A Special Birthday
Miranda checked her watch. It was only five minutes past the last time she checked it. “Today is just dragging,” she muttered under her breath. On the surface, the day was just like any other Friday. However, this Friday was special. She and her family were leaving on their week-long vacation to Hawaii that afternoon. Miranda had started planning this trip over a year ago and even though she was the top executive of one of the largest advertising firms in the country, she had very little time with her family. Her career was very demanding, requiring her to work long hours and most weekends.
Recently, she had received hate mail and death threats from radicals protesting their ad and support of a controversial energy company. One more reason Miranda was more than eager to get away for a while. This vacation was a long time coming and she and her family were very excited.
The hours passed excruciatingly slow. She busied herself with answering e-mails, double checking schedules and deadlines and recording her vacation voice mail message. She was looking forward to putting the death threats out of her mind for a while. Miranda’s assistant, Suzann, traipsed back and forth between offices with last minute problems and questions. Always a crisis!
After what seemed an eternity, Miranda was finally prepared to head home. She straightened her desk, shut off the lights and said her good-byes to her staff. “Free at last!” she smiled. At least for a short while! She practically sprinted to the elevator and out the door to her Lexus.
On her commute home, a million thoughts ran through her mind. Like a game board from Jeopardy, she checked off the items from her list one by one, careful to remember that she still had to order the cake and balloons. It was her daughter’s seventh birthday. She had a secret. She and her husband were going to surprise their daughter with a birthday party on the beach before they left Hawaii. This was a special birthday. Miranda planned on giving her daughter the musical jewelry box that her grandmother had given her for her seventh birthday. Miranda’s daughter admired it every day. She would carefully lift the lid and watch the tiny pink ballerina twirl around to the music. Then she would say good-bye to the ballerina and quietly close the lid until the next time.
Much to her surprise and delight, Miranda’s husband, Jake, had finished gathering the family’s bags and loaded them into their Escalade. The children had been fed and were dressed, ready to go to the airport when Miranda arrived home. A quick change of clothes, one last look around to ensure they had everything and they were off! Everyone was so excited! The children’s chatter from the back seat was music to her ears and Miranda smiled contently.
Back at the office, Miranda’s assistant, Suzann, was following up on some last-minute details before leaving for the weekend. She was responsible to field all of Miranda’s calls and return all correspondence in Miranda’s absence. Miranda had never taken a vacation before, so Suzann was a bit nervous to “be in charge”. After answering the last email, Suzann shut down her computer for the evening, straightened her desk and grabbed the pile of messages that could wait for Miranda’s return. Eager to finally be heading home, Suzann opened Miranda’s office door to place the pile on her desk. Before she left, she turned around one last time, admiring Miranda’s beautiful office, hoping one day to make it hers. She let out a long sigh and turned to go, when something under Miranda’s desk caught her eye. She flipped on the light switch to get a better look. As she eased her way toward the desk, she instinctively started to crouch. She turned her head to one side, wondering what she was looking at. As she drew nearer to the object, her heart thumped out of her chest. There, under Miranda’s desk, lay a small box wrapped in brown paper. There were no markings or writing to be seen, only a piece of brown twine tied in a bow. Suzann backed away slowly, intentionally not wanting to disturb this unidentified package. After backing out, she gently closed the office door. She paced back and forth in front of her desk. What should she do? Should she call Miranda? No. She couldn’t ruin the only family vacation she had had in five years. Who should she call first? The Police? The Fire Station? The Bomb Squad? The SWAT team?! “OK, Suzann,” she said out loud. “Pull it together!” She took a deep breath and decided to dial the maintenance department. Surely Joe would know what to do. Her fingers trembled as she dialed his extension. “Pick up!” she muttered. “Pick up!” Finally Joe answered. “Thank goodness you’re still here, Joe!” she bellowed. “Hold on there! Where’s the fire?” Joe laughed. His laughing came to an abrupt halt when Suzann calmed down enough to explain the situation. “I’ll be right up!” Joe reassured her. Thoughts of death threats and protestors kept running through her mind as she waited, what seemed like an eternity, for Joe to arrive. Suzann was still shaking when Joe arrived. Joe opened the office door to get a look at the package in question. He, too, slowly backed away and shut the door. They quickly decided it would be best to call the Police. Surely they would be able to advise them properly.
Joe and Suzann barricaded themselves as far away from Miranda’s office as possible to wait for the Police. In no time at all, in burst a parade of service members; Police officers with dogs, Fire Fighters with axes, the Bomb Squad in full protective gear and the SWAT team securing the perimeter. It was like a scene from an action movie, only it was all too real. There were so many people rushing in, but they were all in sync, moving just like clockwork. The Police officers brought in the bomb sniffing dogs first, as the others prepared for their part in this process. The dogs went right to work, sniffing and searching frantically. They combed the office, not giving the package a second thought. The handlers were puzzled. Perhaps there was a different substance in that box. They still treated the package as dangerous and sent in the Bomb Squad.
Miranda and her family were enjoying the beautiful view from the widows of their plane. How serene it was up here above the clouds, she thought. She was still unaware of the life-threatening situation back at the office and the chaos she left behind. Her mind wandered into the future, seeing their little secret birthday party they had planned for their daughter. How excited she’s going to be! Her heart leapt with joy as she envisioned her daughter’s reaction. A smile arose from the corners of her mouth. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Meanwhile, Suzann’s mind was racing as the First Responders escorted both she and Joe out of the building. What was in the box? Who could have put it there and how did they get past her? She frantically tried to concentrate to recall if she had seen any strangers around earlier. Where there any deliveries she was unaware of? Was she too busy to not have noticed? How was she going to explain it to her boss, who was thousands of miles away?
As the captain of their plane announced that they were approaching the big island of Hawaii, Miranda looked out the window, in awe of its beauty. She couldn’t wait to get down on the pristine beaches. The landing was uneventful, however, she could feel the excitement as everyone filed off the plane. The children, laden with their bags, piled into the taxi van, eager to hit the water. They eventually got to their suite and started unpacking. Miranda was careful to conceal the bag that contained her daughter’s birthday presents. She didn’t want to spoil the surprise after coming this far.
As Suzann waited anxiously outside her office building, she noticed that some of the Emergency personnel were casually packing up their gear. It appeared that they were preparing to leave. What was going on? She didn’t hear an explosion. Had they defused the bomb? She watched nervously. The bomb sniffing dogs were loaded into their cruisers and, just like that, they were gone. The suspense was killing her! Just as she was about to ask someone, an officer strode confidently across the street and approached her. “Miss?” he asked. “Could you come with me, please?” She felt a lump in her throat as she quietly followed the officer. Across the street and onto the elevator to the tenth floor they went. “Excuse me, Sir,” she stammered. “I don’t understand.” “If you could accompany me into the office, I think we can clear this up,” he said with a smirk on his face. Suzann did as she was asked. There, on Miranda’s desk was the suspicious brown package. Its wrapper and bow had been carefully removed. The officer took her by the arm and led her closer to reveal the contents. She peered over the edge into the box, expecting to see all sorts of gadgets and wires. She gasped at what she saw.
Miranda’s husband, Jake, had taken the children down to the pool to expend some of their pent up energy. Miranda used this opportunity to unpack the bag containing her daughter’s birthday presents. Her heart sank when she realized that the most precious gift was not there. She couldn’t find the musical jewelry box that her grandmother had given her. Her thoughts turned back to the days leading up to their departure. Frantically, she tried to recall where it could be. She was very much looking forward to passing it down to her daughter on this special birthday. What did she do with it?
Suzann stood there, in Miranda’s office, staring into the mysteriously suspicious brown box she had discovered earlier that day. She didn’t know what to say. She looked at the officer in disbelief. Was this really happening? “I, um. I’m, uh…” she stammered. The officer’s face softened. “It’s OK,” he said. "I’m glad you called us. Better safe than sorry.” Suzann couldn’t believe what the Emergency personnel revealed when they meticulously disassembled this package. There, in the box, sat a small white musical jewelry box with pink flowers painted on all sides. Upon opening the box, a tiny pink ballerina, in all her glory, popped up, twirling to the music. Little did Miranda know, that forgetting to pack her daughter’s birthday gift, would be cause for so much excitement.