Welcome to this week's "Tuesday Tales" post. I hope you enjoy this short, short story. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts. And don't forget to check-out the other stories and excerpts included in this week's edition.
The Birthday Gift
Matt McFarland grinned when he saw Katie Sloan coming through the wheatfield toward him. In her arms she held a squirming ball of fur with big brown eyes and a wagging tail. Matt had given her the puppy as a special gift for her birthday. Katie had turned thirteen just yesterday. Matt remembered when he turned thirteen last year. It was a special event, turning from twelve to thirteen. He wanted to make Katie's birthday special, too.
But his grin faded when he saw the glum expression on her face.
"You've got to take him back." She held out the wriggling pup.
"You don't want him?" Matt's shoulders slumped.
"Course I want him, but Mama says I've got to give him back. Dogs are too much trouble, she says."
"It's not a dog. Just a little puppy." He reached out to take the animal from Katie, and when his hands brushed against her, he actually felt a little giddy.
"Yeah, but I can't keep him, Matt. Thanks, anyway. It was nice of you to remember my birthday." She turned and trudged back across the field toward home, stopping just long enough to smile and wave.
Matt watched until Katie disappeared from view. With the whimpering little ball of fur in his arms, he headed home, too.
"Looks like you get to go back with your brothers and sisters, little fellow." He scratched the pup's soft ears and let out a long breath.
When he saw her already waiting by the old fallen oak at the edge of the field, Matt stood a little taller and put a little more swagger into his step.
"You found my gift, I suppose."
She planted her hands on her hips and frowned. "Matthew McFarland, you know you shouldn't --"
"I wanted to buy it, Katie. Your thirteenth birthday is a special time."
Still frowning, she fumbled in her shirt pocket and pulled out the small golden ring with the heart-shaped stone. "It's too expensive, Mama says. She won't let me keep it. If you go to the store right away, maybe you can get your money back." She held out the ring. "Go on, Matt, take it. If you don't, I'll drop it, I swear, and then you'll never find it."
"All right, Katie." The tiny ring felt heavy in his hands. Keen disappointment settled over him as he stood watching Katie trot back across the field toward home.
He would have to find another gift for her.
She slammed the book shut and glared up at him. "You know I can't accept this. Mama says it's not decent."
The warm evening breeze ruffled Katie's white-blonde hair. Matt thought at once of the corn husks he'd shucked for dinner that evening. He wondered if Katie's hair would feel as soft as the silken tassels. He wanted to reach out and touch it.
"I don't know what's not decent about it," he said, unable to keep a slight touch of hurt from his voice. He wanted so much to make Katie happy, to give her a special birthday gift she'd always remember. "It's a classic. That's what Artie down at the bookstore told me. Shakespeare's Sonnets."
"Have you read some of these?" Katie whispered, a delicate blush of rose coloring her fair cheeks. "Mama says it's not suitable for a girl my age." She held out the book. "You've got to take it back, Matt. If Mama catches me with it again, she'll have one of her hissy fits."
He nodded, tucked the book beneath his arm, and plodded off toward home.
***For two long days and nights, Matt McFarland pondered his predicament. Katie's birthday had long since come and gone, and he'd still not given her a suitable gift
Then, he smiled. He had the perfect present in mind.
"I've got a gift for you," he said when they stood beside the old oak.
"Matt, not again! You know how Mama is --"
He silenced her with a tender kiss. "Happy birthday, Katie." Surprised to find that kissing her felt even better than he'd thought it would, he drew back, wanting to look at her, to see if maybe she'd liked it, too.
Her blue-gray eyes went wide with wonder. "You know Mama won't let me accept a gift like that," she said, and her voice sounded a little odd. And then Katie grinned. "I have to give it back," she whispered.
Closing her eyes, she leaned forward and returned his kiss he'd given.
- The End-