My dad woke me up on my birthday. He called and cheerily offered his best wishes. Half awake, I thanked him. I hung up, and stared at the clock on the nightstand, and then at the dying sunflowers beside it.

‘I need to throw those out,’ I thought. Sean had sent the lovely bouquet two weeks earlier with a short “get well” note. The cold didn’t kept me from work and affected my sleep, but didn’t stop me from running. And even though the flowers were dead, the cough was not. I had still woken up a few times that night in a coughing fit. It sucked.

Despite my sleepiness, I knew I couldn’t stay in bed. I needed to get ready to go to Hacienda Heights. I’d made arrangements the night before to take my mom and Lori to get pedicures. After running 90-odd miles, I needed to pamper my feet. I wanted to treat my mom, the one who did the real work 30 years ago (and then raising me too). I knew Lori would appreciate a pedicure in exchange for baking my birthday cake (well brownie).

I got out of bed and took the vase to the kitchen. I washed the vase and still in my pajamas (hot pink mesh shorts and a purple t-shirt) took the dead flowers out to the dumpster behind the apartment building.

It was a nice sunny morning and I relished the feeling of the warm sun on my legs. As I crossed the driveway, I heard the familiar beep of a neighbor remote-locking a car. I turned toward the street and saw a man who bore an uncanny resemblance to Sean walking past the building. He walked the same, carried the same brown satchel, wore the same black flat cap, and dragged along a carry-on sized bag.

I was confused.

Sean was supposed to be in New York, at work.

I watched as he disappeared from view and then turned around toward my driveway. He noticed me, and waved.

It was him. I waved back and then went inside to wash off flower gunk from my hands.

I returned to the door. He stood outside bearing gifts.

“Hi,” I said and hugged him, feeling incredibly lucky and thankful for his presence.

A little while later, I showed up at my house with Sean. My parents and siblings were just as surprised as I was to see Sean. We had lunch. Lori and I still got pedicures, but my mom didn’t come along. Instead, she took the money I would’ve use for a pedicure and got a foot massage. She took Sean with her. He was happy for a massage (and a nap) after a long flight and little sleep. Later, Lori fixed some fudge brownie sundaes. Sean took Adrian’s spot at the Dodger game with me (Adrian was okay with).

I didn’t think my thirtieth birthday would be memorable (aside from the number), but it was thanks to some incredible people.

[Note: For those wondering, Sean didn’t come out the weekend before due to a wedding. I had the same conflict in July during his birthday weekend, which meant I traveled to NY on his birthday and left two days later. Yeah, it gets expensive, but he’s worth it.]


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