave him a brief kiss on the kiss as thanks. By the time the men left, and it’s just us girls, the conversation got juicier and cruder. Something I expected from this group of women.

We got a bit too engrossed with our conversation. It took us a moment to realize we were meeting in the house for a lunch party to celebrate my birthday. Once my mother caught our attention, April had composed herself and gathered back her wits to host today’s events.

Everyone gathered in the only huge enough space to occupy a group of ten people, the backyard. When we all headed out, I kept hearing people gasping and cheering with compliments. Once I get to see what made their reaction, I was breathless as well. Somehow our backyard was turned into a garland of silk ribbons, bouquets of rose and lilies, and white picnic table stylishly places in the well-trimmed grass. It was like we walked into a lavish garden party.

“Oh my god. How in the world did you pull this off?” I finally muster a word.

Thankfully, my sister still stuck close to me, who I knew was the mastermind behind all of this from her wicked and proud smile.

“I’m glad you approve, sister. It wasn’t easy doing all of this under such short notice. But Zoey and Julian’s contact really helps a lot. I can’t thank enough my best friend is going to marry a powerful business mogul.”

I chuckled. “Remind me to thank both of them later tonight. And also to keep you in check. Don’t start abusing your new so-called connections, sister.”

“I will. And I promise I won’t do something like this for you again. I’ll use my connection for myself instead.” She lightly teased.

I glared at her in warning again. She rolled her eyes in a dramatic fashion, so I knew it was a bluff – but not entirely. I’ll keep it in mind to add that on my list of things to look out for in regards to my sister.

But I didn’t let my threat ruin this moment. Filled with pride and love for my little sister, I wrapped her in an enthusiastic embrace. “Thank you for doing this, April. I’m so proud of what you’ve done.”

“I hope when I’ll be my turn to reach thirty, you’ll throw me the same level of this extravagant party.”

I snorted and let her go. “You know that’s just a recipe for a disastrous night. And we’re talking about you, here, April. You’d rather plan the party yourself. You’re not confident enough to give someone that power to make your day great.”

“True. Then, I’ll just take your payment for my wonderful work today by not ruining any of the fun I’ve planned for tonight.” There was a glint of mischievousness in her eyes. But I didn’t read into it too much looking at how well she did with this afternoon’s festivity.

“Okay. Fine, whatever shenanigans you’ve planned tonight. I won’t ruin it for you. You have my word.”

Her smiled widen. It was then I knew I’ll regret it soon enough.

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