January 4th 2011: Worst gift ever

Family Treasure,
by Janet Yung

Opening the brightly wrapped package, I kept smiling, and making idiot comments like, “You shouldn’t have!” The holidays had passed and my birthday was several months away. And then, “It really is nice of you to stop by.” Omitting, “Unannounced.”

“It’s something we wanted you to have,” Brenda returned my smile. The muscles in my face had begun to ache, my cheeks rebelling against the feigned joy. If I’d left the house five minutes earlier, I would have avoided my sister-in-law altogether, something I’d been working on diligently since Thanksgiving dinner.

Freed of ribbon and brightly printed foil, I eased away tissue paper to reveal a family portrait, capturing them the way they envisioned themselves to be – one big, happy family. The mismatched pair of mother and father posed artificially before an equally artificial bedecked tree, surrounded by their off-spring all wearing forced smiles, and on the brink, no doubt, of some fracas.

“We gave one to everybody else at Christmas, but since you were out of town…” the rest of the accusatory comment left dangling.

Ignoring the statement and everything it implied, I studied the photo for a couple seconds, trying to find an innocuous, yet complimentary observation, and hopefully get Brenda continuing on with whatever else her busy schedule demanded.

Not even the sort of present that could be re-gifted, a cheeky voice murmured from deep inside my brain, giving birth to a genuine grin.

“What’s so funny?” Brenda stared at me, a demanding expression crossing her face. The same expression a prelude to an unhappy event. Not unlike the Thanksgiving dinner incident that caused me to run for the hills. Food flying across the dining room table as husband and wife debated the wisdom of serving two types of potatoes when one would have sufficed.

“But Ashley doesn’t like sweet potatoes and Amber does.” Even the casual observer could sense that the argument had been brewing long before we were actually seated at the table, and at its core, had nothing to do with potatoes at all.

“Oh, I was thinking how big the kids are getting,” I added quickly so the remark wouldn’t be misconstrued, “it seems like they were just taking their first steps and now here they are practically teenagers.”

Enveloped in motherly pride, she settled back into the overstuffed chair she favored at my house and beamed, agreeing that “Time goes by so fast,” and eliciting a nod from me and a casual glimpse at my watch.

“Well, I don’t want to keep you,” Brenda scooped her purse from the floor while the clock chimed two in the next room, “I just wanted to make sure I delivered your present.”

“It’s so sweet of you. Thank you so much, I really appreciate the thought,” I nodded to make up for the lack of sincerity in my words.

A quick peck on the cheek and Brenda, bundled against the cold, bustled down the walk and to her car. I stood at the door waving till she was out of sight, calculating the acceptable period of time for showcasing the family portrait on the mantle before stashing it in a nearby drawer, to be retrieved whenever their visits demanded it.

*

Janet Yung lives and writes in the quietest neighborhood in the most dangerous city in America while trying to maintain a sense of humor. Short fiction has appeared most recently in “The Shine”, “Bring the Ink”, “The Camel Saloon”, “sillymess” and “Fast Forward”.


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One response to “January 4th 2011: Worst gift ever

Family Treasure,
by Janet Yung”

  1. BellowsBrother says:

    Nice place to start, Inksters. Your prompts look like a lot of fun.


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