Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Gifts (11/13/08)
TITLE: Gift Exchange
By Carol Slider
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“Ma’am,” said Rick, meeting her unfriendly eyes, “I know exactly where I must have dropped it. If I can’t go back on board, couldn’t someone look for it? It’s a present for my wife...”
But he knew it was no good. Too many years and too many frustrated, frantic travelers had made her immune to such pleas–-especially on a hectic Christmas Eve.
The flight attendant quoted another security regulation and told him he could file a claim with the airline, then turned away to begin boarding the next group of passengers. Rick merged into the crowd and headed to another gate to catch his connecting flight; but his shoulders sagged as he remembered the gift that was no longer in the side pocket of his satchel.
Rick never settled for ordinary when buying gifts for his beloved Loryn. This time, he’d found a delicately crafted crystal rose with a heart of deep blue, the color of Loryn’s beautiful eyes. Rick had watched the craftsman etch an “L” onto one of the leaves of the rose before packing it for travel.
The box must have fallen out of his satchel during the flight. Now it was gone, and he would have no Christmas present for Loryn... no present at all...
The plane took off.
A tiny box, overlooked by the flight crew, tumbled back under the next row of seats, then the next--until the plane hit an air pocket, and the box bounced into the top of another bag...
Lisa looked at her watch. Charley would be home soon unless he had decided to stay over. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d spent Christmas away from home with a client.
Charley had sometimes brought her candy and flowers when they were dating. Hard to believe it now. He had never been unkind to her–-she couldn’t complain about that. But real romance had long been absent from their marriage. Chocolates and flowers, gentle caresses, long slow kisses, romantic restaurants, walks in the park... Lisa yearned for those things, at least once in a while. And once in a while, too, a present that wasn’t just a gift certificate or some silly trinket left over from a sales conference.
Maybe he doesn’t love me anymore, she thought, gazing dismally out the window. Maybe I should just accept that...
Then a taxicab slid into the driveway, and Charley got out, lugging his briefcase and his traveling bag...
Charley was tired. It had been a long flight. He’d forgotten to buy a Christmas present for Lisa, but that was okay. He’d put a couple of twenties in an envelope tomorrow.
Lisa met him at the door. He kissed her quickly and said,
“Just a sec, Babe, be right back.”
When he returned from the washroom, he found Lisa holding something. He’d never seen the box before, and as for Lisa... Gee, when had she ever looked at him like that?
“Oh, Charley!” she said, in a happy, trembly voice, “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!”
And it was pretty amazing: a crystal rose that caught the light and glowed blue, just the color of Lisa’s eyes. It had Lisa’s initial on it, too.
Sherri must have done it, thought Charley, thinking of his secretary. Sherri had been married 35 years, and was always telling Charley he needed to do something special for Lisa. Nice of Sherri to take the initiative. He’d have to give her a bonus.
Charley put his arms around Lisa.
“You really like it, Babe?”
“Oh, yes! Charley, you just don’t know what this means to me...”
But somehow, he did. And as his wife kissed him in earnest, he thought,
Wow, I never realized how much it matters to her... I guess I oughta do more of that sort of thing... After all, she’s worth it...
Rick trudged into his house, stamping snow off his feet. He put down his suitcases and smiled sadly at his wife, whose face was alight with joy and welcome.
“Sweetheart,” he said, “I don’t know how to tell you... I lost your present...”
But Loryn put her arms around him, damp coat and all, and whispered,
“Do you think that matters? Having you home for Christmas... That’s the only present I need...”
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