Friday, 26 June 2009
From a Small Package.
I do not know where the little shop in Lacquer Street disappeared to any more than I know where it came from. One day there was either a wall or a narrow passage and the next there was the little shop. It was called, 'Small Package, Big Idea' and outside there was a large pot plant whose leaves cast shadows on the merchandise within. It was not some dark little shop with a slightly musty smell. On the contrary, it had a large picture window with colourful bright goodies in it and pale polished wood flooring that reflected the light. Inside was a rather glamorous looking woman who answered to the name of Jacqui and had the most intensely green eyes.
For some reason most people remembered nothing about the shop once they'd come out of it. They would go in again as if it were the first time they had done so. I went in once myself, I am sure... and yet maybe I'm unsure and I'd been in it a few times. In any case, to gaze into Jacqui's green eyes, almost the eyes of some supernatural being, intense, deep and almost hypnotic was worth returning.
Near the picture window on the other side from the door was a rack on which were draped blue and pink tissue paper for wrapping. On a shelf above the tissue paper were always a row of packages. Occasionally one was bought and replaced on the shelf and yet - mostly nobody bought one. They saw them but bought paper for wrapping gifts or cards from the selection.
I had gone in one day to look for a present. Jacqui saw me dithering, wondering what would be suitable and asked me softly if she might help. I told her I wanted a gift for a friend, something unique and unusual.
"How do you love this friend?" she asked me.
I answered that I loved her as a true sister. That we had known each other for many years and I hoped we would be friends for many more years. That it was soon to be her birthday and... I stopped, caught by those deep pools of her green eyes. I was vaguely aware of talking but somehow not aware of what I might have said.
Jacqui crossed the shop to the shelf and took one of the packages down. The paper was a pale orange colour and bound in a bow with pink string. I would replace it with a satin ribbon to make it a little posher, but it would do nicely I supposed. It was light, yet it felt as if something in it was shifting the weight of it in my hands.
Jacqui placed the package in a bag and I paid for it. Before she handed to me however, she looked me in the eyes and told me,
"Whatever you do, do not open it, for once you do the - surprise will be ruined," she said.
I agreed to this and left the shop with the package. I did not know what was in it; I still don't know to this day. Only that it was something magical. I arrived for my friend's party later on a cool November evening and remarked on her beautiful and elegant dress. She wore a red silk dress embroidered with gold at the hem, sleeves and the collar. Her shoes were the same shade of red. I hugged her and handed her the small package noticing her eyes lit up with pleasure. She took my coat and hung it up before leading me into the main room where other friends talked and drank while music was playing. She pointed out the drinks and placed the package on a table with the others.
Later, once everyone was present and had a glass, I proposed a toast to her and everyone joined in praising her. She thanked us all and was invited to open her presents. She went through them one at a time; dresses, shoes, jewellery, books, chocolates all made an appearance to her evident delight. All the packages were bigger than the little one on the table from me. So the little package was almost overlooked in all the excitement. Someone near the table pointed it out and she took it up, smiling at me when she saw the tag. Carefully she undid the bow and pulled away the paper. Everyone assumed that it must be jewellery, but suddenly as she took off the lid of the box within, the cd player stopped and the lights went out. They were replaced by twinkling lights and beautiful music coming from the box.
For a moment of time, everything seemed to stop. Then it was as if all of us were in a beautiful dream. We were in a garden surrounded by the most exquisite flowers. Music seemed to swirl elegantly about each of us and sunlight warmly glowed upon us all. There was a grand table with a feast upon it. Wine was poured from silver and gilded decanters by invisible hands into the finest crystal chalices for each of us. Tree nymphs parted from their trees to dance about the birthday girl and placed elegant leafy coronets of the finest quality upon her brow. They sang her praises as if she were a queen. Fauns and satyrs trotted from the trees to bow before her and kiss her fingers gently. They decked her with flowers and led each of us in a dance. In that moment, all things were possible and all the successes of her hopes became seen and clear.
Then we seemed to awake into a dull cloudy morning in the main room of her flat. The food and wine had been cleared away and I smelled coffee and a warm delicious scent of freshly baked croissants. I reached across and took her hand, calling her name softly until she stirred and awoke.
None of us understood what had happened, only that she had dreamed a most wonderful dream and all of us had been in it. That we had all had the same dream was what shocked us - that and it had all felt so real. But when I returned, the shop seemed to have disappeared and I never saw it again. Nor did I ever see Jacqui with the green, green eyes again either.