Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Birthday Gift

This was the time of the day when the sun was getting ready to disappear below the horizon and below the imaginable line drawn by the dusty roofs of the neighborhood’s houses. It was the time of the year when the infinitesimal teardrops of the people would surely freeze once they touched the burning red skin. The sky was getting gloomier and the clouds had the color of a gravestone covered in desperation. The air was rich with the smell of the exhausted gases of the cars and buses driving through the wet boulevards and streets, but no one seemed to notice the strikingly sharp and disgusting odor. All that the little creatures out there thought about was getting back to the quiet, warm places they called homes. It was a few minutes past the end of the work day, but there was almost no one out there to distract the distant bark of the homeless dogs. Only three confused and lost souls were still lavishly meandering around the bus stop waiting for a way to escape from the depressing atmosphere of the winter.
One of them was an old tall fair skinned man in a brown suit wearing a black and torn cap which had quite a good semblance with a dead crow. Next to the man there was a little lady carrying a small transparent plastic bag with a piece of bread in it. Her hand was holding firmly the bag as it was the last thing she had and maybe it was…The third person waiting for the bus was a girl or maybe a young woman. She was staring at the puddle next to her trying to see her own reflection. There she was wearing her pretty blue jacket that her father bought her at the black market when he went to a military conference in Warsaw. No one had a jacket like hers because there were no jackets like hers. The “regime” wanted from all of them to be the same because supposedly they were “all equal”. She had problems with everyone when she wore that pretty blue jacket the first day of school.
“Where did you steal this from?” asked the teacher when he saw her entering the classroom. “Answer to me” he continued. That was how people reacted when they saw something new and nice. No one would complement, but everyone would suspect because this was how they were taught to respond to the things they were not familiar with. Suspicion was what ruled the world that Tsveta lived in. Yes, the name of the girl was Tsveta.
Tsveta was a fragile and gentle girl who was everything that the “regime” did not like. She was simply different. The look on her face did not show the usual dissatisfaction and tiredness of the people around; on the contrary she was always smiling and happy. However, this day her reflection was not cheerful, but rather worried. Seriousness covered her face and her posture reminded that of a tree snapped off by a fierce storm. It was interesting how many things could be told by simply looking at Tsveta. She was like an open book because her sincere look could never hide anything. Sadly, what was written now on her face was immense fear. She never thought that what started as buying a gift for her own birthday would end with her almost arrested… “Almost”, she quietly repeated in her head. Everything was over and she was completely safe there, at the bus stop standing next the old man and the little lady, but still she could not stop thinking about what could have happened.
It was just about half past four when she entered the “Korekom” with thirty dollars in her pocket. Although she had the feeling that something would go terribly wrong, she pressed the cold handle of the door and walked in the shop. Warm air blew in her face as she headed towards the Women’s department. Tsveta was supposed to meet Lina, a friend of her mother’s, who worked at the “Korekom” and would help her pick up a pair of jeans as a birthday gift. As Tsveta was approaching the counter, she heard a familiar voice and turned around. “Hello my girl!” said Lina with a welcoming tone, “Are you ready to try these on?”
Tsveta gave Lina a warm smile and took the three pairs of jeans that the woman had prepared for her. They headed towards the changing rooms and Tsveta walked in the first one when suddenly Lina shut the door and whispered quickly, “Don’t move!” As she spoke those words the lady walked away.
Tsveta did not hear anything for a few minutes, but then a loud cold voice broke the silence, "Is there anyone in the changing rooms?”
“No, there is no one Mr. Officer” was all Tsveta heard. She knew what was about to happen if the officer was to come and search the place. The girl knew she was not supposed to be at the “Korekom”, but she never thought of the consequences. The “regime” prohibited the normal people from entering fancy and nice shops like the “Korekom” because it was considered that no one would need the clothes sold in it. Everyone was supposed to be “equal” and right now Tsveta was an outlaw for wanting something more. The girl was holding on to the jeans and praying that she does not get caught. She did not even notice the little teardrops falling down her cheeks.
“You can come out now” said Lina in the very same calm tone that she had when talking to the officer, “they are gone.” The words thank you resonated within the head of Tsveta as she walked out of her hiding place. She handed back the jeans and gave Lina the thirty dollars.
“Which pair do you want to keep?” asked the shop assistant and looked at her with a comforting smile.
“The Levi’s” is all the girl could say.
“I will bring them to you tonight then and now off you go! Be careful and use the back door of the shop!”
Tsveta did not need another invitation to escape from that place and so she turned around and disappeared in between the numerous clothes and accessories. A few minutes after that she was at the bus stop breathing heavily and shivering. No one seemed to notice that something was wrong with her because no one cared.
Tsveta looked into the darkness of the winter night and choked in desperation. The old man and the little lady were now gone. The bus never came.

Word Count: 1110 words

1 comment:

  1. Dear Eli,
    I really enjoyed reading your story. You have a great ability of presenting important facts (such as the Communist regime which is not that fascinating and interesting but rather already known and a little bit distant from the 21st century's society) in an extremely attractive way in which the attention of the reader is fully involved. Your grammar and the sentences’ structure are excellent, so I do not have to correct anything. The only thing that I would advice you to pay more attention on is the culmination of the story. I mean, the culmination in the “The Birthday Gift” should be the moment when the police entered the store, right? Well, you should pay more attention on making the culmination more interesting. For example, I think you could exclude some unimportant information (such as the ones in the beginning of the story) and some confusing details (for example, I could not quite understand what the role of the jacket in the classroom is). In general, I loved your story; I think it presents one of the most important moments of the world’s history, and specifically – the history of Bulgaria. But if you would like to make it even more amusing and catching, pay more attention on the representation of the culmination. I cannot wait to read your new literature pieces soon! :)