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The Greatest Gift

by larenbeka


She turned away from the window. It saddened her to look at it. The display. With lights. It held everything a pet could want for the holiday and holidays to come. She glanced despairingly back and trudged home through the snow and the eager pets. She couldn't stand it anymore. The holiday cheer was sickening her, crushing her, like a bad case of Neomonia that was bitterly eating out her insides slowly and painfully.

      The Christmas Kacheek sighed, and in doing so, her shoulders sagged from the weight of her stress. Christmas was her favorite holiday. She started decorating in November and made all her gifts by December 1st. But, every year, the gifts she received were the same. Socks, notebook, some sweets, maybe a plushie. She didn't blame her owner, Indigo. Indigo worked 4 jobs, 6 days a week and had the widest, most energetic smile you've ever seen.

      Crystallized raindrops fell from the sky, lightly and delicately. May's hands were cold, but her heart was warm with laughter and joy. The best part of the season was swirling and dancing in the snow shower. So she did.

      As May approached her Neohome she stared. The rosy glow from the lights lit up the fresh snow and cast a softening light on the ground that seemed so elegant.

     She entered quietly and tugged off her boots in the hall. She padded into the kitchen and plopped down onto a stool by the counter. May reached for a luxurious pile of iced cookies as she started to boil some cocoa. She walked down the hall and gently pushed open the door to the study. Inside was Indigo, bent over papers confining her. The room was towering with books, all kinds.

     Indigo collected books on craft-making and favorite past-times. Indigo spent hours and hours of her free time reading, memorizing and getting lost in her books. She loved them. Some were hastily thrown aside and others were forgotten, open with dust collecting on the words. Often, Indigo remarked to May that she was missing only one set to her collection. As May knew by heart, it was the Cooking Guide.

      "Indigo? I'm making cocoa, you want some?"

      "Sure." She looked up, still thinking of her scribbling. Her face was thin and pallid with high, pretty cheekbones. Her nose was sprinkled with the softest brown freckles that looked like cinnamon had been scattered all over. Her eyes blazed with a fire so green it looked bottomless. Her blonde hair hung straight and long on her shoulders. Her frame was curved and lanky and tall. The hours she spent working were creased into her skin and drawn all over her overworked body.

      "May…this year-" she looked at her feet. May knew her next words, already forming them in her head. "I just don't think I can scrape up the cash to get you a reasonable gift. I'm sorry." She hung her head as disgrace crept into her eye sockets.

      "Indigo," May walked over to her. "I don't need anything more than I have. I'm as happy as any pet," she lied. Beneath her convincing face, the truth seeped out. She couldn't bring her self to say it, though. It would tear Indigo apart.

      May walked out of the room before she told her secret. A heavy sigh released itself, longingly and significantly.

      The cocoa was hissing urgently as if it was whistling, How could you forget me? May obediently lifted it off and poured the steaming liquid into two giant mugs. As she drank hers, deeply and thoughtfully, she suddenly spotted the Christmas tree across the hall. It stood in the living room, proud and green, giving off a fragrance, lofty with pine and sap aromas. The ornaments gleamed and swayed, catching the dying sunlight. The lights blinked with rosy colors and smiled warmly. Then it struck her. May leapt up. She bounded up the stairs to her room and thrust open a drawer. It creaked with age and from the quantity it held. May kept all her important things in there. Underneath a stack, was a thick folder that contained all the paintings she had ever done. She grabbed her paint set; it was old and the plastic had cracked. The paint was running out and the brush's bristles stuck out at odd angles due to years of use.

      Indigo always told May she could be an artist if she stuck at it. She said her paintings would be wanted all over Neopia someday. Maybe…maybe.

      May sat on her bed and held them in her hands. She leafed through the folder and listened to the pages whisper and crinkle. Each picture had a story, and she could tell it. May reached under her bed and pulled out a large book. The Neopian Address Book.

     * * *

      Indigo dug her cold hands deeper into her pockets. No gloves. She tightened her scarf and crunched through the snow. The festive streets in Neopia Central boasted elegantly lit shop windows with prizes even King Skarl couldn't afford. She walked along, gazing at the items displayed there and walked toward one. She pressed her hands against the glass and looked in. There, in the center. Oh, dear, look at the price. A formidable Eyrie shot her a reproachful look from inside the shop. Indigo walked on, dismayed and distraught.

      * * *

      May heard Indigo coming through the door instantly. She dropped her half-cut-out paper snowflake. She'd made dozens of them to decorate the halls, each with a unique holiday design. The genial little Kacheek raced to meet her owner at the door. She saw the frozen weather's marks melt off Indigo's face as she smiled brilliantly at her pet. Her hands were planted on her hips and her eyes glinted with intensity.

      "Look! Look! Indigo! I went to the Advent Calendar and got 500 Neopoints, a Christmas Shoyru Plushie AND a book." May stopped at the last item. The word glazed off her tongue, but the meaning clung to her lips. "It was a Morguss Book of Spells copy. I thought you could add it to your collection." She looked up wonderingly, imploringly.

      "Wow!" Indigo breathed. "What a day. Well, aren't we lucky? Thanks, May!" she walked past her into the kitchen and began fixing dinner.

      May stayed there, looking around, dazed. She didn't know why. She watched the snow clumps melt into slushy puddles at her feet. The water trickled between the cracks, creating an instant river. "Amazing," she whispered.

      It was nearly Christmas. May still did not have Indigo's gift yet. She simply could not find the right one. The days dragged, hours seemed stretched as far as they could go. On every day's end, there lingered the waiting and hoping that Christmas always brings. Promise filled the nights' silences and anticipation seeped into the seams. May couldn't bear it. Waiting and waiting.

      At last, Christmas Eve had come. There still were no presents under the tree. May waited for Indigo to come home from work and then the traditions would begin. Christmas could finally take place, not only on the calendar, but in her heart.

      The two sat around a table holding hands. A white linen tablecloth yellowed from age adorned the mahogany. Candles burned and food, rich and steaming, sat on their plates. Holly festooned it, as well, traditionally. When the meager feast was finished and stomachs satisfied, May and Indigo entered the cozy living room. They sat on the couch and snuggled a blanket around themselves. Together they read their favorite Christmas book. When it came to a closing they gladly arranged cookies and hot milk for Santa. More waiting. Each with secrets, each with a reticent glint in their eyes, they said goodnight. And waited for morning.

      * * *

      It was Christmas morning. May woke with a start, still between the unconsciousness of sleep and the knowledge of wakefulness, she lingered in the interval of that misty realm of amidst. Her paws lightly touched the cold, wood floor and they sprinted down the narrow stairs, bringing her enthusiastic body with her.

      Impatiently, she waited for Indigo to get her coffee. Her hands bounced in her lap as she waited. Under the tree were a scarce offering of presents, but it was enough. She was used to it. The spirit is what really counts, anyway. Indigo nodded from her place on the couch and May hopped up. Her paws were ready to unwrap. First, she handed her gift to Indigo.

      She smiled at Indigo. This was probably the best gift she could give her. She was elated with herself as she watched Indigo. She stared, bewildered. Her face looked up at May. "How?-" was all she managed. She held up a stack of fresh books, unread and burning to have their secrets revealed. It was the Cooking Guide.

      "Indigo, I sold my paintings to get you that. I wanted you to be able to complete your collection. You had to have it because you deserve it."

      "Oh, May. But-" she pointed to May's gift under the tree.

      She peeled away the paper and opened the box. Inside was the shiny, new painter's set she had had her eyes on for months. Her heart dropped. She looked over to Indigo.

      "May, I sold my entire collection so you could have your set. You have such a talent, and I didn't want another year to pass me where money was the thing that barred me from your happiness." She lovingly watched May and they sat in the stillness, pondering over their exchange.

      They held each other's gaze for a moment. Looking into one another's eyes, they found the meaning of giving at Christmas and that love could sum it up nicely. They had entirely, selflessly granted each other with the greatest gift ever to be given. The will to give up your most precious things for the joy of another on Christmas, is indeed greatest.

The End

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