The gift I found on my porch was dressed in midnight-blue leather, and embossed in gold leaf. A spider web-thin mesh ribbon glittered in the sun. I placed the box on the window sill and watched it, expecting it to vanish. I knew it was mine because my name, Violet, was written in Victorian calligraphy on the attached card. It was on the front doorstep of my brownstone when I got home from work. I didn’t see the mailman drop it off, and none of my neighbors saw anything either. But it was mine. And I would open it eventually, but for now, I would look at it, hold it, and feel the lush leather that was fit for royalty.
I pondered who left it sitting so perfectly centered on my doormat.
My boss was certainly thrilled at my designs this week, and told me I was the queen of graphics. Unusual for him. He is regularly ruthless and more of a queen than I’ll ever be. My birthday is coming…actually it’s two months away, but maybe the girls all got together and chipped in for something especially awesome this year. Also doubtful. This box is obviously custom-made, and they are far more inclined to find me something at Coach or Lord and Taylor. They are just as busy as I am and wouldn’t have the time to hunt down a treasure. And most of them are strapped for money, too. The box and ribbon alone most likely cost more than all of them could afford together.
Maybe Mick. We are probably still together, but I have not heard from him in weeks. Although not out of the ordinary, 3 ½ weeks is longer than his usual disappearing act. Last time he went missing for almost two weeks and showed up at my door on a Friday night with a beard and flowers. He smelled like gin, and told me he loved me over and over. We stayed in bed until Sunday morning, and I saw our smiling, curly-haired children when I looked in his eyes. We had breakfast, and I’m still waiting for him to call.
Everyone loves Mick. He has a gift for spinning a riveting tale, especially if he gets to use his inaccurate Irish brogue. “Life is just more fun when he is around” is a phrase I’ve heard more than once. I’m pretty sure my grandmother likes him more than she likes me. It doesn’t hurt that he has sky-blue eyes and a cleft in his chin.
But there is another side to Mick that no one gets to see but me. It’s probably just a phase. After our breakfast on Sunday over three weeks ago, I could tell he was tired and probably dealing with some alcohol backlash. His eyes were bloodshot and he was quiet as the library at midnight. And just as dark. I go into cheer-up mode when he gets like that, even though I know he hates it, and there is nothing to stop what comes next.
“Do you have a headache?” I asked. “I can rub your shoulders. Sometimes that…”
“Oh my GOD can you ever just SHUT. UP,” he said.
“I just wanted to…”
“Shit. It’s like you’re retarded. Wanna back rub?? I can help you…” he said in that squeaky mock-your-girlfriend tone. “I can fix you because I’m your giiiirlfriend. Just shut the fuck up.”
I opened my mouth to speak but was cut off before I could even inhale. He told me I WAS retarded and I thought the world revolved around me. He stood over me and asked me if I agreed that I was retarded. I did not answer fast enough and he asked again, louder. I said, “No. I’m not.” Then came the laugh. That low chuckle reserved for people who are obviously unaware that they are dealing with a higher intellect.
“Yeah. You are. You think you are the queen of the world, but you’re just a moron” he said. “A ridiculous, no-talent moron. So you make pictures on a computer like a big girl. Congratulations. Well, they are pedestrian. So are you. You’re boring. You bore ME.”
I’d had enough and stood to leave.
“Ah…I’m sorry…” he said as he reached for my hand. “I can be such a prick. I’m tired, still hung-over and touchy. Sorry.”
He pulled me onto his lap and I could tell he was ready to make up. I had nothing to say and he knew I would be more than willing to let it end.
In all honesty, I am not a moron. Nothing close to a moron. I graduated from The Art Institute of Chicago 3 years ago with a straight-A average, was recruited to work for MoMA while only a junior, and I make enough money to live comfortably in a 3-bedroom brownstone in NYC, take several relatively glamorous vacations a year, and own my own car.
But we have never spent more than two days together without some type of blow up. Some are rational, most are definitely not. Like the time I leaned over to emphasize a point in my story, and broke the glass that held his wine. We were at my house, drinking my wine, and it spilled on my rug. But he hit the ceiling and yelled for almost five full minutes, reminding me how child-like I am and how I can never take responsibility for anything. And then, click, it was over. He was crooning about how sorry he was. It made me feel terrible, yet I stayed. It made me feel like a moron, yet I stayed.
So maybe he thought he went too far last time and left this crazy-beautiful package on my front step. I knew I would have to leave him someday, but I wanted the present to be from him.
I was afraid to open it. I was afraid to open the card. Then the spell would be broken. But for now, the package was delivered by a prince, and the card would read that I am a long-lost descendant of royalty and he will be arriving shortly to retrieve me, and take me away to his castle on a hill in Romania to live with him forever. And please, he will write, wear this 35-karat diamond necklace around your beautiful neck during our trip.
I was quickly shaken back to reality by my front door swinging open, and Mick walking in.
“Hey,” he said.
For the first time I was not thrilled to see him come back to me after one of his long vacations. I felt he was mad at me, and I knew what was coming.
“So what, no love for the weary sailor?” he asked.
“What are you talking about?” I said.
“Sailor, get it? Someone who sails. On the water. Sometimes the ocean.”
“I know what a sailor is,” I said. “You never told me you were going sailing…”
“What the FUCK!” he yelled. It happened in record time this go-round. I could see how stupid he thought I was by the look on his face. I knew this was going to be bad, yet I still found myself wanting to somehow make him feel better.
“Tell you what,” I began, “I’ll go make us some coffee and you can tell me…”
“A SAILOR! I was on a BOAT sailing. Why can’t you listen to what I am saying and not involve what YOU want in every conversation? GOD, you are self-centered and ridiculous. I’m back to see YOU,” he spat, “and you can’t even figure out what I’m talking about because you are worried about YOURSELF!” The he grabbed me by the arm and kissed me hard. He held me close and I couldn’t pull away. He smelled like cigarettes and an unfamiliar, sweet whiskey. The whole thing was disgusting and I pushed him away.
“Get out,” I whispered.
“What?” he said, that sardonic smile playing on his mouth.
“I want you to leave,” I said.
“That’s funny!” he said. “You don’t see me for weeks and then you throw me out? I don’t think so…”
He approached me again and before he could grab me I slapped him in the face, hard. He looked at me with terrible eyes and came at me again, and I punched him in the mouth. I told him if he took one step toward anything but the door, I would call the police. He looked surprised. I had never done anything like that before. Not just to him, but to anyone.
“Bitch.” he said quietly, and wiped his mouth. He noticed blood on his hand and his anger returned. “I know you,” he said. “You’ll call me by tonight.” With that, he turned on his heel to go, and noticed the box on the window sill. He picked it up and saw my name on the card.
“Secret admirer?” he asked. “New boyfriend? How nice.” And he threw it against the wall.
And then he left.
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