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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Good Things Come With Small Packages by Sharon McGregor

Laine Meadows handed the brightly wrapped package to her customer.

“I hope your husband enjoys the game,” she said.

“Oh, I know he will,” the elderly lady replied. “It’s so nice to have this gift wrapping service. My old fingers are a bit arthritic and I can’t wrap gifts the way I used to. You’ve done a lovely job.” she said admiringly as she left clutching her parcel.

“Well,” said Laine to her co-worker and friend Jacquie, “I think I’m ready for a long soak in the tub tonight. But, we have made a lot of money for the Humane Society.” They were both regular volunteers at the booth.

Jacquie gave her a funny look.
,br> “What?” asked Laine.

“A girl like you should have something better to do on a Saturday night than soak in a tub.”

Laine groaned. “No more matchmaking, Jacquie. I’m quite content with my life.”

“Content is a boring word,” replied Jacquie. Then she nudged Laine. “Look at that customer approaching at two o’clock. There’s someone that could spice up your life. You can wait on him. I’m going for coffee.” And she grabbed her purse before Laine could protest.

Laine couldn’t argue with Jacquie’s assessment, though. The man approaching her had a broad smile, gentle crinkles that hinted at a lot of laughter and eyes of the deepest blue she’d ever seen.

He handed her a small case with an old-fashioned cameo brooch in it. “Could I wait while you wrap this?” he said. Laine felt a little nervous as he watched her at work, but felt herself warming as he began to chat. She found out he was an animal lover like herself, and with no other customers and Jacquie taking an unusually long break, she found herself opening up in a way she never did with strangers. Somehow, this man made even idle chat about the weather sound interesting.

She handed him the package and said, “That will be four dollars, please.”

“Thank you, Laine,” he said, peering at her nametag. “I’m David by the way.”

He paid her and said “It’s an anniversary gift; I hope she’ll like it.” It looked to Laine to be a little on the old-fashioned side, but she smiled and said, “I’m sure she will.” She was annoyed with herself for the little thump her heart made when he said the word “anniversary.” Of course someone like David would be married.

Then he stopped in mid-turn. “Do you get off for a coffee break?” he asked. “We could have a cup in the Food Court if you have the time.”

Laine was sure her mouth actually fell open at the question, but managed to blurt out a frosty “No, thank you.” To think she had been warming to this man who, one breath after having his wife’s anniversary gift wrapped was asking her out. He gave her a parting look that seemed both rueful and puzzled as he left with his package. He was already lost from view when she spotted the book on the counter that he must have left behind. She remembered he had been holding it along with the brooch.

She looked inside checking for an address or phone number but finding no identifying information, slipped the book into a bag on the lost and found shelf.

The next morning a woman with a pixyish face and a manner to match approached her. “I’m Deanna Pearson. I think my brother David left a book here yesterday while he was having a gift wrapped. I thought I’d pick it up for him.”

She identified the book and Laine handed it to her, glad to be rid of the reminder of some foolish thoughts she had had about its owner. “Laine,” said the woman, checking her ID tag. “You must be the one who shot my brother down in flames.” She laughed. “I must admit that was part of the reason I came to rescue David’s book. He told me about you and I wanted to get a look at someone who resisted my irresistible brother.”

“Considering the circumstances,.” began Laine. Really, was the whole family ethically challenged? “Is it any wonder I declined?”

“The circumstances?” she looked puzzled. Then light dawned. “What an idiot!”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Oh, not you- David. It was the gift. I bet you thought he was a married man hitting on you.”

“He was buying an anniversary gift.”

“For our mother.” The smile faded for a moment. “The brooch was an anniversary gift from David and me to Mom. It’s a sort of family tradition we’ve carried on since our father died.”

Laine couldn’t think of a reply.”Oh” was all she could manage.

“Ta,” said Deanna, her impish grin back in place as she disappeared into a passing crowd of shoppers.

It was afternoon when David appeared suddenly at the gift wrap kiosk. “I’m not really a coward,” he said.

Laine gave him an uncomprehending look.

“I’m not a coward,” he began again, “sending my sister to pick up my book. She was coming here anyway.”

She blushed. “I’m sorry about my reaction yesterday,” she began, not really sure how or if she should apologize for making a reasonable assumption.

“I never thought about how an 'anniversary gift' would sound. Can we start again? How about a cup of coffee if you can take a break? There’s a little restaurant that is a lot quieter than the Food Court.”

She hesitated for a moment until she felt a swift kick aimed by Jacquie at her ankle.

“Are you all right if I go for a break?” she asked, knowing the answer.

“Go,” said Jacquie and as David turned and Laine bent to pick up her purse, Jacquie’s left eyelid came down in an exaggerated wink. “There go those boring words out of your dictionary.”

“Just what I was thinking” said Laine to herself.

About the Author: Sharon McGregor has had stories and articles appear in Lake Country Journal, Fifty Something, Great Mystery and Suspense Magazine, Horizon, and Stories That Lift.

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