Actually, Nastya was planning to celebrate her birthday in town; however man proposes but the boss disposes. The holiday was right in the middle of the vacation, and it was just stupid to while your time away in town. Eventually, there came a decision that what matters is rather care and attention than the number of guests. A voucher was purchased for a stay at a tourist facility – wooden houses dating back to the days of developed socialism and quality of services which advanced not that much from there. The lake, however, fit the bill perfectly, clean, cold and deep, mushrooms in the forest and the sun in early autumn was warm enough to keep you well tanned.
As the party was approaching, Nastya became increasingly nervous, feeling she was supposed to make arrangements as a hostess, even though she hardly had any idea of how to do that beyond her home. But her boyfriend who got the point explained he would tackle the job, and her only responsibility was to look like a million dollars on the party day.
The guests were few – a couple of boyfriend’s mates from the institute, a couple of neighbours staying in the same building, with whom they made friends here at this place, a couple of Nastya’s friends who made their way from town to offer their wishes in person. All of them fit into two boats, and Nastya was not allowed close to the second one – «Surprise-surprise coming». The boat came to a halt, with a gentle dab into the shallow sandy bank, two guys jumped off and dragged the boat out. The second boat stayed not far away. Nastya was sent out for a stroll around the island in the company of her friends as the festive table was supposed to come together. They had nothing to do but have a chat since it was not comfortable to scramble through the woods in a gala skirt and blouse, a bad idea to stay seated on the dirty grass and an attempt at feeding on blackberries led to a dramatic make-up change: well-well, here’s the proper punch-line – I killed and ate somebody … - Nastya’s friend sighed in a quick effort to set the affected lipstick to rights. So when a loud shout from the other end of the island proclaimed everything was sorted out, Nastya was happy not only about the long-expected surprise, but also about the end of tedious waiting.
The surprise indeed worked out well – snow-white cloth, cake and crystal glasses in the middle of the meadow looked brilliant, but even more brilliant was a tremendous bunch of air balloons. Flying high. Rustling and jingling against each other, changing places as if posing in an attempt to look their best under the sunlight which took pains to flash bright, multicolored toys. Oh gosh, how did they manage to foist them in without anybody seeing it? Did they haul them from another part of the island? It’s insane. Here we go, what a true surprise!…
…- Happy birthday! – and she gets a gift-wrapped box – shiny foil, sumptuous bowknot made of the wrapping tape. Nastya grins and grabs it with her right hand. – We wish you everything smooth and simple! – then takes over the balloon ribbons with her left hand which are stiffly throbbing because of the wind gusts. – Enjoy a sweet life! – and she hardly manages to snap her eyes shut as she sees a flying pie heading towards her head. Smack! Nastya gasped and relinquished her hold…
…Nastya was washed, moreover, amid sneers and claps she was even licked over, there came new congratulations, toasts, a new delicious pie – she suspiciously eyed the cutter causing giggles and smirks – there were funny stories, songs and a huge bonfire under the darkening skies, return from the island – tranquil plash of oars and amazingly abundant and bright, non-city-like stars…
- Thanks. It was superb – she dabs a light kiss on the edge of his mouth.
- We tried our best – a kiss flies back – to make it interesting and fun.
- Yeah, it was fun. Pretty much so sometimes, - Nastya snorted.
Kirill began to twitch noiselessly, as he stifled laughter, and then he couldn’t help it and giggled:
- Why, any hard feelings? Well, I apologize. But you had to see how it looked like from the sidelines! This birthday video will definitely be my favourite.
- Well, no, taking into account that you insisted on my poshest ever look, I expected a dirty trick … Not that one, though. I rather thought you’d try and shove me off into the water and was planning to take somebody along…
- So no offence meant?
- Sure. It was fun and sweet.
- But you were clearly distressed …
Nastya sighed and rubbed her nose against his shoulder.
- I wish those balloons hadn’t been off.
- Jeez, is that it?
He left the bed, pushed his legs into the sneakers and headed outside without lacing them. There was a squeak of the alarm behind the window, trunk slammed shut and shortly he re-emerged, a small cylinder in his arms. He put it on the floor, pulled a pack of balloons from his pocket and a ribbon roll and set to work.
Nastya was lying on her stomach, her head on the arms, smiling, watching a violet, star-scattered balloon, growing rapidly amid the helium hiss. Once the neck was about to be inflated, the hissing stopped, he promptly tied the balloon up, attached a slim silver-white ribbon and handed it over to her. The violet one was followed by the green and blue, scarlet and yellow, added with claret-colored, sky-blue, heart-decorated transparent, another two were violet and green again… At that point Nastya lost count…
Once the bunch roughly doubled, Kirill fished a massive balloon out of the bag, which had ended up among the 12-inches God knows how. Nastya excitedly leant forward… Helium hissing, balloon surging rapidly… at first almost black, brightening in progress and changing to dark-green … green… light green… Pssshhh– zing! A rapidly big neck – he was hardly able to hold it on the nozzle, and now the balloon was a tremendous bright bulb, swaying slowly because of air travelling back and forth.
- It’s about to pop, - Nastya warned.
- It is indeed, - he grinned. He pressed it, brief hissing out ….
- The neighbours will be all over the place, - Nastya warned.
- No neighbours here. Let’s go get some more to the neighbouring house. They too have either a birthday party or a funeral banquet … Treats and stuff, to say the least.
Another hiss from the cylinder.
- Wanna see me dead?
- I will raise you up. I’ve got a brilliant knack for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Another hiss… The balloon was hardly bigger which meant it was narrowly close … Nastya half-closed her and eyes and stuck fingers into her ears – the balloons she held rocketed up and hung, with the teasing ribbons beneath.
BANG!!! The clogged ears didn’t help much, the balloon popped with a deafening rumble, scattering minute rags of latex around the room. Kirill hiked up from the floor to the bed, kissed Nastya, grabbed as many ribbons as he could and handed over the flying bouquet.
- Well, now your dearest self must be happy?
- More than somewhat. By the way, it’s been a while since I wanted to tell you something but had no guts to. Then since we are in the middle of it… - Nastya was hesitating - …don’t you happen to know who the looners are?
- No, never heard of it. And who are they?
- See what I tell you.
…the only safe balloon was allowed to go next morning…