– A Fable of Love -
Inspired by O’Henry’s "The
Gift of the Magi"
In their dilapidated $60 per
week flat, Confusion propped the window sash open on an old
brick, like a drained eye built of matchsticks. She gazed,
not at the grey sky but, at the few lacklustre coins that
rested in her palm. Four times, Confusion counted and still
only two dollars and ninety seven cents. That’s all she’d
saved and tomorrow loomed her wedding anniversary to
Stillness. Slumping on the ragged couch that doubled as
their bed, all Confusion could do was weep, inconsolably.
This was the first time she’d cried since marrying her
As a child, when she lived at Farm 222, Confusion often sang
for love but her face had burst crimson. For there, she was
pushed around by everyone; even her two elder sisters were
unkind to her and would say, “Ah, you ugly creature, go
away.” Furthermore, her mother said she wished her youngest
daughter had never been born.
Yet, once Confusion was old enough to run from her childhood
abode, she met Stillness, a wise eye-catching stranger at
Lovelock Ball. Though he did not explain himself much, to
Confusion, Stillness was her darling for he was the first to
see her swan in everything, even in looks. True her face
carried a gene in an unlucky lottery, although this wasn’t
what Stillness saw when he gazed into Confusion’s face. It
was the twinkle in her eye, and her contagious humour that
beguiled him. His quiet mind knew exactly what Confusion
needed. But, at this moment, what she needed was more money
to buy an anniversary gift for him.
Drying her eyes with a hanky, Confusion peeked out the
window at a black moggy crossing a black road. Two dollars
and ninety seven cents. She’d been saving for weeks but $150
per week hadn’t gone far after costs. Only two dollars and
ninety seven cents to buy her sweet Stillness a gift.
Numerous contented moments, Confusion had considered
something fine for Stillness. Something worthy of being
possessed by him.
Noticing her image in the half-window strip, she suddenly
turned and stood before a mirror. Beneath her fanning
lashes, sparkled hazel eyes. Hurriedly, she let down her
locks that fast weaved to her waist like a long vine.
Confusion only possessed one feature that gave her
confidence — her thick, russet mane that shone in star-like
clusters. Equally, Stillness took great pride in the
cigar-coloured LLOYD shoes his father had left him. He’d
pulled them out of the wardrobe and give them a polish
whenever he felt deprived, knowing they would lift his
spirits with their sophisticated splendour. All round
Confusion swept a gown of intense and empurpled masses of
hair. Bliss, suddenly overwhelmed her mind. She quickly
pinned up her tresses and jumbled outside.
An old white daisy unpicked her stole as Confusion hurried
past it towards Lennox Street. She paused to read a sign,
"Louis Barnett & Sons - Wigmaker & Hairdressers". And like a
jumpy, little train she rushed into the shop. High demand
for sourcing untarnished hair wasn’t yet an archaic notion.
It had taken Confusion a lifetime to grow her faultless
hair; still $500 seemed a good return on something that was
rather painless to give up. Definitely less painful than
selling any other body part. Besides, Stillness was worth
it, she justified.
Hairdresser Louis Barnett’s fingers flitted around
Confusion’s shoulders. He raised a pile of her locks with a
knowledgeable hand. “So you want to cut your hair to about
“Yes, but not a bob.”
Barnett chuckled and repeated, “No bobs,” then put
Confusion’s hair into a pony tail and CHOP!
“Oh, God, it’s so short!” exclaimed Confusion as she clasped
her hand over mouth. She looked down to see scattered pieces
of her long hair all over the pine floor. “What have I
In a moment of regret, she reached to the back of her head
but all she felt was air. Her hand had to travel above her
ear before she arrived at a clump of hair, though that
thick, brown security blanket was definitely gone. Walking
out of the salon, very aware of her bare neck and shoulders,
Confusion’s practical mind soon whispered “You can’t glue it
back.” So, without wasting another second on self-pity, she
rummaged through the stores for Stillness’s gift.
At length, she unearthed it. The object had Stillness’ name
all over it. It was an Allen Edmond’s cedar shoetree,
unpretentious and uncorrupted in pattern, appropriately
announcing its worth by meaning only. Before long, two
shoetrees were wrapped in anniversary-paper and Confusion
headed home. Impressive as Stillness’ LLOYD shoes were, they
were housed in the tiniest of wardrobes that would, soon,
surely, make them lose their superior shape. However, now
with the shoetrees, his shoes would never change their fine
Confusion’s excitement rapidly turned to caution as she
stared at her new self in the mirror. “Stillness is never
going to forgive me. Like my family, he’ll see me ugly too.”
At 7.30pm, Stillness’s keys jangled in the front door.
Confusion’s face turned pale, as she asked God to make her
husband love her as he always did. Appearing weary and
unsmiling Stillness stepped inside. His eyeballs immediately
parked on his young wife. Yet neither fury nor condemnation
was in his glare. He just stood still as granite.
“Dearest Stillness, don’t glare at me like that,” sobbed
Confusion. “I sold my hair to buy you a decent anniversary
gift. Please tell me you still want me.”
“Want you? Nothing could make me stop,” said Stillness, for
what he saw was a graceful and striking woman. Embracing
Confusion, he extracted a box from his coat pocket and
placed it her hand. Then he said, “My mistake, Confusion,
darling, you won’t be wanting these after all. Only someone
with superior bone structure as yours can pull off a short
hairdo. I never want you to cut your hair in any other way.
You look amazing.”
A colourless digit ripped at the box in Confusion’s other
hand. There lay a sterling silver hair adornment — the
adornment that Confusion had often prayed to, in a nearby
Richmond window. Fine, antique clips, engraved with
forget-me-nots, pierced openwork and twisted prongs,
glittered in her white hands — simply the thing for
gone-astray tresses. Cuddling the hair clips to her chest,
Confusion readily held out her own gift to Stillness, with
her free hand. Unwrapping it, he soon fell about laughing.
“What’s the matter Stillness? Don’t you like them?”
“Of course, they’re terrific darling, but I’m afraid the
LLOYDS are gone.”
“Yes gone — to buy your hair clips, sweetheart.”
By and by, Confusion felt thankful at having endured sadness
in life because it had enabled her to relish, so much
better, the contentment that was now around her. She
recognised that she could never lose by loving; rather she
would always lose by holding back.
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