Christmas Shopping

Author’s note:

This is going to be my first short story posted on Written On A Whim…the story is my humble tribute to the greatest Christmas love story ‘The Gift Of The Magi’. I hope you’ll like it.

As always comments and criticism would be appreciated.

Today was Christmas, and Mallory and her husband Kevin were preparing for their trip to Kenton, the shopping hub of the city, as was their yearly practice.

Mallory was excitedly sifting through her wardrobe to find something. No new additions have been made to it for over two years and thus each outfit seems unworthy of selection.

“Should I wear this red trench coat…but it has a missing button…oh! It’s kept in the pocket, it can be sewn to it in a jiffy…but it wouldn’t be nice to make Kevin wait…maybe I should just wear what I wore to church…”

While Mallory was ruminating, Kevin was having his own share of difficulties. He hardly had any casuals and the few that he had were worn to shreds.

“I guess I’ll have to wear my workplace clothes…I can just put on my trusted jacket on top of it…Mallory won’t know the difference…drat, the pocket has a hole. Oh well it wouldn’t be visible in the dim lights anyway…”

At the end of it all, Mallory came out wearing the same white shirt which she had worn to church but instead of the denim trousers it was now paired with a black long skirt. To top it all she wore the red trench coat with the missing button sewn back into position. Since the coat lacked a hood, she had covered her head using a headscarf.  

Kevin, on the other hand wore a white striped shirt with beige coloured trousers and the same trusted jacket. Around his neck was a black knitted muffler similar to the one Mallory was wearing.

“How do I look?” asked Mallory, as she spun around.

“Pretty…very pretty,” said Kevin. He saw that she was wearing the same boots he had bought her two years ago. They were now heavily worn out and there were cracks on the leather.

Mallory smiled. “You’re looking good too.” She was happy that he was wearing the muffler she had knitted to replace the torn hood of the jacket, although he never wrapped it over his head like she had.

And the two left for the bus stop from their dark apartment.

It was a cold night, and the weather report had foretold snowfall. Along the road they could see the familiar red-and-green lights covering all the neighbouring buildings like an elaborate uniform. Their combined hues however, failed to bring any warmth or illumination on to the road.

They boarded a bus that took them a little short of their destination. With no other bus in sight, they reluctantly went to the underground train station and boarded a train to Kenton.

And there it was! Kenton in all its glory. Large skyscrapers containing shops selling almost every merchandise imaginable, while their entrances were camouflaged by the numerous makeshift stalls lining the roads on either side, the road itself devoid of any vehicles.

Kevin, however, was just gazing at the lights all around him. Mallory found his childlike fascination for the lights very amusing.

“Every year you stare at these lights, what is so special about them?”

“They look beautiful…these varied colours, don’t they create a serene ambience, something magical?”

“Fine. If you say so.” Although now that she looked at the lights, the sparkling streamers and the little bells, gift boxes and tinsel balls; they did seem to depict this patch of the real world as a part of another, surreal realm.

But this didn’t stop her from enthusiastically tugging Kevin away from those lights towards the entrance of a department store. The guard didn’t stop them from entering, maybe he was too tired, maybe they weren’t looking as shabby as she dreaded, maybe the festive spirit made him a little more lenient in screening entrants. She remembered how their attire was never approved by the guards at other times of the year.

Kevin, on his part, was conscious about hiding the cracked soles of his sneakers and so began to walk by dragging his feet, which was tricky given the slippery nature of the regularly mopped floor.

“Kevin, are you trying skate across the floor?”

“Uhh…yes.”

“It is fun, isn’t it?”

And Mallory skidded her way ahead, rushing towards the escalator in the centre.

The first floor was full of men’s clothes, but even that attracted Mallory’s attention. She went about looking at all the mannequins dressed up in the suits, jackets, tuxedos and trousers and intermittently calling out to Kevin – who was struggling to keep pace with her – and asking him, rather telling him, “Wouldn’t this look good on you?”

And every time she did this, she had to take a deep sigh and move forward.

The floor above was for women’s clothing, and here again Mallory was gambolling about until she stopped at a mannequin dressed in a purple and black satin dress. She even went forward to look at the price tag and then nonchalantly moved forward.

As Kevin saw this, he stopped where he stood, shut his eyes hard with his head hanging down and took a few deep breaths before moving towards that mannequin and saying, “Hey, this would look really beautiful on you!”

Mallory turned around and smiled and the two moved together ahead.

The third floor was full of toys and books and Mallory kept staring intently at those large-eyed dolls.

“They were quite popular during my childhood. What do you think of them?”

“They remind me of Annabelle,” said Kevin as he longingly stared at the rows of cricket bats hung at the corner.

The books also fascinated their attention. They always did, for they could always read through a book and not buy it. They spent half an hour over there. While Mallory sifted through the pages of ‘Anne of Green Gables’, Kevin grabbed a copy of a travelogue.

The fourth floor housed the food court. Mallory and Kevin stared down at the rest of the mall. The different floors, each with their common decoration based on streamers, tinsel balls and bells and paper cut-outs of snowflakes, candy sticks, reindeer horns and Santa caps looked like the layers of a cake.

It was a while that they stood over there, arm in arm, taking in the festive atmosphere when an announcement informing that the mall will be closed in fifteen minutes was made. They quickly made their way downstairs and were back on the road.

“Kevin?”

“Yes dear?”

“When will we be able to buy what we see?”

“My job contract ends in two years…I should be able to get a better paying job after that. And then I will buy you that dress.”

“That’s not needed, it’s too expensive.”

“You liked it, didn’t you?”

“As if it would remain on display even after a month, let alone for two years.”

As she was saying this, snowflakes had begun to fall.

“How beautiful! Isn’t it, Kevin?” Mallory said as she spread out her hands to feel the falling snow.

“Indeed it is.” Kevin said as he breathed in deeply the cold air, which gave him goose bumps despite wearing the jacket.

The snowfall began to intensify, sending the other shoppers into a scurry for their homes.

Kevin and Mallory too decided to hurry; their worn out footwear was no longer impervious to the damp snow. Luckily for them, a bus- that would drop them off one station short of their home- passed by and they boarded it.

While they stood inside the bus, the snowfall intensified, the blurry light of the streetlights getting further obstructed by the incessant flakes of snow falling from the sky.

Mallory and Kevin climbed down and began to walk with long strides.

“I hope the heater will provide us enough warmth for the night,” said Mallory.

“Don’t worry, we can always snuggle under the layers of the three blankets that we have,” said Kevin.

As they reached the door of their apartment, steam coming out of their mouths. They looked at each other and laughed.

“Wait for two years, dear, just two years…we will have better reasons to smile than this.”

“Although I wouldn’t mind a little more money, I would still love to have moments like these.”

And they entered inside, bracing themselves for two more frugal years.


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