The Whole Package (a short story)

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Darryl handed Patricia a rectangularish box wrapped in the reddest foil that she had ever seen.  “Go ahead and open it.  This one’s from me.”  He was practically vibrating from excitement.

This was the first Christmas they had been together, so the idea of going to his parent’s house for the holiday seemed a bit much.  She preferred to keep things at arm’s length for longer, sort of to feel things out before getting too attached.  Still, he seemed so sweet on the idea that she decided to give in.

Patricia took the offering and tried to muster up a smile.  This container hurt her engineering soul.  She had gone to college for years studying the best way to package products.  She had won numerous awards for her ability to design the stuff that everything is put into.  She made it to be not only functional, but beautiful.  It was something she took immense pride in.

And yet the gift her boyfriend had given her was in a sorry state.  The top and one of the sides were bulging, ruining the angular pleasing aesthetic most boxes had.  He had undersized the box by at least two, two and a half centimeters on the long side.  Not only that, but she could feel that the cardboard selected was too thin for the amount of weight the poor reinforced paper had been asked to hold.  It practically buckled as she placed it on her lap.

Yeah, this wasn’t going well.  He probably had gone overboard, picking out something expensive to impress her.  People put too much emphasis on what was inside the box.  She knew what mattered was the thought that went into the product as a whole.  That’s why packaging was her passion.

Well, there was only one way to get this over with. 

Patricia deftly pealed back the cellophane tape.  She folded it upon itself and placed it on the side table next to her.  She could tell that Darryl wanted her to hurry up, but she wanted to honor the materials others carelessly discarded.  That is why she preferred to use bags to hold gifts.  They had a life, post present, with the probability of many regiftings in their future.  

If they had a future together she would have to train him better.

She unfolded the wrapping paper cocoon and laid it on top of the tape.  There was crafting supplies in its future if she could pawn it off on Darryl’s niece as long as Darryl’s sister didn’t notice till that crew was in the car on the ride home.  She would think of a way to entice the ten-year-old that origami roses were just a few folds away.

She contemplated the box.  Yes, that poor box was at death’s door.  There would be no upcycling this, at least without major reconstructive surgery.  Alas, you couldn’t save them all.

She looked into Darryl’s eager eyes as she opened the box.  He nodded, almost exploding with emotion.  She looked at what had been entombed just moments ago.  Inside there was a vast swath of Kelly green.  He at least had picked her favorite color.  She lifted the object out and shook loose sleaves.  She stared at a sweater unlike anything she had seen before.  There were occasional oblong holes, a few loops of yarn that didn’t attach to anything, and the left sleave was about a half inch longer than the right.  It was not what she had been expecting for sure.

She looked back at Darryl.

“I knitted it myself.  You said you always were getting cold at the apartment.  I thought it might be cool if I designed a package for you.”  He put air quotes around the word package.  “I love listening to you talk about that stuff, so you inspired me to do this.  You should have seen the three previous attempts.”

She took a closer look at the sweater and noticed how the stiches did get better the farther along they went.  He was really starting to get the hang of it by the end.  How much time did he put into this?  How many nights had he worked on this while they were on the phone?   He had sounded slightly distracted, but she put it up to him being annoyingly male.  Now she thought she knew why.  She stared at what was inside the package with a new appreciation for what was inside. 

 “Look, I know it’s not that good, but I ran out of time and…”

She collapsed the sweater to her chest as she interrupted him.  “It’s perfect.”  And in that moment, she knew he was a keeper.

Concealer (a short story)

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She very carefully cleansed her face with exfoliator.  She took her time since her face was still tender from yesterday.  She then opened her moisturizer.  The smell of tropical fruits perfumed the air and helped put her in a more relaxed mood.  The moisturizer was almost cool to the touch.  She enjoyed the way it kept her skin hydrated and smooth.  The added SPF to protect didn’t hurt either. 

Gently, she layered on foundation, evening out her complexion.  She looked at her reflection.  She was not happy with what she saw.  That woman would just not do.  She reached for her almost empty concealer and shook her head.  How could she have forgotten that yesterday?  That meant another trip to the mall.  He wasn’t going to be happy about that, but he did want her to look pretty for him, so maybe he wouldn’t be that angry about it.

With practiced grace she applied a dab under each of her eyes, then on various other spots on face.  She took out her makeup brush and blotted it into the foundation.  Magically the dark spots softened and blended mostly into the background.  She put another round of the concealer over those remaining spots that had proved resistant.  This time the blotting finished its magic.  She let a small smile escape.   Now that was the woman he loved to have.

“Hey, Stella.  Get in here!”

Startled, she jumped and lost her grip on her brush.  She watched it tumble and fall to the floor.  She turned her head to the other room.

“Coming,” she called out.

He didn’t reply.  She took that as permission to finish her task.  But first she groped for her brush.  It took a few times before she managed to retrieve it and put it away.  Damn shaking hands.  That definitely would not do.  She calmed herself by completing the ritual with a quick pat of powder to protect her hard work. 

“Stella!”

She looked at the mirror one more time. Yeah, she did good.  He should be happy with her.  Just one more bit of concealer was needed.  She slapped on her happy face and poof; she was perfect for him.

“Coming my love.”    

Close (an acrostic poem)

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Couldn’t believe I even had a shot, to be honest

Last thing I thought would happen was that you liked me too

Old feelings of insecurity and inadequacy swamped me when we were apart, but together, that was something amazing

So when I popped the question I was at an emotional breaking point

Even though you said no, I… 

Rip (an acrostic poem)

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Reducing the document to confetti

It made her feel so good to be finally free

Perhaps leaving the remnants of their marriage certificate on his grave was a bit petty, but he wasn’t going to hurt her ever again

Teeth (an acrostic poem)

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The gap in his grin was very off putting

Even though everything else was perfect

Eleanor tried to ignore it, to be happy, no thrilled, with all the rest

That proved futile since she kept finding herself focusing on it

His smile seemed to accentuate the piece of spinach stuck there

Debate (an acrostic poem)

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Don’t you argue with me

Everyone knows that I am right

Be happy that I allow you to try to refute me

As we both know if I didn’t do that you would never talk

That might actually be preferable for all involved

Especially since I have just won this…

Stand (an acrostic poem)

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Still there she was, even after he had left her

The universe was shattered, her everything was gone

And yet she was still upright

Now she didn’t know what to do, or how she would go on, but

Determined to not let him down, only then did she fall to her knees

Ignored (an acrostic conversation)

 

I see you haven’t been paying attention to me.

Give me a break.  I always pay attention to you.

No, you’re not.  I can prove it.

Okay Ms. Smarty Pants, present your evidence.

Randy, you just told me I could paint a mural on your truck.

Evidently you didn’t know I was secretly hoping you would.

Dumbass, I actually asked you to pass the chips!

 

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Stone (an acrostic poem)

 

So that was the moment he pulled out the engagement ring.

That caught her off guard.  She wasn’t ready yet, but was that her doubt talking?

Only here was the large diamond breaking the light into rainbows in her face.

Now was when she had to make the big decision, not later.  What should she do?

Eventually that became the bedrock of the rest of her life.

 

Image: azbigmedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Round-Brilliant-Diamond.jpg

Bridge (an acrostic poem)

 

Being so far apart just doesn’t feel right

Raging emotions flow like white water between us

It makes the divide seem so daunting

Discourse allows us to begin to build a way from both sides

Greeting each other on firmer neutral ground in the middle

Enabling us to have an honest discussion letting the turbulent water flow under the…

 

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