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Σχόλια: Οποιαδήποτε συνωνυμία χαρακτήρα με συγγραφέα είναι συμπτωματική - για τους κουτσομπόλιδες αυτο...
The gift that keeps on giving
Diana woke up cheerfully. It was her birthday. Her twenty-third, a number not too large to be a cause of anxiety. She was still young enough to live life at it's fullest, taste all the sweetness it had to offer her, without worrying about getting old.
No, it was the ending of a year that could not have gone better for her: She had a good job, many friends, and a caring boyfriend. I have been so lucky throughout my entire life, she told to herself as she washed her face. What she saw on the mirror was a living and breathing proof of her claim. Her heart-shaped face was pretty, her almond eyes were, according to her admirers, alluring, her cheekbones high, her nose elegant, her tanned skin exotic. She just needed to do her hair and add some make-up, not that she needed it, but she wanted to be beautiful today. She wanted to be the ideal woman, the perfect daughter, the immaculate worker, a role model for her peers.
Getting dressed was easy, having a knack on choosing the right clothes. Before leaving the house, she took a look at her mirror. What she saw satisfied her. At such a special day she was up to it. She opened the door of her apartment and stumbled upon the box.
The box. A small rectangular object, wrapped in gift-paper and a ribbon immaculately tied in a bow. It was not too large, but large enough not to be a jewel, about the size of a rubric cube, only slightly larger at it's width. Who is the one who remembered me? she asked herself. Probably John, she guessed, he is so sweet, she jumped to the conclusion. Without further ado she gently cut the ribbon and opened her gift. It was too pretty to do it any serious damage.
Its contents surprised her. Or its lack of contents one could say. Because it was empty but for a small card. Curious she examined it. It was white, laced with decoration of vines all around it. On it there was a dedication, written in a flowing handwriting. A matching gift for the pain you gave me, it read. It was not signed at all.
Diana was left thunderstruck. Who could have sent her such a birthday present? It had to be a practical joke, she thought, and slipped the note in her pocket.
Sitting in her desk she was staring at the note. She was trying hard to identify the handwriting, but it was beyond her. She was running a list of people who could have sent her the note, but could not think of anyone. Who would be that cruel to sent it to me? she was constantly asking herself to no avail.
And Anne was not here to help her. She had called earlier to ask for a day off. She was not feeling well, she told their boss. So she was without her best friend and coworker, trying to riddle out the puzzle left outside her door.
The only other person in the office was Paul, a sleazy man in his thirties. The way he looked at her and Anne every day gave Diana the creeps. Could he be the one who did this, Diana wondered. He sure was up to it, but why do something so cruel to her. He might have been a slimeball, yet not so smart to pull such a stunt. Diana had to scratch him out of her list.
Who the fuck would the sender be? That was all she could think about as she went on her hack-job of the day. One has to start from low to get higher, she often said.
She was about to file another folder, when her cell phone rang. Probably someone wanting to wish her a happy birthday. She fumbled in her purse and took out her phone. Her call recognition did not register the number. Probably someone wanting to surprise me, she thought.
"Hello!" she answered the call cheerfully.
"Happy birthday Diana," the voice on the other side of the line wished her, making the smile on Diana's face whither.
"Who is it?" she asked, her voice slightly trembling.
"Someone you wonder about his identity all day," the voice said. It was heavy, dark, menacing. She gave her the creeps.
"Who are you?" she asked again, trying to steel her voice. It was a pitiful attempt though, because her voice was weavering.
"Check the card," the voice told her and hanged up.
Trying to stop trembling, Diana took the card in her hand. Amity hotel, room 14, it read.
Diana felt a knot in her stomach. How the fuck could he change the card? she thought. She eyed Paul. He had not moved close to her all morning. He could not have done it. How then? She was reading the note minutes ago.
"Sorry, but I have to go," she announced to Paul as she grabbed for her jacket. "Cover me, please."
She was standing outside the hotel Amity, an unremarkable building in an unremarkable neighbourhood. But there was nothing unremarkable in Diana: apart for her good looks, the pallour of her skin, the slight shaking of her body, the anxiety in her gaze, all betrayed her inner turbulence. Standing outside the hotel, she was a step away from coming face to face with her torturer.
Taking a deep breath she went in. Skipping past the doorman she rushed to the stairs. The realisation of the nature of the hotel struck her, as her senses registered the surroundings. The sensual paintings on the walls, the absence of a lobby, the doorman asking no questions, all indicated that it was a warm nest for lovebirds. Soon stress had turned to anger. Asking her to come here? Who the Hell would be so sure of himself? She asked as she ascended the stair in quick, irritated strides.
She knocked at the door number 14 and said "room service", altering her voice. She would take the culprit by surprise. The door opened. John was behind it, staring at her. He was speechless.
"Damnit, you scarred the hell out of me!" she shouted to him, even though deep inside she was happy he had pulled such a stunt to get her there.
"Who is it?" someone asked from inside the room. It was a woman's voice. Diana opened the door. She had not noticed that John was half-naked. Now she did. And also noticed that Anne was naked but for a sheet wrapped around her.
She felt the world spinning. She only remembered the corridor waving like a rocking boat, as she ran to the stairs and John shouting something at her. It was her birthday, damn it!
"How could they?" Diana moaned, sipping some of her coffee. "She was my best friend for fuck's sake"
"So, let's get it straight," Michael told her, "you get a card with an address this morning, from someone who hates you, then get a call from a stranger and the card now reads an address where John and Anne fuck."
"Yeah," Diana sighed. Molten mascara was dripping down her face, painting her tears black.
"And how the Hell did this guy swapped the card?" Michael wondered. "It all sounds so absurd." Diana has rung his bell a quarter ago, sobbing. He did his best to calm her down, yet he could not fathom what she told him.
"You think I am losing it, don't you?" Diana snapped at him.
"Diana, no. I know you for years. It has been, how many, five years I know you?" he reassured her.
"Since my eighteenth birthday," she told him.
"Right. I am your best friend. At least the only one remaining," he tried to joke.
"That's why I came to you. You are the only one I have left." She was shaking.
"Calm down," he told her, "you will find someone better than that, someone you deserve."
Diana cracked a smile. It was faint,
"Let me see the note, if you don't mind," he told her.
Diana took the note from her purse and put it on the table. After that, she grabbed the mug and tried to take a sip. Her hands were trembling and she spilled some coffee on the note.
"Fuck!" she shouted.
"Nevermind that," Michael told her and took the note. He read at it in disbelief. He had turned white.
"What is it?" Diana asked her. Michael remained silent. Her phone rang.
She kept glaring at Michael. He remained silent. The phone kept on ringing.
"Who is it?" she answered the phone
"It's me again," said the voice.
"What do you want from me?" she shouted at him.
"It's good to have friends, is it so?" the voice commented
"Who the fuck are you!" she demanded.
"Someone who knows little dirty secrets," the voice answered.
"What secrets?" she asked wildly. She was out of control.
"Secrets like the one your friend reads right now," the voice said and hung up.
"Who was it," Michael asked.
She did not answer, just grabbed at the note and read it. Michael loves Diana, she read.
"Is it true?" she asked him.
"Yes," he sighed.
"For how long?"
"Since the day I met you."
She looked at him in shock. "All these years," she sobbed "All these advice… the words…" She stopped.
"Are you happy with this?" she raged at him "Do you feel justified? Happy? Satisfied with my shame? My misery?"
"Please calm down," he told her, "you are upset, but we can talk this out."
"Talk this out? Are you kidding me?" she said and burst in tears, running for the door.
She took the train home. She was trembling, shambling, a living, breathing zombie. She was lost in her thoughts. It took her five minutes to put the key in the keyhole, so shocked she was.
The door finally opened and she entered the apartment. The smell of the smoke hit her nostrils. A smoke. She had quit smoking a year ago, but right now she needed one.
She walked to the sitting room. There was a man sitting in her sofa. A man she did not know.
Under any other circumstances she would have been terrified. But she was so emotionally depleted she just sat at her armchair and gazed at him.
The room was only lit by dim lamplight and the man was bathed in shadows. On the table in front of him was the box she had opened this morning.
"It was you, wasn't it," she asked him, her voice devoid of any color.
"Yes," he answered the familiar voice.
"What the fuck do you want from me?" She was calm, calm as a rock. No hysterics right now, just acceptance of the paradox.
"Well, I have a story for you," he told her, crossing his arms "there was a man named Michael, who loved a girl named Diana. But she did not pay him any attention. So, five years of frustration, despair and angst took the form of a wish. A wish for release."
"Release from the pain?" Diana interrupted him. She was dead calm.
"Well, as a book one said, once you wish for something, universe conspires to give it to you."
"This is a universal conspiracy, is it so?" she mocked at him.
"Let's just say I am a way to release someone of his pain," he told her. "Pain is weakness, and I remove it."
"By inflicting pain on others?"
"Pain?" he said "such a vague term. There is pain everywhere, waiting to be born, my dear. And I am there to…"
"Reap it," she interrupted him.
"No," he said, "this is a horror movie clichι, I am here to end it."
"But you…" she tried to say. Her dead-man-walking attitude was gone. Fear was creeping inside her.
"Look at the box," he told her, "it is so like you, beautiful wrapped but empty, void of content. What is inside is a gift that keeps on giving. Giving you ugly truths you chose not to see all this time. The pain you inflicted on poor Michael. The pain you inflicted on any man Michael to be more accurate."
"Well, I have had my share of pain too, have I not?" she asked him. Her trembling had returned.
"You mean John and Anne, don't you?" he laughed "Well, to be frank, it never happened." Diana sighed in relief.
"Even though," the man added, "Anne is madly in love with John. Do you truly love John?"
Diana turned her gaze downwards. "Hiding in the shadows and speaking lies, is that your healing the pain?" she spit at him, tears of rage running down her face.
"I just give back all the pain you caused all this time," he told her. "As for the shadows…". Without further ado he turned the lamp to himself.
Diana never woke up on her twenty-third birthday. She just shrieked on her sleep then remained silent. Occasionally she would mutter about a gift box and a face.
John and Anne were by her side for some time. This got them close enough. Now they are married and happy ever after.
Michael has been visiting Diana almost every afternoon for the past six years. He would tell her his news and the latest gossips. Her beauty has been washed away by medical treatment, but he still loves her. Actually he is happy with them being together.
How do I know what happened that morning? Well, let's say I know some things other people don't. One thing is for certain though: never ask the world to relieve you of your pain. It may do so…
Edited by Nihilio, 17 Νοέμβριος 2005 - 02:20.