To me the worst have got to be e-cards and SMSes, but who am I to complain?

Initially an impromptu idea that came to mind while I was — what else — making a birthday card, after which I expanded it into a full-length piece until 2.30am in the morning.

Enjoy.

The Giftmaster


Eighth October.

I run out of silver ribbon, so I

drop by the fabrics and crafts shop

and buy a new roll.

It makes the eighth addition to

my collection of coloured strips

of ribbons and strings and shining wires.

I drag a metre each of silver and blue,

snip them off, and twist

a butterfly bow. I run the scissors along

their ends, until they spring

into tight ringlets. A little tape, and

I fasten them onto the blue-wrapped box,

the final touch of perfection.

I hurry next door, to the ongoing party

and hand the box over to little Trevor,

smiling my wishes and relief.

He whoops with delight, and

scrambles to the heart of all the excitement

where a pile of opened packages lay.

The ribbons come undone, the wrappers

are torn, the flaps unfold, and then

Trevor clutches the snow — no, wheel globe

with the truck at the base,

and the flying wheels in the water. He laughs,

shaking the globe, again and again,

and everyone laughs along with him.

I am just glad I managed to find

plastic beads of that queer shape

after all.

.

Seventeenth November.

I do not know Mira very well,

but still there is something for her

I plan to make. The palette comes out of

my cupboard, the dried blobs of

rainbow paint all over the little craters.

I wet a size eleven brush,

and dab it with white, then red.

A pink trail runs over the art paper,

followed by a dash of lilac.

The colours blend well, and I work till

the paint dries up. I draw

white snowflakes all over the page,

then sprinkle glitter onto the complex asterisks,

letting it dry on the thick white paint.

Soon enough, my desk is full

of diamond dust, but before I can clear

my things, the curtains swell and

the brushes roll off the palette,

streaking colours onto the desk.

I snatch the card away before it gets

marred; grabbing the escapees, I wipe

everything clean, and mutter under my breath.

The next day in class, I hand Mira the

card, and say cheerfully, 'happy birthday'.

She seems surprised, but smiles

and thanks me all the same.

Throughout the day her friends shower her

with charm bracelets, teddy bears,

CDs and bags — and I remember seeing

a shimmering halter top and her eyes

gleaming. Link gives her an ox-eye daisy with a

bee-shaped clip, and she calls her thanks

after him.

.

Twenty-fourth December.

I check the packets right after the

bus ride, and thankfully nothing is broken.

In the corridors everyone is in a great mood,

dying for classes to end and

for Christmas to come. Link catches up

with me, and teases, "What has Santa's junior assistant

gotten for the class this time?"

I deliberately take out the gifts, yet say

it's a secret. He tells me

to reserve the extras for him.

First period is free, so I pass around

the butterscotch and pecan cookies —

dark red ribbons for girls, navy blue for boys —

wishing my classmates a happy Yuletide.

Mira giggles at the message her best friend

sent her, and accepts one absently;

well-heeled Wesley smirks, "Nice try,"

and pats me kindly on the head.

Stuart stares dazedly at the mobile phone keychain

his girlfriend gave him earlier. "I'm on a diet,"

he murmurs, then laughs at himself and

confesses his allergy to nuts.

Elaine and Valerie shriek over the silver

necklaces they've gotten for each other,

and my cookies seem too general

for intrusion. Link hands me one of the chocolate

cubes he's been giving everyone too. I ask

about his progress, and he shrugs. "All except Stu —

but he's just nuts." He takes the rest of my

cookies cheekily, then gives me his bag of sweets, and

I laugh.

.

Thirty-first January.

I fret much over what to make

this time, because I don't want to

recycle ideas I've used before. I try to

recall, and the school team's victory

in the water-polo championships last year

come into my mind, so I work from there.

I get out my art paper, fold a piece

into half, and draw my version of

his face on it above the water.

Beside his head is a circle I later paint yellow

with a smiley face, bright and happy like

his grin. And just for fun, I add

a tiny crown above each of the two:

champions of the pool.

The sky is white, the water is blue, and his face

reflects every colour with his smile,

together with the freckles on his chin.

On the inside of the card I swirl my third

birthday greeting for him, and then slot it

into an envelope of champagne gold.

In school I slip the gift under his desk, only to find

two other packages in two different carrier bags

from two different stores in the same

shopping mall. The boys hoot and holler when

Link comes in, slapping his back and

giving him a brand new pair of goggles

and blue sports bag from the coach and team.

When the last bell rings Link comes over

to my seat, his face flushed but happy. He says,

"Thanks for your card," and smiles at me

that same smile he gave only once last year

when the judges announced that our school

had won.

.

Fourteenth February.

I see heart-shaped balloons, heart-shaped

chocolates, heart-shaped bouquets,

even heart-shaped declarations

of 'I love you's. Vaguely I wonder

if the departmental stores have run out of

V-day goods, and am secretly glad I made my own.

The tinkling bells of red and

the clinking wings of wire hang from

the keyrings which I keep in a bunch, and which

I don't have the chance to reveal.

For on my own desk is

an exquisite bouquet of paper flowers,

each meticulously folded, fixed and fashioned

and of varying shades of red and pink.

Globules of scented cotton on branches of green wire

dance their way around the floral spray.

They are surrounded by white and rose-coloured

soft paper, and tied with silver ribbon

in loops and curls that run all the way to the floor.

And under my desk is a paper collage

of a butterfly, an image captured during

its flight in the crescent-mooned night,

over a field of pale periwinkles. That is all that exists

in my mind during all the lessons, but eventually

the day is over and the classroom empties.

I watch as the only other person remaining comes over,

smiling ever so pleasantly. "I don't know why,"

says Link, "but it took me three Christmases

and three birthdays to figure it out."

I shake my head, not wanting to hear any

declarations, but all he does is kiss me softly

on my forehead, and I can almost breathe

the freckles on his chin.

His hand finds mine, and we walk out of class

together — giftmasters to each other —

me holding my posy, him holding my file,

with the white and black reminder

of his well-kept love

inside it.

-fin-