I love participating in various challenges especially writing challenges with prompts. Author Dan Alatorre hosts this amazing Flash Fiction Challenge where he gives a scenario and a keyword (actually its not him, its the randomizer that picks the scene and the keyword for you from his list) and you can write anything within a 1000 words based on the scene, the keyword must become a part of your caption.
The list this time were all based on Holiday Scenes. The random number I got was number 9 and keyword number 8. My scene: “A Christmas tree in a small apartment with one open present and no one around” and my keyword was “Present“.
If you are interested in participating, click on the link above to read the instructions and choose your scene and keyword. Here is the story I came up with. Hope you enjoy it!
The Best Christmas Present!
“It’s a weekend… go back to sleep!” I told myself even though mind was hell bent on waking me up early on a Saturday morning. Well, as it turns out, my mind had no intentions of listening to me. So I woke up and dragged myself into the kitchen. I put on a fresh pot of coffee and waited for the smell of freshly ground coffee to fill the air. Oh, how I love the smell of coffee in the morning, that’s probably the only thing that can wake me up completely. I poured myself a cup and then sat by the windowsill looking out.
It had started to snow last night, it always starts snowing around Christmas time in this city. I observed the snow covered roads, it looked as though a blanket of clouds had descended upon them. I always enjoyed the beauty of snow. I could sit by the windowsill of my apartment and stare out at the snow falling from the sky, one little flake at a time.
The snow brought memories of home. ‘Home’ – I don’t know what that word means to me now. It has been almost 10 years since I have been there. I have never thought about anyone back home in all these years. And I’m pretty sure that no one at home missed me either. Especially, if you are just one of the 8 children, and not so special or talented like the others, then who cares if you are around or not?
I was born as the 5th child of Mr. and Mrs. Simmons. By the time, I was 3, I had a younger brother and my care was my second eldest sister’s responsibility, who was at the time 14 years old. Having just become a teen herself, she hardly had any time for me. When I think about my childhood, the only thing I can come up as a pleasant memory are of Christmas mornings when all of us gather around the tree to open our presents. That was my only pleasant memory of home. Everything else just feels too painful to even remember. Most of my siblings had some form of specialty or talents. My sisters and brothers were considered the best in everything they did, they were all smart, played the piano, made the sports team, aced their SATs, etc. But not me, I was the plain one, the girl next door. It was a painful feat growing up with smarter siblings, when every attention and every praise was only directed their way and no one noticed you.
Being the ignored one was becoming unbearable for me, which is why as soon I graduated from High School, I ran away from home and came to this city. At first, it was difficult, but then I had made it. I went to college and got myself a degree while working as a waitress at the restaurant downtown. Now I have a job as a Marketing Specialist in one of the leading online editorials and I also own this apartment. Small it may be, but it still is mine! I was proud of my achievements.
I looked around my apartment, it was spacious enough for me. I had modestly furnished it with only a TV, entertainment table, a couch and a couple of chairs for the kitchen counter. Yet the hall looked full leaving just enough space in the corner for a Christmas tree. I stared at the small Christmas tree that adorned the corner and at the single wrapped gift box that lay beneath the tree. Although, I knew what the gift was, having bought it for myself, I walked up to the tree and picked up my gift. Wishing myself a Merry Christmas, I unwrapped the gift.
All I saw was a flash of light, then everything started to disappear and I felt like I was floating. The apartment was now empty, the only thing that remained was the Christmas tree and the open present, there was no one around. There was nothing in the apartment, it felt so empty that the vision was making me nauseous. I felt an overwhelming feeling in my heart that was making me go numb, I felt empty and naked like the apartment.
I could not entirely comprehend the meaning of the vision or how it was making me feel. In an impulse, I picked up the phone and dialed my mother’s number. She answered on the second ring.
“Jane …is that you?”
“Mom, I am coming home!” I said quickly and cut the phone.
I left the open present under the Christmas tree, packed my bags and headed for the airport. I had no idea of what to expect or how to face my family. I did not even know if they would be happy to have me back, but I continued on my journey.
Next morning, with trembling fingers I pressed the doorbell of my home. When the door opened I saw my mother for the first time in ten years. She hugged me fiercely crying all the while. As I walked into the house, my dad came forward and kissed me gently on my forehead.
“Where have you been all these years?” He asked.
I tried to explain but was too overwhelmed to talk.
My mother then said “Come here, we have a surprise for you!” and led me to the family room. I saw a huge Christmas tree with many presents beneath it.
“Is everyone here? And why are the presents not opened?” I asked
“There are only 10 presents under that tree and they are all for you! For each Christmas that we missed you. We knew that someday you did come back home” mom explained.
“We are so happy you came back, Jane!” Dad said
Overwhelmed with guilt and grief, I barely managed to say “Mom, Dad, your love is my best Christmas present ever! Merry Christmas!”