Daniel’s Birthday Celebration Isn’t The Celebration He’d Planned…
Winter, Year 5
Daniel is 40, Jack is 40, Zackery is 31, Rebecca is 26, Ellie is 26, Cristina is 26, Gerald is 26
Zackery played the track back again as loud as possible and smiled. Finally, it sounded the way he wanted it to.
He’d been focusing intensely on his music lately and had barely seen his flat mate. He knew Daniel was a bit depressed after Cristina had dumped him but Zack felt a bit useless when it came to helping. He wasn’t sure what he could do to make his friend feel any better.
He drifted into the lounge but there was no sign of Daniel anywhere. Assuming he was out, Zackery switched the radio on and, to his surprise, heard one of his own tracks playing. He was pumped; for such a long time, he’d been nothing but Hayley’s producer and now, finally, he was a musician in his own right.
The feeling was fantastic.
“You look pissed off,” Jack commented. He’d dragged Daniel out to the pub for a drink before Daniel’s birthday bash at Muse. “Come on, it’s your birthday.”
“Wow, big deal.” Daniel gulped his drink and set the glass down. “I’m 40. My career’s going nowhere, my girlfriend just dumped me and my daughter barely knows I exist. Yes, this is really worth celebrating.”
Jack raised an eyebrow. “Mate, you know sarcasm doesn’t suit you. Look, I know you’re still hurting from Cristina. Trust me, I know. But you have some great friends who are looking forward to celebrating with you tonight.” He smiled. “It might cheer you up a bit.”
“Yeah. Or it could make me more depressed.” Daniel drained the glass. “You fancy some table footie before we go?”
Daniel ordered another drink from the bar and joined Jack in the quietest corner of the pub for a vicious game of table football.
“Sorry for earlier,” he said grudgingly as Jack shot another goal. “I shouldn’t take it out on you.”
“What are friends for?” Jack grinned. “Call me your verbal punch bag. Just don’t ask me anything about Marcella, deal?”
Daniel smiled. “Deal. Come one, we’d better push off or I’ll be late for my own party.”
“Perish the thought!” Jack grinned and the two friends turned to leave the pub.
On their way out, Daniel was accosted by a young fan. As he signed an autograph, he caught a glimpse of a photographer and groaned inwardly. Just for one night, he’d love to be able to be incognito while he nursed his broken heart.
Zackery joined the two friends at the club and checked his phone. To his delight, he had a message from Dinky Beats, a label he’d been contacted by to start marketing his tracks. He’d been accepted and the deal was signed; he was officially working with them now. He ordered a round of drinks and grinned. His independent career had finally begun!
“You came!” Daniel spotted one of his closest friends, Ellie, coming over to the dancefloor.
“Of course I did!” Ellie pulled Daniel into a hug. “Happy birthday! Did you think I’d miss it?”
Daniel smiled as he hugged Ellie tight. She was a loyal friend; they’d supported each other through some of their toughest times to date and he knew he could lean on her a little if he needed to.
Daniel and Ellie talked for several more minutes, during which time Daniel started looking at Ellie a little differently. Was it his imagination, or was she looking extra beautiful under the club lights? Maybe it was the drink. Or maybe he was on the rebound.
Either way, he tried his hardest to seduce Ellie. They’d had a one night stand before, two years ago, just before he’d met Cristina. Part of him wondered if there was still something there.
Ellie raised an eyebrow but didn’t object. She’d still been carrying a torch for Daniel since their tryst and, now that he was apart from Cristina, she wondered if it was time to give things a try. She knew she wasn’t imagining Daniel’s attempts at seduction. She smiled and started to flirt back.
Just as Daniel was starting to enjoy himself, he saw someone come in the door at the other side of the room. His stomach twisted as Cristina stepped through and waved to some of her other friends. How was he supposed to move on if she was going to appear when he least expected her?
Clutching another glass of wine in his hand, Daniel forced himself to turn away from Cristina. He was no longer in the mood to have fun and suddenly, he just wanted the night to be over.
Outside the club, Rebecca had managed to escape the photographers and spotted Gerald slinking round the back of the building. Curious, she followed him.
“Gerald!” She called as she caught up with him. “You okay?”
“Oh, hey Becca.” Gerald smiled weakly. “Yeah, I’m all right. You?”
“I’m fine.” Rebecca touched his arm lightly. “I heard about your divorce. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”
Gerald shrugged. “Don’t be. I married her for the inheritance. I got what I wanted.”
“I know. Even so, the way things ended…I’m still sorry. It must hurt, even just a little.”
“You’d know.” Gerald shot back. “You inflict it on others enough.”
For the first time in their history, Rebecca heard a twinge of pain in Gerald’s voice and it startled her. She’d always assumed Gerald was as happy with their casual arrangement as she was but now she was beginning to think otherwise.
“Look, never mind this.” Gerald’s voice broke through her thoughts. “Think fast!”
Rebecca gasped as a cold, wet snowball landed squarely on her face. “Oh, now you’ve done it!”
“Ooh, what will the press think?” Gerald mocked as he dodged an incoming snowball. “You missed me!”
Rebecca narrowed her eyes. Obviously Gerald didn’t want to talk about Daisy and that suited her just fine. Instead, the snowball war had begun.
It was getting late as Zackery stumbled out of the club. He’d been steadily enjoying the drinks on Daniel’s tab but when another Sim overdid it and threw up all over the floor, he knew it was time to get some air.
Nauseated, he gulped in the cold, crisp winter air and set off for the short journey back home.
Eventually, Daniel said his goodbyes and drifted out of the club. All in all, it hadn’t been a great night but it hadn’t been too terrible either. He’d noticed Cristina had avoided him all evening and eventually left with a group of friends.
The next day was a quieter one. Daniel slept late and arrived mid-afternoon at the Royal Willow to rehearse with Jack.
“Sorry I’m so late,” he puffed. “Overslept.”
Jack grinned. “Don’t worry about it. We only need to run through the scene a couple of times, then I think we’ll be ready.”
Scrambling onto the stage, Daniel raised a glass of water. “Thanks for being a friend, Jack.”