TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
Sitting on the porch steps, she stared, ignoring the scent of lilacs from the overgrown bush. Her heart lurched when she saw the mail truck approaching, dust in its wake. Would it arrive today? The ancient mail carrier took his time handing her some envelopes and, finally, a large package in brown paper. As he drove away, she dropped the envelopes on the porch, and walked quickly around the side of the house, praying nobody inside saw…
(Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.)
He saw her silently slip around the side of the house, out of eyesight from those celebrating in the warm old farmhouse.
He himself ghosted out of the large front living room to the small green powder room that had a narrow window looking out to the setting sun. There were enough people chattering as brightly-wrapped presents were opened that no one would notice his absence.
There she sat, in the old white rocking chair on the side of the wraparound porch.
His heart beat like a bird’s. Had he made a mistake?
She ran her hands along the thick brown paper, outlining the big black Sharpie letters he so painstakingly wrote in big block letters, with her own perfect tiny fingers. He watched her chipped blue nails hover over the tape, hesitating, wanting to draw out the moment herself, he hoped.
This was not their first such exchange.
She picked the parcel up off of her lap, hefting, testing. Put it back down and tilted it slightly, to better get at the tape. She sliced through with the side of a nail. Slowly, painstakingly, she unwrapped the paper in one big piece.
He greatly appreciated her care. She was not a messy shredder, did not tear at the paper hastily. She seemed to be savoring this just as he did.
His heart swelled, pushing at his chest, and he could not have loved her more at that moment. He did not smile yet, though. He would not, could not find that relief until he saw her reaction to the offering inside.
Perhaps soon it would be time to reveal himself as the giver. For now, though, he forced his jittery leg to be still. It would not do now to give himself away with a movement that would draw her attention.
He was so close, he felt he could touch her if he reached out. Stroke her windblown blonde hair. Ask her how she felt.
Paper neatly folded on the deck beside her, she neatly severed the single piece of tape holding the box closed, and reached in to pull out the pretty cedar box he had spent the last two weeks carving to perfection. A simple thing, but handmade and full of heart.
Those tiny fingers again caressed, feeling the grain of the wood, the smooth surface, the sides he left rougher on purpose.
She looked nervous. Was she afraid he would disappoint her this time? He worked so hard not to.
His pulse, incredibly, ramped up even further. He could feel the throb throb throb at his wrists, his neck, even behind his knees. The box isn’t the present, he silently urged. Open it. Open it and see what I found for you.
She obeyed, lifting the lid with just her thumb, all other fingers occupied with keeping the box steady and straight, so that nothing could fall out.
An amazingly careful, steady girl. Raised on a farm, he knew she saw the wonders the world provided every day, but still he hoped these little gifts prepared just for her would stand out in the splendor of the world around. He wanted them to be memorable, personal.
She peered inside. As he saw her face blank, stoic, his throat sank through his heavy stomach and he unwittingly lifted a hand and pressed it flat to the window.
No. He couldn’t have disappointed her. Not now. Not after all this time.
His breaths came faster.
She sat motionless for over a minute. An eternity. Then, movement.
His hand pressed harder to the glass.
She balanced the box on her lap and slowly lifted her right hand, extended it halfway into the box, then yanked it back, as though she thought the item inside too delicate to touch.
Then he saw it. Her eyes widened.
Her mouth pulled back.
She was perfect.
She recognized not only what it was, but who it had once been part of.
With the rest of her body still, controlled, the sturdy farm girl opened her mouth and let out an exquisite single-noted scream.
Finally, he released his smile.