The Necklace

This Christmas season has been sensational so far. And I’m not just talking gifts, or food, but fun shared and writing accomplished with a giant dollop of lazy reading thrown in. Add to that the fact that school is out, I have a free winter, and lots of plans. Plus the snow has been lovely.

It wouldn’t be life if there wasn’t some mischief in the mix, and as usual, I whipped up some of my own. We had the brilliant idea this year to do all our shopping online and not bother with stores and post offices. Daily, new packages would arrive. We had to sort out if it was in my name was this because it was my gift from Al? Or was it mine to him? Or was it one from the kids to Al that needed wrapping?

We had a pretty good organizational method for this, but one thing we did not reckon on was that not every e-retailer is as nice as Amazon when it comes to hiding the bill in a big yellow envelope saying to keep the surprise, do not open until after Christmas. One such package was delivered addressed to Al. My gift from Al was already wrapped and under the tree. It looked like the size of a book so I was thinking maybe a new tablet.

Al said the new package was just something for a house project. The receipt wasn’t in the box, but under it. All this on the porch, which is simply shoddy delivery. Hey at least they tucked the receipt under the box so it wouldn’t blow away.

I brought the offensive slip of paper inside and absently peeked. It was house stuff, not a gift. No problem. Except at the bottom of the listed items, it said “amethyst necklace.” Al feigned complete ignorance, pointing out we’d said one gift each, and he’d gotten mine. There it was, under the tree, if I cared to look. My mind flashed to Emma Thompson finding the necklace in her husband’s pocket, thinking it was hers, and getting a book instead. I usually trust Al 100%. He is just not that kind of guy, not a cheater. He’s too shy, for one. Also, he’s loyal. And he loves me.

So he’s getting indignant about me going on and on about it, but finally he makes a joke “You’ll just have to wait to find out.” This was maybe ten days before Christmas. An eternity. The box sat unwrapped, still sealed, on the counter in the laundry room where he likes to let his junk mail and newspapers accumulate until I organize it all (while tossing the one crucial thing he had been specifically saving). I did my sweep of the countertop and put the box on his shelf in the wardrobe closet.

Al remained uninterested in the box and I grew more curious. I looked for the receipt. It had disappeared. Where had I put it after the shock of seeing that necklace on the invoice? This made my imaginary case against Al stronger yet. He wouldn’t? Would he? It’s true he’s hardly ever home. All that work. Or was it work? The package sat there until Christmas morning, where, before he had any coffee, before any gaily wrapped gifts were distributed, I brought it to him and said “open it.”

He shook his head. “Okay.” He opened the box and out spilled a little cheap necklace like thing, tucked among the household hardware items. “Is this it?” I was relieved when I thought I caught a glimpse of a tiny chip of purple. I took it out of the plastic packet. “Yes, this must be it.”

“But I didn’t order that,” Al said. “Musta been a freebie.” Case solved. Or was it? I certainly didn’t want that necklace. And why would a store include that type of freebie with hardware? Perhaps they thought that men who ordered house fixing things for the holidays needed a bit of help in the choosing proper gifts department.

Finally it was time to get down to the real business of Christmas, which was opening presents from the kids, sending texts, having Facetime. Tim had on the Red Wings jersey we got him. I unwrapped the cookbook they’d sent. This goes on for a bit because Facetime is not totally reliable so there’s much flickering out and calling back and finally giving in and just chatting in the old-fashioned phone way.

After the calls, we had coffee and tea and warm steel cut oats laced with sweet cherries and pecans. Okay, we had cookies too. Also Rice Crispy Treats. Finally it was time for me to open my tablet. I hazily warned myself to be pleased even though I’ve got a perfectly good iPad. White box. Inside that a red box. And inside the red box, this


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