Chapter 17
The rest of "Once Upon a Dream" may be found in CABB's Tunnel Tales

Love Slave

Catherine hated being sick. She hated the aches and pains; she hated the lack of energy; she hated being cooped up; but most of all, she hated being away from her tunnel family.

The flu was going around the city with a vengeance and, once she realized that she was coming down with it, she retreated to the house Above to try and prevent infecting those Below. What really made her mad was the fact that it could have been prevented.

With her assistance, Peter had been able to provide vaccine for the tunnel community, but she’d been in court the day of the immunizations and had never gotten around to getting her shot. As she shivered and sneezed, she knew that the oversight was, subconsciously, intentional. She’d disliked injections all of her life and now she was suffering the consequences.

Though the vaccine should protect them, she had still wanted to isolate herself as an extra precaution. The remembrances of the epidemic Below and Ellie's death weighed on her mind. The cold and damp of the tunnels were a perfect breeding ground for infection and being apart was a small price to pay for everyone's health.

She looked around and shook her head. It wasn't as if she was relegated to substandard conditions. Many people would kill to live in a lovely home such as hers -- it was bright, warm and comfortable, with all of the modern conveniences. And here she was sulking because she wasn't far below the city in, as Devin would say, a hole in the ground. Her face took on a wistful smile . . . but that hole in the ground was home.

She took a sip of tea and tucked the blanket around her legs. Most of the aches had gone and her fever had broken four days ago. Her main problem was her lack of energy. Peter had instructed her to stay at home and rest for at least a week once the fever broke. Trying to do too much too soon would cause a relapse that could be worse than the original illness. He had enlisted Vincent's support, and she’d reluctantly agreed to the restrictions to ease her husband's worry.

Vincent had stayed with her through the worst of it but had resumed his duties Below at her insistence. His love was her strength, and he didn't have to be physically present for her to feel that glorious warmth. She sent her love and appreciation through the bond to reassure him that she was all right as she settled in for an afternoon of reading.

Jenny Aronson had brought her a stack of books, saying that studying legal briefs was not 'relaxing'. With her tea and her tissues, she snuggled on the large sofa and picked up the first book on the stack. An hour later she began to wonder about her friend. This was not the type of material that Jenny usually provided and was not a book to be added to Father's library. She gave an unladylike snort. Father would have a stroke if he read this!

Feeling warm, she kicked the blanket away from her legs and loosened her robe. She was tempted to add some ice to her tea to help cool herself off. The steamy story full of kinky sex shocked her, but she found herself unable to put the book down. The author's descriptions were erotically explicit but well written. Catherine found herself becoming the dominatrix in the story, a thought that made her laugh at its absurdity. Kinky stuff was definitely not her cup of tea -- though some people might consider she and Vincent together kinky in itself.

Though not into sadism, with a little modification some of the ideas she was reading about could be very interesting. Pleasurable fantasies floated through her aroused mind. The titillation she felt as she lost herself in the story was heightened by the abstinence which had been forced on her by illness -- another reason she hated being sick. Now that she was recuperating, the lack of physical release was making itself felt. She was like a pressure cooker and this book was the fire. A little more heat and she was going to explode.

She closed her eyes and imagined Vincent's claws scraping lightly against her skin. She felt the soft velvet of his fur; she smelled the heady musk of his scent. As she sank into these hedonistic imaginings, a jolt through the bond brought her back to reality. She sent a heartfelt apology to her mate, realizing that her carnal musings had visited themselves on him through their connection. Though she was truly sorry, she giggled under her breath . . . well at least he knew she was feeling better.

Pleasurable fantasies floated through her mind, and a plan took shape. A delicious glow filled her once again, but she was careful to project only joy and love, laced with a little excitement. She relaxed against the cushions, falling asleep as she enjoyed her daydreams.

She awoke to a much darker room and tried to see the time on the mantle clock to determine how long she had slept. A movement from the large chair caught her attention. Her eyes were drawn to the sight of Vincent reading in the glow of the firelight and the candles he had lit around the room.

He must have sensed her waking. He carefully closed the book and came to sit on the floor beside the sofa. She smiled and brushed a strand of golden hair away from his face. His large hand enclosed hers and held it against his cheek. Slowly, he turned his head to softly kiss her palm. The thrill caused by that simple gesture sent a tingling to her very core and reignited her passions of the afternoon. A flush rose to her cheeks as she squelched the emotions generated by the memories.


Still smiling, her fingers lightly brushed his face, that beautiful face that she loved above all others. Her fingertip traced his lips and, as it lingered on his distinctive cleft, he gently took it into his mouth, sucking it slightly. Entranced, she watched the movement of his lips against her finger. The tingling sensation intensified; her lips parted and she found it hard to breathe.

Her smoky grey eyes finally broke free of the hypnotic rhythm of his mouth and panned up to the blue of his eyes. She had expected passion but was surprised to find . . . amusement. Her erotic reverie broken, she stared at him. He removed her finger from his lips and kissed her hand.

"It's been an interesting day." His laughing eyes were filled with love. "And you're still unwell . . . though decidedly better."

She dropped her eyes as a blush colored her cheeks. "It's all Jenny's fault . . . well not all Jenny's fault, it's partially your fault too." His head gave a questioning tilt as she looked up at him. "Well, if you weren't so damned sexy, I wouldn't be so horny, and Jenny's book wouldn't have affected me as much as it did."

As she sat up, she looked around for the book. Not finding it beside her, she glanced at the table and realized that Jenny's book was the one Vincent had been reading while she was asleep.

"It is a very . . . interesting . . . book. Do you read literature of this type often?"

She laughed and shook her head. "No, in fact I didn't think Jenny did either. It must have just been in a stack from work. She certainly knows that we don't need this type of material . . . and I use the word material as it certainly isn't literature."

"Do people actually do these types of things?" Vincent was genuinely curious.

"Oh, yes. In fact this is fairly tame. I don't understand the pleasure in hurting someone or being hurt; but, as long at both parties are consenting adults, to each his own. But it did give me an idea for a birthday present." She cocked her eyebrows and gave him a devilish grin.

"For you, or for me?" he queried, tentatively.

"For me . . . but it would actually be for you too."

Having read part of the book that was the inspiration for her idea, Vincent's apprehension swept over her.

She giggled. "Don't worry, you'll enjoy it." There was no feeling of reassurance evident in their connection.


Catherine had been planning her birthday celebration for weeks. Fully recovered from her illness, she pursued her scheme with the tenacity normally given to her work.

The first decision was locale. Their chamber couldn't be used as there wouldn't be enough time to prepare without Vincent seeing it. The house would work but she wanted privacy and she hated to feel like she was running Frank and Colleen out of their home. She decided that their cove was the perfect choice -- she could ensure secrecy and privacy.

The route to the cove was fairly well hidden and, to the best of her knowledge, only she, Vincent, Devin and Cullen knew of it's location. Shortly before the honeymoon, Devin had installed a grilled door to block off the tunnel and had enlisted Cullen's assistance. He’d selected Cullen after learning of his reticence and his affection for Vincent. By changing the lock, Catherine could ensure that Vincent wouldn't innocently stumble upon her preparations.

Once the location was chosen, she turned her attention to the other props for her fantasy. Food, decor, clothing -- they all received her full consideration. Little packages and boxes appeared and disappeared from their chamber without a word from Vincent. Luckily, the furnishings that he had moved to the grotto for their honeymoon were still there, so no heavy lifting would be required and no one else would have to be involved in her plan.


The morning of her birthday, she awoke to the smell of French Vanilla coffee and apple muffins. She opened her eyes to find Vincent holding a mug in front of her face, teasing her nose with its aroma. Coffee was a luxury Below due to its cost, and Catherine had taken to tea, cocoa or cider except when Above.

She propped herself up against the pillows and Vincent set the breakfast tray on her lap.

"Breakfast in bed, this is a treat." She closed her eyes and inhaled the delicious aromas. "But first . . ." Her eyes slowly opened and caught his gaze. No words were necessary to make clear her request. Carefully, so as not to upset the tray, he leaned forward and kissed her.

"Happy Birthday, my love." His husky voice sent chills through her as she was awash in his love. "Will you tell me now what I may give you for your gift?" His eyes sparkled at her. She had refused to tell him about her plan, not even a hint, until her birthday.

"I want you to be my love slave."

He nuzzled her ear. "I already am," he murmured.

"No. I mean that you are to fulfill my wishes, obey my every command, do only what I tell you to do. Are you willing?"

She gave him a mischievous look and could feel the trepidation building in him. Sending him love and calm through their connection, she saw a tug at the corners of his glorious mouth.

"I would give my life for you; therefore, your wish is my command." He kissed her hand in supplication.

She broke off a piece of muffin with her other hand and popped it in his mouth.

"Then I'll see you at our cove at seven. Remember, total obedience."


While Vincent was trying to concentrate on his normal duties, Catherine spent most of her birthday Above. She, Lena and Olivia took their four children to the brownstone and spent the day in the backyard. It was a beautiful, warm day and the children could play outside in safety while the three women had a pleasant visit.

Lena and Joe had been seeing each other for several months and the relationship seemed to be going well. She’d told him of her past and it didn't matter to him at all, just as Cathy had suspected. Cathy told her friend several 'Joe' stories, and they all cringed as she described the chocolate cheese things he used to eat. Cathy was content to see both of her friends so happy.

In the afternoon, Olivia and Lena took the children back to the home chambers. Catherine had errands to run and last minute preparations to take care of for her birthday celebration. Returning to the brownstone from her errands, she showered and dressed before returning Below. She bypassed the more inhabited area and headed directly for the cove. Searching the bond, she could tell that Vincent was still working in a different area of the tunnels and sent him her love.

At seven she was prepared. She could feel Vincent approaching and breathed deeply to calm herself. With all of the preparations for the ambiance, the rest of the evening was more or less unplanned and she hoped it would go well. She’d come up with various ideas as to what she wanted to do but had no start-to-finish script, figuring that she would improvise.

She looked around to make sure that everything was as she wished. The grotto was filled with flowers and candles; a brazier was lit to remove any chill from the air; the bed was ready with silk sheets and a satin comforter; the food was prepared and near the blanket and cushions that she had arranged for eating; and soft music was playing from a tape recorder.

Vincent arrived and Catherine heard his breath catch as he saw the grotto. She turned and walked seductively toward him, causing another catch of breath. The dress she was wearing looked as if it might be from ancient Greece or Rome, or at least a Hollywood depiction of that time. It had thin straps on her shoulders and was very low cut in both front and back, fastening up the front with small ties. The fabric was sheer, though not quite see-through and flowed against her naked body as she walked.

Vincent managed to find his voice. "I'm here to do your bidding, to obey your every command, fulfill your every desire."

He removed his cloak and her heart skipped a beat. He had dressed in the ruffled shirt that she loved and his long legs were encased in suede trousers and thigh-high boots. He was a vision, but as gorgeous as he was, the outfit didn't go with her evening.

"You look magnificent, but your outfit for the evening is in the dressing area." She pointed to the screened off smaller cave that served as their bathroom facilities.

He nodded his head and went to change. He had barely disappeared from view when she heard him call out, "Catherine, you seem to have forgotten part of my costume."

She smiled as she responded that everything he was to wear was hanging on the hook.

"Catherine, I can't wear this."

"Every command. Every desire. Remember, you are my love slave."

There was silence from the dressing area, and she could feel resignation through the bond. Reluctantly he emerged, and she found that she had to concentrate on breathing. She could tell that he was embarrassed but let her feelings of excitement and passion engulf him. He was incredible, standing there in nothing but gold bikini trunks and a sleeveless robe, open down the front.

She led him to the blanket and settled herself in the cushions, indicating that he was to sit beside her. Displayed before them was caviar, fresh fruits, cheese, shrimp, raw vegetables and little meatballs. There was melted chocolate for dipping the fruit as well as whipped cream. A bottle of champagne was cooling in a bucket of ice.

At her direction, he poured the champagne. As he handed her the glass, her hand jostled his and the sparkling wine sloshed over the rim, falling on her bare skin and running down between her breasts. She looked at him with sternness.

"What a clumsy slave you are. You must clean this up." As he reached for a napkin she continued, "No, not like that. You must lick it up."

His eyes flashed as she untied the top ribbons on her robe. She lay back and he could see the rivulet of wine as it trickled down her creamy skin. Obediently, he caught the drops of liquid with his tongue and traced their path up through the valley of her breasts, making sure that every sparkling drop was removed. She nodded her approval.

Then she indicated that he should feed her. He offered a wedge of cheese and her lips enclosed his fingertips as well as the food, sucking lightly on his claws, her tongue rubbing across the pads. She smiled as she felt him tremble. She’d told him that he would enjoy this as much as she. Each bite included a caress of his fingers, and she could feel the heat emanating from him.

Catherine had bought some fondue plates with their little sections for dipping sauces. At her bidding, Vincent handed her a plate of fruit with chocolate and whipped cream in the dipping areas. She generously dipped a strawberry in the chocolate and then lightly in the cream. He watched entranced as she sensuously wrapped her lips around the fruit and sucked gently before biting into the ripe fruit, juice dribbling down her chin. His fists clinched as she repeated the action with a chunk of banana.

Her smoky grey eyes flashed with passion as she dipped another strawberry in the melted chocolate. She leaned forward to feed him the piece of fruit. Her robe, still untied from the incident with the champagne, gaped open, baring her naked torso to his hungry eyes.

As she fell back on the cushions, she seemed to lose her balance and the plate of fruit, chocolate and whipped cream spilled on her bare skin. He instinctively moved to help her.

"I seem to be as clumsy as you, slave. Well, clean this mess up . . . and be thorough, I don't want to be sticky all night." She dropped the plate and stretched out on the cushions to give him access to the mess.

He carefully untied the remaining ribbons of her robe and opened it fully. Two streams of chocolate dripped down her stomach, and he watched with fascination as one slid into her naval and the other crept into the springy nest of curls below. Chocolate, cream and fruit was scattered across her chest, and she knew she must look like a human sundae.

Vincent gently plucked the fruit from her torso, occasionally swirling it in the chocolate or cream before popping it in his mouth. She watched him through heavily lidded eyes as he sucked his fingers clean before reaching for the next piece of fruit. Once all of the chunks were removed, he lowered his head and began to clean her skin with his raspy tongue.

He started at the top, removing the strawberry juice from her chin and then lapping her neck and collarbones. He worked down to her delicate breasts, licking each thoroughly, sucking on each nipple to ensure its cleanliness. The tender peaks tightened and ached for more attention. As he continued his downward trek, Catherine informed her slave that she didn't believe her breasts were thoroughly clean. His loving mouth returned to give them further attention until a slight nod from his mistress indicated he could continue.

Slowly, he made his way down her stomach. He delved into her naval with the point of his tongue and swirled the chocolate around, easing it into his mouth. He followed the other trail of chocolate to its destination, licking and nuzzling her curls, inhaling the smell of chocolate mixed with her feminine scent.

Positioning himself below her on the pillows, his large hands cushioned the soft roundness of her derriere as his lips and tongue gently licked and probed the core of her femininity. The soft moans that she had been making as he made his way down her body intensified and his firm hold restricted her thrashing. He shifted slightly, never stopping his ministrations, to ease the pressure on the evidence of his rising passion. The shattering explosion of her orgasm swept through the bond and as Catherine returned from the heights of her passion, she could feel Vincent doing the same.

She lay silently in the cushions for a minute, regrouping and forcing herself back into her 'mistress' persona.

"You performed your task well, slave, though you did overstep your bounds. However, I will not punish you this time. You are an interesting slave. I believe that I need to learn more about you . . . come."

As he rose to follow her, he realized that the skimpy gold trunks were not enough to contain his engorged manhood. He clutched his thin robe as he walked across the cave.

Catherine stopped at the bed and told him to remove his clothing. He ducked his head as the flowing material slid to the floor and stepped out of his briefs. He didn't see her hungry look as she eyed his erection but felt her passion rising. She ordered him to lay, face down, on the bed.

Velvet loops were attached to the top corners of the bed and she instructed him to place his hands through the loops and keep them there. He gave her an intense look but did as he was told.

She could feel his unease as he put his hands in the velvet ropes, but hoped he would soon relax. She would monitor his reactions carefully as she wanted this to be fun, not traumatic. However, her love overcame her sense of desire and she told him softly, "Vincent, I would never do anything to hurt you. If the restraints are too much, you don't have to use them. I won't mind . . . really." She could feel uncertainty as if he were trying to decide, but then he relaxed and the uneasiness dissipated, his hands still in the loops.

"Ah yes, a most interesting slave. I must study you. I must learn about you, about your reactions to various stimuli." Her voice was silky as she lightly feathered her fingers across his broad back. "You feel wonderful."

As her nails scraped down his sides and back up his spine, she could feel his trembling and sense the unease flowing away, replaced by passion. Her nails traveled down his arms and she stroked his fingers. Her tongue traced each clawed tip before taking it in her mouth, scraping along each finger lightly with her teeth. She trailed her tongue up his arm, kissing his armpit, inhaling his scent.

She continued her nips and kisses along his side, passed his hip and down his leg to his toes, trailing her nails behind her slowly moving mouth. Her thumbs gently kneaded his sole as she sucked his toes, and then her journey continued up the inside of his leg. She stopped, briefly, to kiss and lick the sensitive area behind his knee. She nipped the tender skin of his inner thigh and, as she reached his groin, she nuzzled the furry balls nestled there. His musky scent sent shivers through her and clutched at her womanhood.

Traveling down his other leg, she repeated her journey arriving, eventually, at his other hand. She could sense Vincent's heightened passion and tried to control her own, though she could feel the wetness seeping between her legs. She softly rubbed her bare breasts along the velvety fur of his back. His audible moan echoed her silent one.

At her bidding, he turned onto his back, placing his hands once more in the restraining loops though this time with no trepidation. His erection had grown to almost painful proportions, and he sighed as he turned over. She repeated her exploration of his body, stopping this time to nip and lick the inside of his elbows.

Her nails raked across his muscular chest, circling the sensitive nipples hiding in his short fur. She leaned forward, teasing one with her tongue and then sucking and gently pulling it with her teeth. His moan echoed throughout the chamber; his breath began to come in pants. She moved to the other hidden nub, rubbing her own breasts against his chest in the process. His hands clenched at the velvet loops at the exquisite torture that she was putting him through.

Gently rubbing his chest with her hands, she waited for him to relax before continuing. When his hands unclenched and his breathing resumed a more normal rhythm, she began her exploration down his stomach, tickling his naval with her tongue.

From his naval, she was able to turn her head and kiss the head of his erection, a move that sent tremors through him. She carefully moved to lie between his legs as she traced her tongue along the prominent vein on the underside of his engorged penis, reaching the base. She nuzzled and kissed his the furry sacks and then held them gently as she kissed her way back to the head of his erection.

As her hand gripped the throbbing organ, she look up to see him watching her with stormy eyes; their blue almost navy with passion. His heavy-lidded eyes widened as she leaned forward, rubbing his penis between her breasts. Once again his breath began to come in pants. Her finger gently stroked the hypersensitive area behind his furry sacks and his hands clenched on the loops.

Rubbing his chest softly, Catherine let him relax a little to extend his pleasure. And pleasure was the predominant feeling flowing to her from her beloved husband. She made a little "shhh" sound as she stoked him.

His shuddering subsided. She leaned forward and kissed his throbbing flesh, slowly taking it into her mouth. He groaned as the wet warmth enclosed him and a low growl was produced as her head moved up and down. As she felt him near his release, she eased back, prolonging the experience.

Her warm hand fondled his manhood as she slowly moved closer to the head of the bed. She bent forward, her left breast an inch from his mouth and told her slave to suckle. His head raised the remaining distance and captured her, bringing her with him as his head lowered to the pillow. His lips and tongue caressed Catherine's breast sending spasms shuddering through her. His lips retained their hold as she tried to pull away from his mouth, a growl rumbled from his chest.

"Shhhh. You are my love slave, I am your mistress, you must obey me." Her calm voice reached his muddled mind and he released his hold. She straddled him and slid down to position her wet and waiting portal over his throbbing erection. His body arched as he filled her completely, both of them moaning in unison, his claws nearly shearing the bonds as he tightened his hold.

"Slave, free yourself from the restraints and take your release."

Loosing his hands from the ties, he pulled her to his chest and flipped her over. Raising to his knees he pulled her hips up to give a deeper penetration and deepened the thrusts of his body against hers. The feelings pulsing through the bond were so intense that Catherine was not sure where hers left off and Vincent's began. She reached her climax as Vincent made his final thrust and reached his, roaring with its release. The strength of their combined orgasm left them both drained and Vincent fell forward, subconsciously pulling Catherine into the circle of his arms.

Catherine had no idea how long they lay there before her mind was capable of rational thought -- it could have been minutes, it could have been hours. Lying beneath him, his strength and smell surrounding her, his body still inside of hers, she knew a rightness in the world.

She nuzzled the hollow of his neck, producing a groan followed by his delicious purring.

"Ahh, my mistress, thou shalt be the death of me. What is your command now?" His sultry voice sent delightful flutters through her and got her back into her playful dominatrix mood.

"I need to bathe, you shall attend me." He carried her to the small area they used as a bathing pool. He eased her into the warm swirling water, and she looked at him expectantly. "Well? You are to attend me . . . I don't believe you can wash me from there."

He slipped into the pool and retrieved the bath sponge from the opposite edge. Lathering it with the scented soap, he placed one of her hands on his shoulder as he gently ran the sponge along her arm, repeating the action on her other side. She leaned forward and he washed and rinsed her back, using his soapy hands to massage down to the small hollow at her hips, his claws grazing the fullness of her buttocks.

She leaned back and relaxed in the water as he washed her legs, using the same strong massaging motions on her calves and feet. A sigh escaped her lips at the floating sensation she experienced. The soapy sponge stroked her neck and shoulders, gradually circling down to caress the swell of her breasts, rubbing across the nipples, transforming them into turgid peaks that broke the surface of the water. Her willing slave bent forward and laved the rosy tips with his tongue, the sponge continuing down to her stomach and beyond. Tremors shook her body and she clutched Vincent's shoulders for support.

The sponge floated away and he used his fingers to cleanse the folds of her womanhood. His wet furry knuckle rubbed against her sensitive nub as his mouth continue its cleansing of her breasts. Ever mindful of his claws, he carefully slipped his finger into her and the combination of sensations sent her over the edge. She screamed his name as her body erupted into the throes of her release, her quivering continuing for several minutes.

Her love slave carried her from the water and placed her on the blanket by the fire. He wrapped her in a fluffy towel to protect her from the cool air before drying himself and then proceeded to gently blot the water from her body. He retrieved the other robe he had seen in the dressing area and slipped it over her head. Reclothed in the skimpy outfit that she had selected for him, he sat beside her on the blanket, holding her close against his chest.

"My mistress, you should eat. Your strength is depleted."

"We should both eat. We've each had a workout tonight."

He pulled the serving plates closer and began to feed them both. A dreamy look crossed Catherine's face. Vincent chuckled.

"What new task have you set for your slave now?"

"I've decided to give my slave his freedom. He no longer has to obey my orders. Everything I have, I give to him -- he is free to take whatever he desires, to do with as he pleases. The only thing I can't free him from is my love . . . that chain will bind us as long as we live."

"Longer, my love, longer. Even death will not dim our love. You became my reason for living the night that I found you. You have taught me the true meaning of love, both physical and spiritual." He held her closer. "Most important of all, you taught me how to love myself . . . all of myself -- a truly remarkable feat."

He pulled her onto his lap and kissed her. "Happy Birthday, my love. Did you enjoy your celebration? Were your fantasies realized?"

"I did enjoy it, and I hope you did too. As to my fantasies . . . no fantasy imagined can compare with the reality of you . . . of us. I have the sexiest, most romantic husband in the world and two adorable children -- I must be the luckiest woman on Earth."

"And I, the luckiest man." He held her tight, her head resting against his chest.

A blanket of contentment wrapped around Catherine as she heard his words. He considered himself a man. Finally! A smile crept onto her face as she fell asleep listening to the heartbeat of the man she loved.


Vincent’s Diary

Yesterday was Catherine's birthday. My gift to her was to be her "love slave" for the evening. She is my life, I would deny her nothing, but I approached the celebration with unease. She had gotten the idea from a book and, having read part of the book myself, the activities described filled me with panic. She assured me that the evening would not contain the hurtful things of which I read - she was correct.

The evening at the cove was truly unique.

Catherine brought into my life feelings and experiences of which I had only read. The physical aspect of our love has always been indescribable, but last night . . . last night . . . Catherine took me beyond ecstasy, beyond imagining. Being the slave, being subservient, had its own excitement. But when I became the 'object' of her desires, restricted from participating . . . totally at her mercy . . . what glorious torture.

If the dark side of my nature, the beast within that I fought for so long, were to ever appear in a moment of lust - as I have always feared - it would have emerged last night. Catherine has truly tamed the beast - the light of her love has dispelled the darkness.

I shall have to start planning my birthday celebration . . .