There were many truths in this life, Tobias decided as he knotted his tie for the evening. Death comes to all, taxes must be paid, and fortieth birthdays were a reason for one's friends to buy nice wine, make lavish cakes, and throw dinner parties. Forty-first birthdays, on the other hand, went unremarked upon by all but one's nearest and dearest. As he had cards from a few friends and a message from Phan, he thought he'd just about exhausted the expected well wishes.
But turning forty-one did not mean he was dead or unable to make his own fun. He'd made his arrangements for the evening, planning with as much detail as he could-which, admittedly, wasn't much. He knew what to wear for his mood; he knew where he'd go and what he'd eat; he knew what he wanted. But there were an amazing number of variables at play, more than he usually allowed.
He was thinking about that as he straightened his dinner jacket and pocketed his keys. It was a highly planned evening of spontaneity that lay ahead of him, the novelty of which made him smile. Perhaps letting the fates blow once in a while was a good thing. In any case, he'd find out shortly; the worst he could do was have an evening of fine dining and a bottle of wine. The best would be far, far better, but it was rare to find exactly what he sought.
Tobias ran a comb through his hair one last time as he waited for his car, the light in the entry to his condo making the few stray silver hairs shine among the darker brown. Forty-one wasn't too old, he decided. It was a fine age to be, the height of his success and skill. He lacked for nothing, really.
Only someone to share his birthday with.
The phone rang and he pushed the thought away, startled to realize it wasn't the house phone signaling his car, but his landline. "Dr. Vincent," he said as he answered. God, he hoped it wasn't an emergency-he really wasn't dressed to have a lamb be born, or to nurse a horse through colic.
"Good evening, Doctor, I'm sorry to call like this. I'm sure you have plans," came the smooth and cheerful voice of his elderly housekeeper.
"Oh, Mrs. Miller, hello. I do, yes-I'm just on my way out, but I have a few minutes." He smiled to himself ruefully; he would talk for as long as the lady decided, and he knew it. No matter how successful he got or how many birthdays he had, there would always be Mrs. Miller to defer to.
"I'm merely calling to wish you a happy birthday," she said, "and to ask if you'll be out to the farm this weekend."
Tobias' smile grew. "Thank you, Mrs. Miller, that's really very kind of you. And yes, I'm planning to drive out tomorrow afternoon until Monday."
"Should I tell Peter not to come then, or would you like him to exercise the horses?"
"No, I'll do it," he decided. It was one of the best things about going to the country, and he wouldn't happily pay someone to do it for him when he was there. The house phone buzzed at him, two shorts. "Thank you again, Mrs. Miller."
"I'll see you tomorrow, Doctor," she said, and he could picture her grinning. "Enjoy your evening."
"I hope to," he said with a smile. He hung up, buzzed the front desk, and headed to his club.