The Gold Wrapped Parcel by Emma Lee – Selected Flash Fiction

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Emma Lee’s publications include “The Significance of a Dress” (Arachne, 2020) and “Ghosts in the Desert” (IDP, 2015). She co-edited “Over Land, Over Sea,” (Five Leaves, 2015), was Reviews Editor for The Blue Nib, reviews for magazines and blogs at http://emmalee1.wordpress.com.

Anya teased open the tape on the gold-coloured flimsy wrapping paper topped with a tag that said ‘Happy Birthday, love Mum’ in her mother’s hasty scrawl, and eased open the folds. Inside was a scrunched-up piece of material. Anya pinched it and let the wrapping fall to the floor. The material was linen and whatever it was supposed to be would have to be washed and ironed.

It was also mustard yellow, a vibrancy at odds with Anya’s usual wardrobe of neutrals, but one that would suit her sister-in-law’s fuchsias, saffrons, magentas and limes. Maisie was as chaotic and bubbly as her cascade of colours and often described herself as “concealing a willowy size ten in a size eighteen body”. A description that fitted Anya’s mother too, whereas Anya.

After turning the fabric over, twisting it round and shaking it out several times, Anya found a label stating it was a size eight. Holding it by the label, she figured out it was a short jacket, like a shrug.

Her phone rang.

“Yes, mother I got the present.” Anya managed to get in before settling to listen to her mother’s monologue.

“I hope it fits. You know, I bought it for Maisie. I thought it was the right colour. But, do you know, she just threw it back at me and said it was the wrong size and asked if I was trying to insult her. She wasn’t the least bit grateful.”

Anya bit her lip and tried to suppress her laugh. Her mother’s monologue continued on the same theme for a while.

Later, her brother will phone and give her a similar monologue complaining about how upset Maisie was and asking what could be done about it. He’d end by telling her she always knew what to do. The fact that she’d been parcelled off with a recycled present that wasn’t even intended for her in the first place wouldn’t register with him.

While her mother continued, Anya decided that after a wash the jacket would look as good as new. Once it had been ironed and folded properly it could be taken back. At least she knew where her mother kept her receipts.

Anya put her phone on speaker, leaned back on her sofa and let the jacket drop to the floor.

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