The Gift

          Every Christmas Charlie bought a piece of jewelry for his wife. The night before the holiday, Ala Moana Shopping Center glittered as mass amounts of people frantically shopped for last minute gifts. Charlie slowly heaved his way through the dense crowd and into a popular jewelry store.
          He stood in front of a glass counter, mulling over the displays of shiny jewelry items, trying to decide on that one special piece. As he narrowed his choice, his mind clogged with thoughts. I need to get you something really nice. This year has been really hard. As a sales lady approached him, his wrinkled hand slowly pointed into the glass case.
          “Ah, mister, what a fine choice.” The middle aged sales lady reached over into the case and brought out a black velvet box containing a gold heart shaped pendant with sparkling diamonds hanging by a herringbone gold chain.
          “It’s actually a locket, fourteen karat gold, with three one-quarter karat diamonds embedded in the front.”
          As Charlie inspected the piece closely, the sales lady continued in a flat tone, as if she probably said the same line twenty times a day, “The gold chain is also included in the price. It is an exquisite piece, a very nice Christmas present for that someone special.”
          Charlie handed the locket back to the salesclerk and softly replied, “I’ll take it.”
          The sales clerk happily shut the box and while she rang him up she asked, “Would like it gift wrapped?”
          Charlie nodded his head yes. After payment, the sales lady wrapped his locket and put the wrapped box into a plastic bag. Charlie muttered a thank you as he grabbed his package and walked out of the store.
          Charlie started walking back to his car until he realized he forgotten something.
          He headed into Longs and walked through the aisles, aimlessly looking for the candy section. He finally found the right aisle, and began to look around the shelves.
          He searched for a box of chocolate covered cordial cherries that his wife loved to eat during Christmas time. Although it was a mandatory treat by her insistence, Charlie would consistently argue with her every year that it was too sugary for his wife’s diabetes. His thoughts became consumed by years of arguments over her health versus her sweet tooth and he harshly grabbed a box of cherries off the shelf.
          Suddenly, he felt tiny fingers grasp his other hand, and a soft sweet voice cautiously rang out, “Poppa?”
          Charlie looked down and stared at young hapa girl, no more than two feet tall, with big brown eyes staring back into his old wrinkly face. The little girl suddenly let go of his hand and she clapped her mouth in surprise.
          “Nani, where are you?” A voice behind the little girl echoed as the little girl turned around. Charlie looked up. He saw a tired looking woman carrying a large box containing a toy truck heading their way. “I told you to stay with me.”
          The little girl looked at her mother and replied, “Not Poppa?” The woman looked over at Charlie and gave him a weary smile. Charlie felt himself smile back uncomfortably.
          She looked at her daughter and responded. “No baby, not Poppa.” Her daughter pouted as the woman grabbed the little girl’s hand who struggled to break free.
          The woman let go and spoke in a stern voice.
          “You stay with me now Nani, ok, don’t run off again.” The girl nodded.
          “I’m sorry mister,” the lady shifted as she rebalanced the huge box on her hip. She stared at Charlie for a moment, as if recognized him from somewhere. Charlie shifted his body posture awkwardly as the woman continued to stare at him.
          “You look very much like my father.” She spoke in a quiet tone.
          The woman looked down at her daughter who had taken a sudden interest of the colorful holiday candy aisle. The woman looked back at Charlie.
          “My father passed away last month. My daughter misses him very much.” She stared affectionately at the little girl.
          “But….she’s young and doesn’t understand death yet.” She looked at her daughter, who seemed fascinated with a middle aged woman wearing a Santa hat throwing packages of Christmas candy into her cart.
          The woman continued without his reply. “You even dress like him; he always wore his camouflage jacket, much like yours.” The woman looked down for a moment, then looked up and faced Charlie with tears in her eyes. Charlie squirmed in his worn faded jacket, speechless.
          The women suddenly shifted her box and grabbed her daughter’s hand. “Come, Nani, let’s go. Let’s not bother this nice man.” Hand in hand they turned to walk away from him.
          “Wait,” Charlie loudly replied. Several people passing through the aisle curiously looked at him as the woman and little girl stopped and turned to face him.
          “Here,” He shoved the bag with the jewelry store logo into the little girl’s hand. The woman reached over to grab it from her daughter to give it back.
          “No mister……”
          Charlie lifted up his hands in protest holding the box of cordial cherries. “No, no, I bought it for my wife, but believe me, she won’t mind.”
          Charlie stiffly smiled, shook the box of cherries and added, “She would rather have these anyway.”
          As woman peeked into the jewelry bag, the little girl shyly looked at Charlie. Charlie smiled at her and she beamed back.
          “Merry Christmas, Nani” Charlie reached out his free hand.
          Nani took it and her tiny hand disappeared into his. She squealed in delight and suddenly let go of Charlie’s hand and exhaled a mass of giggles, then grabbed her mother’s leg and hid her face. The woman smiled at Charlie and whispered, “Thank you.”
          Charlie turned red and hastily walked away, leaving the little girl and the woman in the candy aisle.
          He quickly paid for his candy in the express lane and walked to his car. Fifteen minutes later Charlie was home. He called out his wife’s name as he unlocked the front door and entered his apartment.
          He walked into his living room and headed towards the shrine where the urn of ashes patiently waited for his arrival. He put the box of cherries next to the urn and put his hand on the urn and bowed his head.
          “Merry Christmas my darling,” he whispered.
          Charlie looked up with tears in his eyes, nodded his head, and smiled. “Thank you for sending me an angel.”

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