The Perfect Gift for a Ten-Year-Old

Submitted into Contest #1 in response to: Write a story about someone trying to find the perfect birthday gift.... view prompt



Peter paced through the Target aisles, trying in vain to find what he was looking for. He knew it was no use. He’d already been through each section multiple times, and still, he had no clue what to get. Peter groaned and rubbed his temples, where a headache was beginning to grow. 

His younger sister’s tenth birthday was in two days, and Peter still had no idea what he should buy for her. As a sixteen-year-old boy, he had no idea what type of things tween girls liked. Dolls? No, she was too old. Makeup? Their parents would kill him. Art supplies? Possibly. 

In the years prior to this one, buying gifts had been easy. All Peter had to do was make a handmade card, get a stuffed animal, and call it a day. But Cass had outgrown her animals phase and had gone through several different interests in the last year. It was challenging to keep up with the mind of a ten-year-old. 

Maybe the middle-aged man standing at the cash register might know. It was a shot in the dark, but Peter reasoned that he may have daughters Cass’ age. Or maybe even teenage daughters, but they had been ten once, right? At least, he may be able to help. 

Peter worked up his courage and walked over to the man, who was at a lull in customers and looking at his phone. “Uh, excuse me, sir?”

The man jumped and looked up. When he saw Peter standing there, the man sighed with a bored expression. “What is it, kid?” 

Peter gulped. Maybe this hadn’t been a good idea after all. Up close, the man was younger than he’d thought and certainly didn’t look like a father. But he decided to try anyway. “Well, you see, my little sister’s birthday is in two days, and I have no clue what I should get her. I thought maybe you could help me. She’s turning ten.” 

The man sighed again and put a hand to his forehead. He seemed to be thinking for a while, and a glimmer of hope began to rise in Peter’s chest. But any hope immediately sunk when the man looked straight at Peter with a disapproving expression. 

“I don’t know, kid. I just work here. Now get lost.” He immediately looked back at his phone, seeming to be signaling that the conversation was over. Though the comment stung, Peter wasn’t about to give up. Cass would be so disappointed if she didn’t have anything to open from him on her favorite day of the year. He had to be a good older brother and press on. 

Peter walked over to the Starbucks in the building for a moment to collect his thoughts. He ordered his favorite, a white chocolate mocha (with whipped cream, of course), and sat down, staring at nothing. 

“Peter?” the young barista called, smiling a 100-watt smile at no one in particular. Peter got up and walked over to get his drink, trying to think of a plan. He couldn’t help noticing that the barista was really young, only two or three years older than him. Her blonde hair seemed to shine like a beacon in the night, calling out to him. 

Of course! Peter thought. I could ask her! She was ten once, and is sure to know what type of things ten-year-old girls like! It seemed like a flawless plan. He would walk up, ask and get some ideas, then be out of here in ten minutes. Brilliant!

“Here you go!” she said in an overly cheerful manner. 

“Thanks,” Peter replied, taking the drink. “And, uh, I was wondering if you could help me with something. My little sister has her birthday in two days, and I have no clue what to get her. Maybe you could-” 

“Of course I can help you decide what to get your sister!” she interrupted. She smiled even bigger, which Peter hadn’t even thought was possible. “How old will she be turning?” 

Maybe it was the light that was shining directly on his face, or maybe it was the barista’s huge smile, or maybe it was even the smell wafting towards Peter’s nose from his drink. It could have even been all three. He didn’t know and never was able to come up with a reason for why he answered why he did. Somewhere, deep in Peter’s brain, he must have known what she was asking him, but he didn’t reach that place quick enough. 

“Sixteen,” Peter answered, thinking she was asking him how old he was. Why that seemed like an appropriate question for her to ask, he didn’t know, but at the time he didn’t question it. 

The smile on the barista’s face faltered a bit, but she didn’t show her surprise much besides that. “Okay, well, I was sixteen only a few years ago, and I would always ask for a…” 

She rattled on for nearly five minutes, talking about things that sixteen-year-old girls enjoy. When she got to the part about exactly what type of jewelry stand to get so it was compatible for all types of jewelry, Peter had realized his mistake. There was no way in the world he was going to make a correction, after all of this, so he simply smiled and nodded and pretended to listen, looking for a way out. 

As soon as she began lecturing about skin products, Peter interrupted. “Thank you so much. This will be very helpful.” 

“But I-” the barista began, but Peter didn’t hear the rest. He was already out of the cafe and planning his next move. 

He’d learned his lesson with the cashier, that was for sure. And he’d certainly blown his chance with the barista. Peter took a sip of his drink and contemplated what to do. He decided to pace down the aisles some more. Even though he knew in the back of his mind that it wouldn’t help, he tried to make himself believe that he’d find some magical thing that would help him perfectly. 

Peter had gone through all of the toy and stationary aisles and was moving on to the home improvement ones when a sign caught his eye. It was one of those little signs meant to be hung in an apartment or college dorm room. In the past, Peter had never paid much attention to these signs before, but this time he did. “When in doubt, call Grandma.” the sign read in bright, bubbly letters. Peter fingered the cell phone in his pocket. His grandma knew Cass, too. She was very wise and had raised ten-year-old girls. Of course, she would know what to get! Why hadn’t he thought of it before! Peter nearly laughed with delight and ran out of the store with newfound energy. 

He dialed his grandmother’s number and waited anxiously. Luckily, she picked up after a few rings. 

“Grandma!” Peter said in delight. 

“Pete! How’s my little boy?” her gruff voice came from the other end. After sitting through a couple minutes of hearing his grandmother say just how wonderful, smart and handsome he was, he brought the conversation around to what he had intended it to be in the first place. 

“So, Cass’ birthday is in two days, and-” 

“Indeed it is!” his grandma interrupted. “That little darling. Hard to believe she’s turning ten, isn’t it?” 

“Yes, it is, Grandma.” Peter continued impatiently. “But I was wondering if you could help me. I’ve thought and thought but I still have no idea what to get her. I’ve been down every aisle in Target multiple times, and nothing seems… right.” 

His grandma was quiet for a long time, and Peter thought that she’d forgotten about their conversation, as she sometimes did. But eventually, she spoke up. “Sometimes for the ones we love the most, a thing isn’t enough. You have to get something that speaks from the heart.” 

“Grandma?” Peter asked, wondering if she was quoting random poetry, as she sometimes did. 

“All I’m saying is if you can’t find something that seems right for Cass, don’t get something. Do something. Make something that shows her how much you love her. Don’t settle for something satisfactory when you could make something that shows someone how much you love them.” 

“That’s it!” Peter yelled. Afraid he had startled her, he returned to the phone. “Thanks, Grandma. I know exactly what I’m going to do now.” Peter was so excited, he hung up without even saying goodbye. His grandma would understand, he knew, especially when she saw his gift at their family birthday party in two days. He got in his car and drove home, planning throughout the entire ride. 

Two days later, Cass picked up Peter’s gift. She shook it, as was her ritual, and wrinkled her nose. “What’s this?” 

“Open it up and see.” Peter could barely contain his excitement as Cass tore the wrapping paper off. As soon as the gift was revealed, she gasped. 

“Thank you, Peter!” she squealed. She looked in wonder at the gift. It was a photo album, stuffed with photos of Peter and Cass. There was one of six-year-old Peter holding his newborn sister, one of Cass on her first day of kindergarten with her big brother holding her hand. There was even a picture of Peter cheering on his little sister at her first soccer game. “How’d you get the idea for this?” 

“Well, a wise person once told me, ‘Don’t settle for something satisfactory when you could make something that shows someone how much you love them’.” Cass threw her arms around Peter’s neck. 

“I love it,” she whispered. Peter held her close and looked at his grandmother, who smiled and nodded in approval as she sipped her coffee.      


August 06, 2019 20:21

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