There was nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero.
Nothing in the whole wide city that was perfect.
‘Why?’ Risa wailed silently, letting her hands clench at her sides with a helplessness she seldom felt (and thus now felt a thousandfold).
“May I help you, ma’am?” A heavy-set voice asked, and Risa looked up from the slowly blurring floor to see a slender bodied man with black hair raise his eyebrows at her. He was wearing the official uniform for the Udoku Inc. company outlet, and his hands were professionally folded at his back. The name tag on his shirt read ‘Jackson’.
Risa sighed and plastered on a smile. “No, thank you.”
Jackson’s disbelieving eyes were answer enough, and he just looked at her askance for a minute. Then his training kicked back in and he nodded. “Of course, ma’am. Please do not hesitate to ask if you require any.”
As if anyone else could help when she herself had no bloody idea what to do.
This wasn’t her first year celebrating Simon’s birthday, and it wasn’t even a particularly special year. But damn it if her heart wasn’t demaning her to get something for him that was perfect.
She groaned. Why did she have to get invested in the first place? Everything had been great before. Before, she had been fine and dandy living like she owned the world and only had to worry about her studies, school and retaining friendships.
Stupid Simon, complicating everything…
Her eyes strayed to a box of headphones that lined one section of the aisle. They were obsidian black, with realistic looking flames licking the edges. Wireless. Top of the line. Within her price range.
Her heart soured. But not perfect!
Simon probably had some of these already – he was a straight up techno geek.
She wandered further down the aisle, letting her eyes fly over various gadgets and devices before dismissing all of them, from earphones to smart watches to Gameboys and their equivalents. She continued walking, skipping into the next row – a line of foodstuffs.
She crunched up her nose. She definitely loved foodstuffs, but Simon? He was a stick of a human and- And, well, food stuffs…
GAH! They weren’t what she wanted to get him either! She could buy him drinks and snacks and chocolates anytime. Hell, she did buy him all that all the time (that guy severely needed more weight).
Stupid Simon. Why was she buying him anything, after all? She should just pitch in with the rest of her friends and get him the video game they were all planning to pool in to buy.
This year… well, this year, she didn’t want to do something mediocre. Something he’d forget about in a few months, or barely remember even if he didn’t want to forget. These things faded with time and age and life.
She wanted to get him something else. Something lasting.
Simon deserved it, and she wanted to be the one to give it to him, because. Because he was Simon and she was Risa and she wanted to, that’s why.
And yet, this entire city, all the thirteen all-purpose stores she had walked into, had disappointed her. Nothing she had yet seen was amazing. Inspiring. Nothing yelled ‘Come buy me! Simon would love me!’
Then again, if something really had yelled that, she’d have been mortified. As it was, she was mildly humiliated, walking in and out of various outlets empty-handed.
“Would you like to buy the chocolates?” Jackson’s very interruptive voice asked, and Risa jolted, realizing she had been staring at the small bag of sweets for quite a while.
She swallowed. “Um, no. Sorry.” She shuffled in embarrassment. “Thanks.”
Jackson looked at her curiously, and Risa flinched self depreciatingly.
There was an awkward silence.
Then Risa sighed. What the hell. Might as well unload on someone whose paycheck depended on them being cordial to the customers. More than her best friend would be, anyway. “Ah, I’m looking for a gift,” She muttered. “For a friend.”
Jackson’s face relaxed. “Of course. We have a great assortment in our department on the third floor. Perhaps I could take you there?”
Risa shook her head. “I checked that out. Nothing seems…” She shrugged helplessly.
“Ah.” He tapped his chin. “May I ask who this person is? Then I could recommend something else.”
Risa bit her lip. Should she…?
She swallowed a deep breath. “… His name’s Simon.” She answered, mouth twisting.
Jackson nodded. “Have you considered a perfume? Our beauty department has many varieties to choose from.”
“Yeah,” Risa rubbed her arm. “I just didn’t think that any of them were… amazing, I guess.” She blushed as she remembered who she was talking to. “Sorry.”
Jackson laughed. “No worries. I understand. Hmm…” He tilted his head to stare at the ceiling long enough that Risa began fidgeting. “You want something unique, if I’m not wrong,” It wasn’t a question. “Something not very easy to dismiss.”
“So why don’t you make something?”
Risa stilled. There was a moment of dumbfounded realization, and then Risa slapped her forehead. “Ugh! That’s perfect! He’d never-” She stopped. “But what would I even make for him?”
Jackson grinned and guided her over to the handicrafts section, picking out a book from the shelf. “Try this. An entire compilation of the cans and can’ts of DIY.” He gestured widely. “And of course, the material you might need is all here as well.”
Risa beamed and her cheeks hurt with the strength of the smile. “Thank you.”
Jackson chuckled. “Just doing my job, ma’am.”
Simon hummed as he waved goodbye to all of his friends. The only one left was Risa, who was staring up at him earnestly and glumly, all at the same time.
Simon grinned at her and laughed when he saw the faint blush that adorned her cheeks.
This year was going amazingly.
“So, can I open your gift now, Risa?” He asked, and Risa’s blush disappeared to let in a frown. “Well…” She rubbed the back of her neck and sighed. “The thing is, Simon, I looked in a lot of stores, but I couldn’t really find something that was awesome, and yes,” She glared at him as he suddenly opened his mouth. “I did have to get something. You did for my birthday.” She shook her head. “Anyway, so this guy suggested a DIY kit, and I tried it out because nothing else seemed to fit, but…” She shrugged awkwardly and pushed a neatly wrapped box at him. “I couldn’t get you anything else by the time it turned out like this.”
Simon’s heart skipped a beat, and the package in his hand felt like a treasure chest. He moved over to the table and sat down, slowly and carefully removing every layer of the dull burgundy wrapping paper, laying it down at his right as if it was made of glass.
Risa peeked over her shoulder and turned back fully, beginning to giggle. “You’re an idiot. You could have just torn it open.”
Simon made an exaggerated gesture of clutching his heart. “No! What would have happened to my heart then?!”
Risa doubled over, her body heaving with mirth.
Simon watched her fondly, his eyes sparkling with a glitter that had only come into being this past year.
He cleared his throat to let Risa know, and opened the cardboard box. Inside, there was a thin leather-bound diary; a blood red cover with the words ‘For the one who stole my heart’ embossed on top in sunset gold.
Simon turned it over and right there, crooked and clearly handcrafted, was a clumsy calligraphy note – ‘I’d usually want it back… but it’s fine if it’s you.’
Simon’s breath caught in his throat.
He snuck a quick glance at Risa, who was staring at the ground, a flush of red touching the tips of her ears as she fiddled with the hem of her shirt.
“Risa.” He said softly half ready to rise from the table.
Risa swallowed. “There’re pictures inside. I couldn’t complete it all, but I figured I’d do the ones I could with the time I had.”
Simon looked down and flipped the diary to the first page.
At the top of the page was a full color photograph of their first hang out together – a day when their friends had dragged them out to have fun at the end of their mid term exams. They’d had pizza that day, and it had turned out cheese had been a favorite for both of them. In the picture, there was a huge slice in front of both of them. Simon was laughing, looking at Risa with open fondness that he could now realize had been the beginnings of his affection for her, and Risa had a huge bite stuffed in her mouth and was trying to shy away from the camera, an outraged look on her face.
Beneath the picture was written in Risa’s flowing script. ‘Thanks, Simon, for the Pizza. Curse you, Dirk, for the photo. Just mark my words, there will be revenge.’
Simon burst out laughing.
Risa looked up at him, biting her lip. “… Do you like it?” She fidgeted. “I know it’s not perfect like you, but-”
Simon sprang up and engulfed her in a tight embrace.
Risa stilled for a while before sneaking her hands around him as well, pressing her face into his chest.
“I love it,” Simon muttered. “And I’m not perfect, Ree. But this- you are the most perfect person I have ever had the pleasure to meet in my life.” He tightened his hold. “And I’m never letting you go. Not after you’ve given me the best gift I’ve received in my entire life.”
Risa stared into his chest, her mind whirling at impossible speeds.
The gift… it had been ingenious but an utter failure. The font was cranky, her calligraphy was amateurish, the pictures were subpar, and the captions were plain embarrassing.
But. But. Simon loved it.
“I love you,” She whispered.
He grinned into her hair. “I love you more. Thank you for being the best gift I ever needed in life.”
Risa snorted. “You’re so cheesy."
"With you, why wouldn't I be?"
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