The Gift

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“Red aura. You hold a lot of anger inside you.” Madame Sylvia stared into my eyes.

I looked down at my shoes like a scolded child. “You know what? This was a bad idea. Sorry I wasted your time.” I turned around to leave.

For days, I had lingered outside the squat building, its loud neon lights flashing in my eyes. I had always walked away. How bizarre would it be for a grown man in a business suit to be seated in a gaudy parlor, peering into a crystal ball?

But today, once again, Padma drove me to do something I didn’t want to.

“You’re searching for something…no, someone.” I turned my slumped shoulders around.

“How did you…never mind, can you find her?”

Padma had vanished without a trace. There had been no bank transactions, her social media accounts were deleted and her phone was untraceable.The private investigator I had hired gave up after a couple of months. The worst part was that wherever she’d gone, she had taken Zuri with her. My little Zuri. And I would never forgive her for that.

Six months back, I had come home from work with a strange hollow feeling. Padma’s and Zuri’s shoes were missing from the shoe closet. The photo wall in the hallway stripped bare. Zuri’s toddler drawings were gone from the fridge door, Zuri’s toys, gone, their closets empty. Was this a break-in? No, the house wouldn’t be so neat if it was.

I ran around the house like a madman, calling their names out to the empty rooms. I made frantic phone calls. Then I saw the note, neatly taped to the bathroom mirror.

“You’ve turned into a monster, Jim. It’s over.” Padma’s matter-of-fact handwriting said.

I pounded my fist on the mirror. And then I cried.

Madame Sylvia’s anklets jangled as she motioned me to walk with her into the inner sanctum. The tiny room was saturated with the smell of incense and cigarette smoke. At the center of the dimly lit room was a small round table with a milky crystal ball perched on it.

A crystal ball. But what was I expecting coming here? Damn it, Padma!

She always did this. This getting into my brain thing. Egging me on to do things she wanted me to do. Rousing the angry demons inside me. She had gone too far this time. She shouldn’t have taken Zuri away from me.

“Tell me her name.” Madame Sylvia clearly had a flair for the dramatic.

“Padma.”

Sylvia closed her eyes in meditation, her hands on the crystal ball. After a few seconds, the ball glowed. Cheap parlor trick. She opened her eyes and peered into the milky orb.

“I see her. She’s with a child, a little girl.”

I moved to the edge of my chair. “Yes, that’s my daughter, Zuri.”

“They’re at a playground. It’s a foreign land, far from here.”

I stood up. “I want to see them.”

Before she could deny, I walked over to her side. Sylvia wasn’t kidding. I don’t know if it was the incense or hypnosis, but I could see them. Padma’s face stoked the red hot coals of my anger. My palm curled itself into a fist.

“Tell me where they are.” My voice was urgent. I was scanning the background for clues about where they could be.

“They look happy, don’t they?” Sylvia’s voice was serene.

Their faces glowed pink. Zuri squealed on the swing. Padma had let her hair down, something she never did. When we first met, I’d asked her why she always had her hair back in a ponytail. “I don’t like my hair getting near my eyes.” She always had a clear vision of what she wanted from life. I’d fallen head over heels in love with her confidence.

Zuri had grown taller. Or had she? She stood taller now. Maybe it was because she wasn’t cowering in fear when I was around. She had seen me yelling and hitting her mother. She wouldn’t want to come back to me. I slumped back into my chair. I really had turned into a monster.

I placed a fifty-dollar note by the crystal ball, turned around and left.

The following day, I bought Zuri the best gift I could buy. I enrolled myself in an anger management class.

6 thoughts on “The Gift

  1. Laura

    You set the scene well and drop hints that let us recognize Jim’s character before he does. I felt like his change of heart seemed to come on a little too quickly – maybe spending more time in the psychic’s room, revealing how Padma left in conversation rather than through Jim’s memories?

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  2. d3athlily

    I really loved this story! You were so wrong about it being bad. My only suggestion would be that a few clues hidden throughout about the father’s true nature may have helped make the ending seem less sudden. Other than that, you are so great at painting a scene with such broad strokes.

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