Surrounded by family and friends, Nathan Hanson eyed eighteen candles flickering on the cake in front of him.
“Happy birthday, Nathan,” his mother said. “Make a wish.”
Nathan thought about this for a minute before he blew out the flames.
His father pulled a set of car keys from his pocket and handed them to Nathan.
Bemused, Nathan stared at his father. “What are these for?”
“Go look out front.”
Nathan gripped the keys in his hand and dashed out the door. A cherry red 1969 Ford Mustang Mach One was parked in the driveway out front. Nathan’s jaw hit the ground. “Are you serious?”
“Happy birthday, Son.”
“Oh, sweet! Thanks, Dad.”
“Why don’t you take it for a spin?”
Nathan gazed at his girlfriend with an enticing smile. “Wanna go for a ride?”
She nodded, full of anticipation.
He unlocked the car and presented his hand to her, helping her ease into the passenger seat.
Once she was secured, Nathan walked around to the opposite side of the car. He sat in the driver’s seat and revved up the engine, letting the car idle for a minute so he could hear it purr. “Listen to that engine, Gab.”
“I can’t believe your dad bought you a car.”
“My dad is awesome.” He gripped the steering wheel with one hand and held Gabriella’s hand with the other. Then he glanced over his shoulder, backed out of the driveway, and drove down the street.
“You’re so lucky your dad is a doctor,” Gabby remarked.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because you and your family go on cool vacations, you live in a nice house, and your parents bought you a car for your birthday. They do all kinds of things for you.”
“Your mom does things for you too.”
Gabby shook her head and snorted. “Not like your parents do.”
He signaled to turn right, checked the rearview mirror, and switched lanes. “She sends you to cheer camp. That counts.”
Gabby’s despondency led Nathan to believe something was bothering her. “What’s the matter?”
Not wanting to burden him with her problems, she stared at her hands with a dejected expression on her face.
Nathan pulled into the closest parking lot and put the car in park. He turned to face her, insistent that she talk to him. “What’s wrong?”
Gabby sighed. “My mom lost her job, and she pretty much told me she won’t be able to pay for any of my college expenses. Either I live off loans and work my way through school or I don’t go.”
“When did she lose her job?”
“Last week. And she refuses to let me work. Aside from my college problem, I don’t have any money to get a dress for the winter dance, so I won’t be able to go.”
Offering support, he took both of her hands in his. “We will get you a dress. That is not a big deal.”
“Of course. There is no way I’m going without you.”
Those were the exact words she wanted to hear. “Thank you.”
“We’ll figure it out. We always do.” He drew her closer and tenderly kissed her on the lips.