October 22, 4:45 am. After a difficult night’s sleep due to a car alarm going off in the middle of the night and blaring for 3 hours, it is finally time to get up. I have been told to pack a bag for 5 days the night before.
“We are going away for your birthday and you can’t know where.”
After a quick shower, we pull our suitcases out the door and into the chilly night. Never before had I packed without a destination in mind. The instructions were clear : the weather will be similar to London.
“Are we taking a plane or a train?” I ask, hinting that Honolulu is nice this time of year.
“It’ll be the train.” he says, “We’re departing from Euston.”
We catch the bus to the Jubilee Line and venture underground where the air is warmer and the tube surprisingly busy at 5:30 am. He is sleepy and quiet, I am wide awake and excited. We eat a tangerine in silence and share a knowing smile. He is smirking.
“Does the Eurostar count as train?”
“Okay then. Is it Cardiff?”
“Somewhere I’ve been before?”
“Maybe… but not with me.”
“We’ve only been to Dublin!”
“Well it’s not Dublin.”
We get off at London Bridge and drag ourselves up the stairs to the Northern Line.
“I think I know.”
He chuckles. “No you don’t.”
“There’s only so many cities in the UK, you know I will eventually guess right?!”
He shrugs. I have always loved surprises and he knows it. I may badger him but deep down, I’d rather remain in the dark for as long as possible. A frustratingly sweet feeling!
“I wish we were travelling from King’s Cross. Then we could pretend we’re going to Hogwarts.”
“Trust me. You’ll like it.”
He’s good. Secretive and mischievous with a smirk that suits the playful twinkle in his eyes. Given his certitude, I suggest Honolulu again. Maybe we are taking the train to the airport…?
The Northern Line seems to take forever. My least favourite line after the Central Line with its infamous Bank station. We have gotten a seat and are both yearning for a morning coffee. I picture Euston station and sigh at the realisation there are no good coffee shops there. It’ll just have to be Patisserie Valerie with its disappointing flat whites and pathetic, wannabe French tartelettes.
We stop at Angel and a couple climbs on with two suitcases. I wonder if she knows where they are going. How boring it seems now – knowing your destination.
Two more stops to Euston and the big revelation. I try to visualise the boards with their destinations but it is all a blur and nothing exciting pops up. How is he so sure of himself?
The tube announcement echoes in the carriage.
This station is King’s Cross St Pancras. Change here for Circle and Hammersmith, Metropolitan, Piccadilly and Victoria lines and mainline intercity, suburban and international rail.
“This is us.” he stands up and smirks.
Before I know it, I’m on the platform, dragging my suitcase towards the escalators. He remains silent and always, that smirk on his face.
“You liar! So we are going from King’s Cross?
We climb on the escalator and he finally spills the beans.
“I am not the only one who has kept this a secret.”
I turn to him.
“Your best friend knows too because we are going to Paris and we’re staying at hers!”
I squeal and spin around like a child who has just been given permission to go inside the playground. Apparently, I also forget about my suitcase which he takes over as we reach the top of the escalator.
Ensues a series of disbelief, happy dances and craziness which I will spare you because you can probably guess my reaction.
“Happy birthday!” he says and the smirk is gone, transformed into a loving smile I can’t quite describe with an epithet.
And a happy birthday it was.