A Gift For Charlie | The Ink Well Prompt #41
The antique wall clock hanging beside a painting of a frail, petite woman on the wall chimed, a sound that was distracting in the quiet condo. It was 11 pm. Charlie gently touched the painting, tracing the lovely pearl necklace on the woman's neck. The first of many things she sold so she and her siblings could survive.
Charlie opened the balcony door and stepped outside into the cold atmosphere. Lights glittering from the tall buildings and houses scattered around the city added to the beauty of the cold night. It was a contrast to her melancholy feeling.
"You are always looking serious, ma chérie. Smile!" Charlie remembered her mother's words before they would both engage in a tickling match and laughs. Her mother was a vivacious woman who loved life, maybe a little too much and she was robbed of it. First by her vermin of a husband who moved to another city with a woman and then by cancer.
Charlie smiled in nostalgia as tears pooled in her eyes. The city was agog, Christmas was around the corner. Charlie wished her mother was there with her. Her sanguine personality and vivacity would light up the whole house, if not the city.
After eleven years of her passing and stepping into her shoes to care for her siblings who were grown and independent, Charlie felt lonelier than ever before. Did she make the right choices? She wondered. She wished Cathy and Lionel, her siblings, would travel home for the festive season but they have their lives now.
A cold burst of wind made her shudder, goosebumps spreading out all over her arms. She hugged herself when the sound of soft footfalls reached her ears.
Charlie quickly replaced the sad look on her face with a smile as she had often done for years and turned to glance at her youngest sister, Amy.
"What are you doing outside in the cold?" Amy scowled at her. Charlie grinned in response. "You know I am immune to the cold."
"Yea, right! Please come in. I don't want to freeze out here with you."
It was Charlie's turn to scowl. "I want to stay out here for a while. Why are you up anyway? Go to bed."
Amy scowled some more. "Stay out here a while? So you can kill yourself with sadness, thinking of mom?" Amy's eyes were already glistening with tears as she scolded her eldest sister.
Charlie, remorseful, stretched out her hand and Amy went into it. Both ladies held each other tightly for a long moment. "Okay, let's go in," Charlie said.
Shutting the balcony door, Charlie pulled Amy and they both sat down on the sofa. "I miss her so much," Amy said softly. Charlie exhaled and stared at her sister.
"Me too. Every Christmas, I can't help thinking about her. Remember how she spoiled us with gifts?"
Amy smiled in reminiscence. "She always made Christmas beautiful for us after Dad left."
The two ladies became quiet for a moment. Suddenly, Amy launched herself into Charlie's arms and held her tightly. Charlie's eyes widened in shock before she patted Amy gently on the back. Amy pulled back, tears had streamed down her cheeks to her chin.
"Hey," Charlie whispered softly, cupping her face. "What is it?"
Amy sniffed, "I never thanked you for stepping into mom's place after she passed. All these years, you put your life on hold for us —me, Lionel and Cathy. You took care of us. I know I gave you a hard time when Kevin proposed because I was scared and did not want to lose you… "
"Shhh," Charlie interrupted her. "You know you can never lose me…"
"Yea, I know now. But you could have been married and have a family of your own. Instead you stayed for us…"
"Look at me," Charlie held Amy's shoulders. "You are my family and Kevin and I would not have worked out. That's why I turned down his proposal."
Amy nodded, stood up and said. "Wait here. I've got something for you." Charlie laughed as Amy went into her room. "Whaaat? It's not Christmas yet." Charlie called after her.
Amy returned back with a small box wrapped in glittering red and green sheet held together with a twirled ribbon. Charlie could not believe her eyes.
"Open it." Amy entreated her. Charlie was all smiles as she pulled the ribbon apart gently and unwrapped the gift. Inside the wrapping sheet was a small vintage box. She glanced at Amy who inclined her head a little, urging her to open the box.
Charlie opened the box and gasped loudly, one hand covering her mouth. Inside the box was a beautiful pearl necklace, the exact replica of the one on the petite woman in the painting. She turned the clasp and saw the tiny inscription on it. It was the same one!
Charlie knew her eyes held unshed tears. "Amy, how did you get this?"
Amy smiled. "Lionel, Cathy and I put some money together, found it and bought it back for you. To say thank you. You always gave us gifts at Christmas, just like mom but no one ever gives you anything."
Charlie could not stop the flood of tears and the hiccups that followed. She had often wondered when she would get a Christmas gift again and now her siblings surprised her.
The two ladies held each other in a tight hug as it began to snow outside.