Elizabeth Draper lifted her second glass of red wine to her lips, ringing in another birthday – but this one had an aura of loneliness to it. Her father Gene made his traditional birthday call to her earlier that day, and the children were more than willing to celebrate with her during the day. The biggest difference was – Betty stole a furtive look at the clock to make sure – was that her husband wasn't with her. The grandfather clock in the living room rang out that it was 10 o'clock in the evening.
Betty walked through the house with her glass in her hand. She still couldn't believe that she lived in a country home with Don and the children for the past seven months. The house still seemed so big with two floors, three bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, living room, den, and an office for Don. The idea seemed amazing several months ago, with Don and Betty both agreeing that raising the children in Manhattan would be less than ideal. The solution was to move the family to a suburban area as soon as possible – where the children could benefit from good schools, a backyard to play in, and a safe neighborhood to grow up in.
Betty sauntered back to the dining room, which had been meticulously decorated with an arrangement of flowers, candles, and a delicious chocolate cake in the middle. She had hoped that her husband would be home some time tonight to celebrate with her, as he had every year since their marriage. His five o'clock phone call, explaining that he was going to be working very late in the city dampened her birthday spirits, yet she tried not to show it over the phone. She knew that he was doing all of this for her, to provide for her and the children, and she didn't want to seem ungrateful to the man who was doing so much.
With a heavy sigh, Betty sliced a thick slice of cake for herself, taking lady like bites with her dessert fork. He'll be here tomorrow, but it's not the same, Betty thought to herself. She was quickly beginning to learn how lonely life in the suburbs could be, away from the constant hustle and bustle of the city, the shops, the restaurants, and the activity. She found a majority of the neighbors friendly enough, yet Betty still ached for the fast paced life that she had grown to love. The children occupied plenty of her time during the day, and she loved spending time with them, but it was never a substitute for adult contact.
Betty reached for the wine bottle, working her way on glass number three. The bottle would be one third empty by the time Don came home that night – if he ever came home that night at all. Betty pressed her fingers to her temples, recalling yet another less than complimentary conversation with her father over her choice in husband. Though he seemed pleased that his son-in-law was providing a 'proper home' for his little princess, he was unhappy with the fact that she was so far away.
Nursing what was her fourth glass of wine, Betty took a seat at the well-decorated dining room table, filled with plenty of food for two. The clock struck eleven, reminding Betty of her loneliness and what was going to be a broken promise. Resting her head in her hands, she was seeing for the first time the other side of her husband's success – where she would be alone with the kids while he kept his freedom in New York.
Betty was fast asleep when the front door unlocked and clicked shut behind her. Don Draper sauntered quietly into the room, well aware of the fact that it was close to midnight. What was going to be a simple planning session for a new client turned into a several hour marathon of ideas and recycled pieces of paper. I'd rather be here with you, Don thought to himself, examining his wife passed out in the chair. He didn't know whether to carry her up to bed or let her sleep it off. Don clicked his tongue as he took in the feast in front of him. He had promised her that he would be home tonight, and hated having to call to tell her differently, not even knowing when he was going to be home. Don spent plenty of nights away from the house – away from her, but he had promised to make the exception tonight – the one night of the year that was intended for her.
Don took a seat in the chair next to Betty, brushing his hand over her forehead. She looked more beautiful than ever before, if that was even possible. Don knew better than to remind Betty of her age, but he still saw the beautiful model that he fell in love with years earlier.
"Hmm," Betty moaned, feeling Don's touch on her body.
"Happy Birthday," Don whispered, kissing her hand.
"D-Don," Betty said sleepily, attempting to sit up. Don braced his hand at the small of her back. "How are you?" she asked softy.
"Sorry and exhausted," Don mused. "I can't believe you went to all of this work and I missed it."
"It was just dinner," Betty said, reaching for her wine glass.
"I told you that I would be home." Don took a bite of his now cold beef. "You know I would have chosen you tonight, right?"
Betty nodded her head. "The important thing is that you're here now," she said helpfully. "How was work?"
Don shook his head. "We can talk about work tomorrow – tonight we are celebrating your birthday."
Betty offered her husband a shy smile. "It's just another day," she said quietly.
Don lifted a package out of his briefcase. "Hopefully this will make it a little bit better."
Betty took the brown box from her husband and lifted the lid. "Don," Betty gasped, looking at a strand of pearls resting on blue velvet.
"I only wish they were real," Don said quietly, lifting the strand out of the box and placing it around her neck.
"They're perfect," Betty insisted.
"Next year they will be," Don assured her.
Betty placed a kiss on Don's mouth. "How can I ever thank-you?" she teased, nuzzling his neck.
Don whispered something into Betty's ear as he chased her up the stairs. There were a few minutes left to Betty's birthday, and they were going to spend it together, which is all they both really wanted.