The Land of Presents


This gorgeous lady needs no introduction. So I'm not going to give her one. Okay, I can't be that cruel. Some of you may know her as the author of a "riveting piece of fiction known as The Lady in Black". Others may know her as the "unbiased reviewer who loves books". And yet some others may know her as the lady who brought the concept of "Silent Reading" all the way from across the globe to Bangalore. For me, she's one of my closest confidantes who I run most of my fiction posts by, and it gives me absolute pleasure to host a rather interesting piece of fiction authored by her, for one of my Project 365 prompts. So without any further ado, I hand over the proverbial "baton de fiction" to Seeta Bodke, who stays on The Write Side.
“Cindy! I am so glad you could make it. It is always a pleasure to see you” exclaimed Rita brushing her cheeks and kissing the air near them, religiously following the rules from left to right. But then she was always the type to play by the book, thought Cindy batting her eyelids and flashing a pearly white smile as she hugged her back. Dressed in a low-cut little black dress with her eyes intensified with kohl, large drops of diamonds twirling below her ears and a stunning red accentuating her notorious pout, Rita seemed dressed to kill she thought, rather than just host the cocktail party she had thrown to celebrate her birthday.  Glancing down at her own lacy peasant girl top paired with a turquoise blue short skirt, she wondered if she was under dressed for the party.

Outgoing and bubbly, Cindy was known as the smartest editor “The Written Word” had ever had. Just like the magazine she worked for, she had climbed the charts of popularity and success within days of her joining the office. With an eye for a story that would sell and Fiction that would be tomorrow’s literature, she knew she made heads turn in envy in her office. But Cindy didn’t care, her work was her passion and that was all that mattered to her. With a wide circle of friends she had an immensely social life, one that she thoroughly enjoyed. If there was anything that she didn’t it was these parties that her colleagues threw. Every smile that got exchanged there was laced with venom and every conversation over sparkling champagne triggered off gossip. Friendships were made and broken over dinner while enemies were toasted over dessert. She never did look forward to them; despite her love for the field she was in, these dynamics stood out as a sore thumb for her.

“Just 10 PM” she sighed, glancing around wondering whom to sip her glass of wine with. The party would go on into the wee hours of the morning and if she left anytime before midnight, she would be the juiciest piece of gossip that would be mongered at work the next day.

“Cindy darling, you are late, we just cut the cake but I am sure there must be some itsy bitsy piece lying around for you” her senior editor sashayed across the room towards her.

“Samantha! I am so sorry but I had to see tomorrow’s edition go out before I left” smiled Cindy.

“Oh yes, the edition…Silly me, how could I have forgotten that. That explains why you seem so hurriedly dressed for the party” smirked Samantha giving her a look over.

Cindy stopped the retort just as it was to slip of the tip of her tongue. Instead she batted her eyelids and smiled “You always get it right Sam”, waved at an invisible figure on the porch and excused herself. She needed a breath of fresh air.

“All she wants is my job!” hissed Samantha to Rita who had joined her; unaware that Cindy had caught every bit of what she said as she walked away.

Hidden behind potted plants, Cindy sipped her wine; she knew she couldn’t hide away for too long, she would have to mingle with the crowd sooner than later.

“Did you hear about Rita? She is sleeping with Alex the Photographer. He seems to have contacts with some fashion magazines, she hopes to use those to get away from here I guess” she heard a voice giggle from behind the plants that were shading her.

“Oh yeah, now that Cindy is here, she doesn’t stand a chance. Have you seem how sugary sweet she behaves with Cindy? Anybody would think they are best friends when all she does is bitch behind her back”

The two women continued their gossip oblivious of the audience they had.

Cindy shook her head and emerged from behind the plants and came face to face with the ladies.

“Kylie, Marissa… how is the party going? Did you try the cucumber sandwiches, they are delicious” she said, smiling brightly and making small conversation with her red-faced colleagues.

“Cinds, can we speak about next week’s travel piece?’ a voice boomed from behind. It was David, her travel writer; the only sane soul in her office. Happily welcoming the interruption, she eagerly dug into the discussion with him; it was probably the only authentic conversation she had all evening, she thought. From the corner of her eye she could see the phony embraces go up as the night got younger and shallow laughter fill the air.

“Was this really a birthday party? Were these real people?” she thought. “Why could birthdays not be simple, straightforward and fun anymore?” She reminisced over her childhood, the streamers and the balloons, the games and was so much fun she thought.

“Care to dance?” a colleague called out. “Why not” she was the first genuine smile of the evening. If there was anything that could keep her sanity going, it was dance, she thought as she hit the floor and let her hair loose just as she used to with her friends from school. Samantha, Kylie, Marissa, Rita… everyone was forgotten; she made the best of her time, laughing, joking and dancing with the crowd until it was time to make an exit that wouldn’t rise brows or make eyes roll.

Tired and exhausted, she headed home wondering why people couldn’t just stop with growing old instead of insisting on growing up as well. Why they couldn’t enjoy parties esp. birthdays for what they were. “Birthdays” she thought, they had been her favourite parties when she was a ten-year old.

”What had made me like them so much?” she wondered, delving into her past till she had hit dirt. A broad smile spread over her face, all her tiredness and irritation forgotten. She quickly unlocked the door, unaware of the noise she made as she slammed it behind her. Tossing her aching stilettos aside she rushed into her bedroom, squatted under the bed and pulled out a box that had gathered a thick inch of dust. Hastily she flecked it away, tearing open the strings that held the box close. Once she had it open, she rummaged through it, till she found the gem she was looking for. Carefully pulling it out, she plonked onto her bed, the enormous tree and its residents smiling at her from its cover page. She smiled, eagerly leafing through the pages till she reached the one she had been looking for.

How she used to wish then that she had a birthday liked the one Bessie had. How she wished she had parties with Moon Face and Silky. How she wished she had been to attend Bessie’s birthday instead of Rita’s tonight. Her sigh turned into a smile as she snuggled in her bed and devoured the chapter on “The Land of Presents” from The Magic Faraway Tree.

 [This post is written for the Project 365 program at We Post Daily aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. After spending time with a group of people, do you feel energized and ready for anything or do you want to hide in the corner with a good book?]