Midnight Birthday

The rain falls hard out side, but I continue getting ready for my walk. It is eleven o’clock. My father snores upstaits and my mother dreams beside him. It is a normal night. They know I go out late everynight. I have been for the last two years. I put my jacket on and reach for the umbrella beside the door. I stop and reconsider. What do I need an umbrella for? I love the rain. Quietly I open the door, step outside and close it behind me. The cold air rushes over me. I shiver lightly.

I begin to walk slowly down the street through the curtain of rain. I love the quiet street at this time of night. It’s much nicer with stars of course, but rain is always me second choice. I pass a stray dog the neighbours and I have named Lumiere. It’s coat is a beautifel golden color. He walks up to me and licks my right hand. I get down on my knees and pet his head. I stand up and continue down the street with Lumiere at my side. As I near the little café on the corner, a block away from my home, a man emergese from its doors. It is Monsieur Laroux. He always keeps his café open until midnight. As I near him he waves. I wave back. Lumiere runs up to M. Laroux and barks playfully.
“Quietly Lumiere,” he says. “We say hello quietly this late at night. You don’t want the neighbourhood waking up do you?”
“Goodevening, Monsieur,” I say. “Or if you wish to be technical, goodmorning.”
“Evening would be my choise m’dear,” he answers. “I never was a very technical fellow. But I must run. My wife expects me home. She has made a midnight supper for me.”
“Sweet woman,” I remark. “Give Madame my regards.”
“M. Laroux gives me a parting nod and starts toward his home. I begin my walk again down the dimly lit Paris streets. I just notice the rain has subsided to a light drizzle. Lumiere stops and begins to growl at the black entrance of a small alley. I see nothing there. I hear a bell chime once somewhere in the city. My eyes wander to the sindow of a little show behind me. Lumiere still growls but I take no notice, it’s probably just a cat.
In the shop window I see a child’s vest. It is brown and made from fine cloth, so it seems. There are three silver buttons on the front. It is made with admerable craftsmanship.
“Would you buy a fan, Madamoiselle Deschêne?” a voice in the alleyway asks. I turn, look down and see a boy of no more than ten standing before me. A beautiful red fan is in his hand. Inotice the three buttons missing on his vest.
“Well Feuilly,” I say to the boy, “I believe I shall have to buy this fan from you.”
He smiles. He knew I would. Every week I buy a fan from him. I have been since I first started my walks. Over a hundred fans I have bought from this little orphan.
“I have made another special for you,” Feuilly says. “What do you think?”
I open the fan and see my name written in black letters on one side. A tear comes to my eye.
\“It’s the best one so far!” I answer. I toss Feuilly five francs. He catches them gracefully in one hand. “Very nice!”
\“Merci Janet.”
Feuilly begins to skip away. Suddenly I remember the vest in the window.
“Feuilly.” He turns. “Do you have a birthday?”
“No,” he answers quietly. “I don’t know the day I was born on.”
“Perhaps we should give you one?”
His eyes twinkle. A smile appears on his face.
“Oh yes,” he says. “I would like thatvery much!”
“What day would you like?” He shrugs. I think for a moment. “How about in two days, friday. That would be exactly two years since I met you. May tenth. How does that sound?”
Feuilly beams and nods his head. I laugh as he hugs Lumiere. The dog licks his face.
“Very well then,” I say. “I will see you next on your birthday. Tomorrow I must meet a friend at the Seine.”
“Merci Janet.” Feuilly’s voice is filled with excitement. I wait until he disappears back into the alleyway before I turn and head home. Lumiere has followed Feuilly. I smile and think of how Feuilly will look on his first birthday. It takes me about an hour to get home. When I arrive it is almost three o’clock. Quietly I enter my home and get ready for bed. As I drift off to sleep I imagine the fan Feuilly has made for me. I wonder where he learned to write. Now my mind clears and I move into my dreams.

It is clearer tonight than it was lastnight. My friend and I had a short meeting becuase the rain had been pouring down so hard. But tonight I can see stars. As I close the door behind me I am careful not to catch the wrapped box I carry in the doorway. I move quickly down the street tonight. I am anxious. Strangly I don’t see Lumiere as I near M. Laroux’s café. M. Laroux has closed early tonight. I pass a couple, newly weds by the look of them. They have their arms around each other. As I pass them they nod hello to me, but still seem distracted by each other. I look up into the sky and see the full moon. The lover’s moon, as my father has told me. I walk alittle slower now, distracted myself with the romantic atmosphere. I trip on some stones and stumble back into reality. I laugh at myself. I finally reach the alley where I always meet Feuilly. He is not here yet. I sit on a bench a few feet from the little shop where I found the vest. I hum songs my mother has taught me while I wait. It has been about half an hours since I arrived here. I hear someone coming.
“Bonjour Janet!” Feuilly says as he runs toward me. I open my arms to hug him.
“Happy birthday Monsieur Feuilly,” I say and he sits down beside me. I hand him the present I have carried with me. He looks at me with surprise and wonder. Hastily he rips the paper off the box. He opens it and pulls out the vest with the three silver buttons.
“Wow,” Feuilly exclaims. “Hey it even has my name on it.”
“Yes, I stiched it on there myself,” I explain as I run my hand over the black letters on the right side of the vest. “You like then, hmm?”
“Like it?!” he says. “I love it! It’s the nicest thing I’ve ever gotten! Merci Janet!”
“You’re welcome Feuilly,” I answer. “Have you seen Lumiere?”
“No,” feuilly answers. He looks around as if just realizing the dog isn’t here. “I haven’t seen him at all.”
“Maybe he has found a home,” I suggest. That seems to ease Feuilly’s mind. He puts the vest on.
“I’m sorry Janet but I must go. Javier is waiting for me.”
“Very well,” I say and kiss his forehead. “Happy birthday Feuilly, and sweet dreams. And you look very handsome!”
“Merci Janet,” he answers with a hug. He jumps off the bench and runs toward the alley. I wave as he disappears into the dark.
I stand up and begin to walk home. I walk slowly, I want to have time to think. I wonder briefly how long I will continue my walks. I wonder what will become of Feuilly in a few years. I reach into my pockey and pull out the red fan I recieved two days before. I open it and smile at my name. A rat scurries across my path and into a hole in a wall. Lumiere would have chased it. I hope the poor dog is okay. Perhaps he has found a home. The thought crosses my mind that perhaps it is some worse fate that has fall on the dog. No, Lumiere will show up, he always does. I remember this is Feuilly’s day and I think of happier things. I smile remembering the look of the young boys face when he opened his present. He is like a little brother to me. I walk up to my door and open it. Inside, my father is snoring. My mother has left the kitchen candle burning. I walk in and blow it out. Stealthly I creep to my room. I dress quietly and sit on my bed. I place the red fan on my side table . I lay down and cover myself in my blanket.
I hear a bell chime twice out side my window. I close my eyes and smile. I have never seen Feuilly so happy. I think that he will be okay.

The End

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