Elizabeth smiled as she watched her husband and daughter fuss over the cutting of the cake, Emily protesting loudly as John swiped a stray blob of chocolate icing. “Dad, knock it off!”
“What, you mean this?” Quick as lightning, he scooped up another fingerful and, grinning, globbed it onto her nose, earning a shriek and a punch to the arm. “Come on, Em, why are you playing with your food? People are waiting for cake, let’s go!”
Emily growled at her father with a mock glare but dutifully put a slice of cake on a plate.
Elizabeth laughed, then started in surprise as a pair of arms wrapped themselves around her shoulders.
“Happy Birthday, Mom,” said Connor warmly in her ear.
Elizabeth placed a fond hand on her son’s arm, basking in the affection and wondering bittersweetly when he’d gotten so tall. Wasn’t it only a blink ago that she’d had to kneel down to look him in the eyes? Quite a few birthdays had passed since those days.
Emily paraded over with the cake and presented it with a ‘ta-da’. It had been a joint effort with her friend Rachel, and her green eyes were eager as she handed over the plate. “Happy Birthday, Mom.”
Elizabeth gave all due praise as she ate — it really was very good cake — and was almost through with the slice when she noticed John skulking about with one hand suspiciously behind his back. Warmth — a rush of endorphins that had nothing to do with the chocolate —spread from the pit of her stomach to the top of her head. She had never found out exactly what had prompted him to find out her birthday that first year, to give her that first gift. But after all these years… She met his eyes and smiled. He hadn’t missed one yet.
Birthdays are always a big deal in the Sheppard household, but especially Elizabeth’s. ❤️
Sparky + teen kids Connor and Emily