From my first book, Perfect & Other Stories, 5 star rated on Amazon
Wishing you all a merry season!
PERFECT by Cynthia Ley
From: Perfect & Other Stories, copyright 2014
John pulled the lever of the recliner to the upright position and shut off the TV. There was nothing on. There never was. For all the noise and clamor, there never was. Just pictures streaming by. Some nice, some horrific. It was all the same, despite all the media hype about their “new, exciting programming.” What. A. Bore. All the stories had been told.
He didn’t want much. He had a job that placed him in the upper income bracket. He had a nice car. His gadgets were no more than a year behind the current models. He could afford a woman to clean and cook for him and do his laundry. He never saw her. He knew that when he left for work in the morning, there were chores to be done, and when he got home, there weren’t.
Sometimes he’d bring a companion home. She was always the same type—average height, good figure, more interested in having fun than in having a relationship. They’d enjoy the sex and part ways. Sometimes they’d meet again, sometimes not. There were no demands.
Christmas came around, the same as every year. Office parties, gift exchanges, food, booze. His office had the custom of throwing everyone’s name into a fishbowl a few weeks before and taking turns on a name draw. He never knew what to get anybody, so he usually bought a gift certificate to an upper-end restaurant, figuring he couldn’t go wrong. Every year at the office party, the brief excitement of giving and receiving gifts, “thank you’s” and holiday hugs.
It was that time again. After everyone had sat down with their cup of spiked eggnog, their manager called them one by one, to go to the office Christmas tree and pull out their gifts. When everyone had retrieved theirs, they all opened them at once amid laughter and smiles.
John looked at the present on his lap. It was smallish, about six inches square. Whatever it was, it had been beautifully wrapped. Expensive foil paper covered it, and it was tied with a red velvet ribbon. Tiny gold bells peaked out from underneath the bow.
“Go on, John,” Cecilia, one of accountants, urged. “Open it!”
“It’s so pretty,” he said. “I’m almost afraid to.”
“Silly,” she chided, and winked at him.
He smiled back. So she was his Secret Santa! Cecilia was nice—she was happily married, with two kids in school. An endlessly busy woman, cheerful and upbeat and capable. She was the type who drew other people to her without meaning to—she was the sun, and everyone else her planets. No one ever minded being in her orbit.
He carefully removed the ribbon, then ran his finger along the edges of the paper to locate the tape. Releasing it, he was able to pull the foil off in one shot. Cecilia grinned at him.
Now there was a plain white box on his lap. Looking up at Cecilia, he said, “Here goes,” and lifted the lid.
Much to his surprise, a faint whoosh! blew across his hands and swooped up into his face. It smelled…remarkable. Like sunlight smells on pristine snow. Like caves and rocks and crannies just waiting to be explored. Like meadows and forests and apple orchards. Like wonder and curiosity all bundled together. Like gingerbread cookies.
He looked inside. Ten perfect gingerbread men rested there, beaming at him.
They were all different. One held a toy train car; another rode a bicycle. A third held a crayon and a tiny drawing of Australia. The fourth held a bow and arrow while the fifth wore a cowboy hat. One wore a striped scarf and hat and held a snowball. One wore rubbers and was gleefully jumping in a large puddle. One held a picture of its gingerbread family. The ninth lay in bed, peacefully sleeping with a teddy bear in the crook of its arm.
The tenth was a blank slate.
“Cecilia, what…?” He faltered, speechless.
“They are you, John. You before all this” she waved at the room “—happened.” She gestured at the featureless cookie. “Before that.”
Without a word, he got up and hugged her.
It was time to write his own stories.