The night before my 27th birthday, a funny little feeling that something was up began to niggle. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something in the air. Walking home from an impromptu post-work German session with Silke, I idly looked for SG’S car, wondering if the niggling feeling something was up, was him coming up from Bavaria to surprise me for my birthday (who would have thought it, there is a romantic in me). No car behind our apartment building, but a light on in my bedroom. The niggling increased when I rounded the corner and found my flatmate standing outside our building, looking up at the kitchen window. I asked her what she was doing and she said her boyfriend had bumped into someone’s car whilst parking and then bolted up the stairs ahead of me, clattering about, talking loudly. Said boyfriend was standing in our apartment looking suitably annoyed and holding his phone and my bedroom light was no longer on. I looked at both of them warily and proceeded to my, now dark, bedroom.
In my dark bedroom, I spied a strange bag in my room. It looked vaguely familiar and atop it sat an English book that wasn’t mine. And, the classic giveaway, my bed had been made. I asked my bedroom walls why my bed was made and then I asked my flatmate, who was hovering in my doorway, whose bag was in my room and she said, ‘oh it belongs to a friend of mine who just arrived …’ and as she said this, she performed a sort of dance move and drew back to reveal … one of my best friends from back home, arms outstretched, yelling, naturally, ‘surprise!’
Now, I am a terrible person to surprise. I discovered this last year when my flatmate pulled the first of her Extreme Stealth Surprises by helping Tammy conspire to fly into Münster from Dublin and surprise me in my local pub for my 26th birthday. Far from shrieking, Hollywood style, and leaping into Tammy’s arms, so we could both jump up and down together, I went bright red and sat there like a stoned toad, mouth agape, eyes flooding, whimpering, ‘what are you doing here?’ Eventually Tammy had to say, ‘can you at least act like you know me so people stop thinking I am a major creep.’ It’s not that I wasn’t thrilled – it was that I was too thrilled and obviously, when I am that level of thrilled, disbelief takes over and I can’t move.
When Dee, who I haven’t seen for nearly twenty months, ran into my bedroom, despite my subconscious niggling, despite knowing something was brewing, I had what could have constituted a minor heart attack. I knew something was up – but Dee flying in from Sydney? I sat down. I stood back up. I went bright red. My breathing went funny. I whimpered. I screeched. It was completely, again, un-Hollywood and mildly scary and Dee had to ask me, genuinely, if I was alright. I was. I was just too thrilled to speak. I was blindsided. Flabbergasted. And completely overcome by the sheer amount of love, kindness and generosity it takes to plan a surprise visit of that size, by those on both sides of the globe.
Subsequently (despite coming down with a beastly flu type thing in the middle of my birthday dinner and losing my voice) Dee and I talked rapid-fire for three days straight over kettles of tea and bottles of wine. We skipped through Münster, drank tea and ate cake in one of the city’s sweetest cafes, drank wine at a window seat in a wine bar in Kuhviertl, ate schnitzel at Das Blau Haus and picked over every single detail of the past twenty months we have been living on opposite sides of the world. And then, because it was Friday and because enough red wine had not yet been consumed and there were still moments to dissect and stories to tell, my flatmate suggested we convene at a local haunt for a glass of wine. A couch was found, wine was poured and we got down to business, picking and pulling at stories we had each hitherto only read about in emails.
Halfway through our second glasses, my flatmate’s boyfriend walked in and behind him, casually, SG. SG who, for the past six weeks had been telling me he had to work on the weekend of my birthday party. SG who, once Dee’s plans were cemented, joined forces with the other three conspirators and hatched Surprise #2, the surprise that, after 2 months of planning (them) and 2 months of being blissfully unaware, (me) drew us all together – the best friend over from Sydney, the boyfriend up from Bavaria and my beaming flatmate and her beaming boyfriend. And me, the luckiest girl in the world. And that, dear readers, was how I turned 27.