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The Good Stuff
Short Story

Finding Stillness

by Manuela Francesca Yee
Length: 1,147 words

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Finding Stillness
 – 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 beloved Stillness.

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 here?”

“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 done?”

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 form.

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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