The room dripped in signs of love or affluence, both of which were certain to register with the expected guests. Pink and blue balloons hung in the corners of the room, gathered together with curls of long silver ribbons. Vases of fresh flowers were spaced every three seats, tastefully arranged by the best florist in town.
Two tables covered in light pink and baby blue cloths formed an L shape against adjoining walls with a massive bouquet of flowers adorning each table center. One table held a sheet cake outlined in delicate pink sugar flowers and candy gem centers with a scrolling “congratulations” across the middle; bowls of nuts and mints were nearby a plate of fresh-out-of-the-oven croissants, a dish of neatly cubed fruit and a white, fluffy dip. A crystal bowl of pink punch with a matching ladle and punch glasses completed the spread.
The remaining table was only clear of its contents temporarily as with each guest a new package or container would be placed until it was full, like the collection plate by the end of a church service. Offerings for the future bought peace of mind for the present by the givers. Beautiful wrapping paper and ribbons would soon be torn open and tossed aside to reveal yet another onesie or pack of diapers and wipes.
Yet, the chairs with their white linen covers were still empty, the punch melted, the croissants deflated and the flowers wilted.
When the warning sirens sounded and there was suddenly no time to celebrate or to refrigerate the perishables. There was no chance to return the gifts or recycle the cards, already marked with personalized messages of luck and advice for the future. The same future that once seemed so unlimited was now on a drastically shortened timeline with the news of a missile, expected to strike within the city limits.
Still the pink and blue balloons floated in the corners, bravely announcing the joy of new life during a time of utter confusion and darkness.