My Plan

From time to time, I post short stories that I have written. Helpful comments about what I've written or suggestions for future stories are most welcome. I also have another blog of stories from my family history

Saturday, 13 September 2014

A Mystery Giver

So here is my first short story post in a long time.  I hope you enjoy it.

The inspiration is idea 21 on the following page:

Which is:  Your character starts receiving flowers and anonymous gifts. She doesn't know who is sending them. Her husband is suspicious, and the gifts begin to get stranger...

A Mystery Giver
Marian opened the door of her small terrace house and saw flowers, a large bunch of red and pink gerberas with sprigs of baby’s breath; all pretty and bright.  She accepted the large bouquet from the delivery man and took it into the kitchen, all the time staring at the flowers like they some weird alien artefact.
“I wonder who they are from?” she thought.
In thirty seven years of marriage, her husband Larry had never once given her flowers and, to be honest, she had never expected them.  Theirs was a comfortable marriage rather than a grand romance.  Marian considered her husband: his grey comb over that he wrongly thought looked better that baldness; the slight paunch he had developed from too much of her good cooking and their enjoyment of a glass or two of red wine most nights; the clothes worn for comfort rather than for style; the way he shrugged and went to get a cup of tea when his beloved football team lost a game, which they often did.  He just wasn’t the type to have an affair or anything like that, she thought, and so had no need to give her flowers out of guilt.  Marian knew about that sort of man, her brother was one.  She thought of the incorrigible stories he always told her during their weekly phone call.
“There must be a card.” Marian though and she dug her hand into the bunch of flowers, soon finding it.
“A gift for a gift.” it said.
This puzzled Marian.  She looked at the delivery docket.  It was definitely addressed to her.  She shrugged to herself, put the flowers in a vase and got on with her daily chores.  Larry had always earned just enough so that she could stay home with the children.  It never occurred to either of them that she might get a job once the children had grown up.  They were both content with the status quo.
As soon as he arrived home, Larry noticed the flowers.  The bright colours stood out against the beige and pine colours of the dining room where the flowers sat on a side board.
“Nice flowers.  Where did you get them?”  he asked.
Marian explained and showed him the card.  He took the card, raising his eyebrows as he read it and then shrugged, mirroring her earlier reaction.  Nothing more was said the matter.
A week later, the doorbell rang.  Marian opened the door to find a courier with a large but not very thick square parcel.  She was not expecting a package and could not remember Larry mentioning having mentioned ordering anything online recently.  He normally told her things like that, they weren’t a couple who kept secrets.
As it was definitely addressed to her, Marian took the package into the kitchen, her domain, and opened it carefully.  It was a box of very fancy chocolates.  Marian knew the brand, in fact, they were a favourite of hers and she normally bought a small box as a treat at Christmas.  Her hand shook a little as she opened the card that was attached.
“Some sweets for a sweet.” Marian dropped the card.
“It must be from whoever sent the flowers.” she decided. 
Something about this thought unnerved her.  She decided to have a chocolate, just one, or may two to calm her nerves.  It turned out that it took three to do the job.  Fortunately, it was a large box, so there were still plenty for later.
Larry came home from work and soon noticed the purple chocolate box.
“What’s the occasion?” he asked with a hint of irritation.
“He thinks he has forgotten our anniversary.” Marian thought and smiled to herself at the idea he still cared about things like that.  She showed him the card.
“You seem to have acquired a secret admirer.” He sounded very surprised.
“I guess so.” She spoke softly.
“Any idea who?” Larry asked.
Marian shook her head.
“Maybe it’s someone you helped out when you were volunteering at the church.” He decided.  Marian helped out two mornings a week at a community centre run by the local church.
“Oh yes, that’s probably it.” Marian sighed with relief at a mystery solved.
“Why don’t we go out for dinner tomorrow night?  You can have a break from cooking.” Larry suggested this rare treat with a smile.
Marian consented, even though she actually loved cooking, a little excited by this unexpected attention.
The following week, a box of fruit turned up.
“Some goodness for goodness.” said the card.
A week after that, it was a hamper from Fortnum and Masons.
“Something royal for a queen.”
That week, while Marian was out shopping at her local supermarket, in a town a commuter train ride away from London, when she ran into one of her neighbours.
“Who is showering you with gifts?  Is Larry trying to make up for something?  It must have been bad, although he’s not the type to stray.” The nosy neighbour said.
“Oh no, they are not from him.” Marian spoke in her soft voice. Then she explained about the mysterious cards.
“How sweet! How odd!” The neighbour responded with a speculative look. Although the story seemed unlikely, it was equally unlikely that Marion would be having an affair or anything like that, she looked like a faded but content middle aged woman, dressed in a house dress and cardigan that didn’t quite match and not a touch of makeup to be seen.
Marian was saddened that her friend didn’t seem to believe her story and was instead speculating about her and Larry.
Another week passed, bringing another gift.  This time it was a cornflower blue silk shirt.  Marian held it up and smiled.  It was her favourite colour.
“Something blue when you have the blues.” The card said.
“I don’t have the blues.” she thought, but then she remembered the incident with her friend.
The top fitted perfectly and Marian was still wearing it when Larry got home.
“Is that from your secret admirer?” there was a touch of anger in his voice.
“Yes! Isn’t it beautiful.” She smiled at him and showed him the card.
“This is getting ridiculous.  It’s got to stop.  You can’t keep getting gifts like this.” Larry surprised them both with his raised voice.
“Well, I don’t know how I can stop it.  I don’t know who they’re from.  She spoke sharply before trailing off; she hadn’t spoken like that since the children had left home.  The pair glared at each other for a moment.
“I am going to check with the couriers, see if I can find out who is sending this stuff.”
He gave her a quick hug and then went off and switched on his computer.  Larry could be persistent when he set his mind to something, but in spite of numerous Internet searches and phone calls, he got nowhere.  For the next few days, he wondered about the house muttering angrily about data protection.
The next gift was gold cross pendant with what looked like a sapphire set into its centre, her birthstone.
“A cross when you are cross.”
Marian dropped the card and squealed for perhaps the first time in her life.  How could the giver know what her week had been like?  For the first time, she hid one of the gifts.
“What did you get today?” Larry looked around expectantly as soon as he got home from work.  “Did you keep any paper work?”
“Um, I don’t know if I should show you.” Marian dithered.
“Just show me, dear.” Larry gently urged.
Somewhat reluctantly, Marian fetched the small box and cord to show him.  He looked at the card intently and then looked at her.  Larry put the card down and left the room without a work.  Marian hadn’t seen so much emotion from him in years. 
Later, over dinner, once he had calmed down, Larry surprised Marian with an interrogation.
“Are you sure you don’t know who they’re from?”
“No, I have no idea.  It can’t be anyone at the church, though, they don’t have the money.”  She wondered why this hadn’t occurred to her before.
“Dearest, no one spends this kind of money for fun.  You don’t have a toy boy do you?” He gave a brittle laugh.
“No, of course not, don’t be silly.” She giggled at the sound of the words toy boy on her husband’s lips.  Was he jealous?
“Look, it is someone who knows you… us… it must be someone who you talk to or something.  They know what is happening here.  Have we had any workman in lately? Maybe they have installed a web cam.”
Larry spent the rest of the evening up and down the kitchen steps checking every nook and cranny in the house.
“Nothing! But this place could do with a lick of paint.  What do you think?  Maybe we could go for a bit more colour.” was the result of Larry’s search.
During the week, Marian decided that it was too long since she had had her hair done, so she visited the hairdressers.  There she met her nosy neighbour.
“Still got your secret admirer, then?”
“Yes, it is most puzzling and has Larry in a tiz.”
Their extensive speculation failed to arrive at a satisfactory answer, even though it extended beyond the appointment to an unexpected cup of coffee.
This week’s gift came in a long tube.  Marian gasped when she opened it.  It was a beautiful wood and brass telescope.
“To see into hidden corners.” said the card.
Marian looked around the room, as if expecting to see the camera her husband had searched for.  She left the parcel and card on the table. 
Larry came in, took one look at the table and stormed out.  Marian noticed that he was wearing a new shirt.  He didn’t normally wear pin-stripes.  A little while later, when he had calmed down, Larry came in and picked up the telescope.
“This looks like an antique, one of a kind.  I’ll have him this time, he has made a mistake.”
“How do you know it’s a “him”?” Marian asked.
“It must be.  Why would a woman give you these things?
“Why would a man?”
Larry paused and gave her a penetrating gaze, opened his mouth as if to speak but then thought better of it and walked out of the room.
The following week, Marian’s incorrigible brother came around for dinner.  He turned up before Larry got home from work, so the siblings had time for a chat.
“How are you doing Marian?  Last time I was here, you and Larry were both looking a bit tired and flat.” He was all compassion.
“Oh, I must show you some of the gifts I’ve told you about.”
Marian and her brother discussed the mystery.  She had just brought the telescope out when Larry arrived home from work.  He was wearing his new shirt again and looked almost handsome.  With a smile, she glanced down at the blue silk she was wearing.
“Marian has just been showing me the gifts from her secret admirer.  It sounds like you’ve had a bit of excitement here recently.”
“A bit too much excitement, really.” said Larry with a wry grin.
“Oh, I don’t know.  As I said to Marian, last time I was here I thought the pair of you needed a bit of something to spice up your lives.”
Marian looked up at Larry and they exchanged enlightened glances.  The mystery was solved.