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Written for word 137 over at [livejournal.com profile] 15_minute_fic.


Wrapped Up (flash, 461 words)


It wasn't exactly an arduous task, like trying to wrap a sphere or the bulbous shape of plastic jutting out from cardboard that, once lamely wrapped, signified a figurine or miniature vehicle or something else that was made of approximately one ounce of plastic and a lot of air. It was a box. A square-ish, pleasantly symmetrical box with smoothed edges. And Mandy still couldn't wrap it.

"You need some help with that?"

Mandy shot Chris a glare. "I've got it."

Chris sat back and made the tiniest of sounds, so faint that Mandy might have been imagining it. Somehow it ticked her off as well as if Chris had shouted in her ear. Brothers were like that, she'd been told. She often wondered how so many brothers survived until adulthood.

"It helps if you tape it lengthwise first, and then - "

"I've got it."

Again, the little sound. Again, the rage, not so little. "Do you have to be here? Really?"

"Mom'll make fun of you, you know."

"Yeah. I know."

"You could put it in a gift bag."

"I don't have a gift bag."

"You could just put a bow on the box."

"I'm going to wrap it if you'll just shut up."

He was quiet for a minute, but Mandy was tuned in to him now and could hear every little movement he made. The quick sound of breath as he thought of something he wanted to say, but held back. The swish of his jeans when he crossed his legs; the creak of the chair.

She taped the wrapping paper to the box, lengthwise, down the middle. Chris clicked his tongue.

"Not. One. Word."

Her father always said that it wasn't what was on the surface that mattered, but Mandy knew, she knew, that it was going to sit there on the table and the light would catch the iridescent paper in all of the little accidental folds and bunches she made, and her mother would notice and she would notice and even if her mother didn't say anything there would be that laugh in her eyes and the set of her jaw that reminded Mandy that she was a failure.

She'd never said it, but Mandy knew. She felt it.

Chris got up and walked out of the room, and though Mandy didn't watch him go she could hear that familiar gait, the soft step of someone who thought - no, who knew - he was better than everyone else. He took after his mother, though without as much class. He had to come out and say things.

Mandy smoothed the paper down with her hands and slapped on another piece of tape to flatten the folds. It would do. It would have to do.
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March 2011

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