The Secret Present - A Social Media Disaster

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
When a photo uploaded onto social media reveals an unopened Christmas present Steve has been keeping for forty-seven years, things very quickly get out of hand.

Submitted: May 05, 2019

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Submitted: May 05, 2019

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It was when Steve saw the studio cameras pointed in his direction, when the roar of the audience’s excitement washed over him, and when he caught eyes with the young girl holding those golden scissors that he knew he’d made a terrible mistake.

* * *

There was nothing special about Steve and Christine Gallagher. Sure, they owned two pugs that caught a lot of attention in shopping malls and dog parks, but that was about as far as their shine went. Christine taught at the local school. Steve sold cars. That’s about it, really. Well, Steve was sort of famous in a vague sense of the word: almost everybody in town drove one of Steve’s cars. To be fair on the townspeople, he was the only dealer. On weekends, they would often see Steve and Christine out somewhere. Shops. Parks. Always with the pugs. People would stop and say hello to them — first to the pugs, then to Steve and Christine. The townspeople knew where their priorities lay. But when the town — or, rather, the entire world — found out about Steve’s secret, the Gallaghers suddenly became an overnight global sensation. Even more popular than their two adorable pups!

Their sudden explosion in popularity came off the back of an event long ago…

As 1970 was coming to an end, high school senior Steve Gallagher and his girlfriend at the time, Kelly Ryan, had spent Christmas Eve wandering the snow-covered footpaths. Together, hand in hand, they braved the cold night for the carollers’ tunes and Christmas light street show. He still couldn’t believe it had been three years since they had survived their first date in the park, when it had rained so hard their car got flooded. Lady luck hadn’t exactly been kind; look what the years had brought them. Steve often said Kelly was what got him through his mother’s passing. That kind, simple smile she used to temper his anxiety, the way she’d tilt her head just slightly and listen. Like she did then on that snowy night, walking beside him, keeping him warm. It seemed like the perfect opportunity — he planned to give her a beautiful necklace with the letters ‘K’ and ’S’ attached to it and to ask her to be his beautiful wife.

But as the two edged closer towards the last house on the block, Steve’s mix of excitement and nerves was cut short. Kelly slowed to a stop, turned towards Steve and, with eyes glassy and lost, ended their relationship. Before Steve could even comprehend it, Kelly passed him a small package wrapped in beautiful gold paper and sealed with a string bow. And then she walked off into the snowy night. Gone for good. Overwhelmed by shock, Steve staggered home, threw the gift under the Christmas tree and swore to his family he would never open that present. He never did.

But the present never left him. Forty-seven years later, Steve still brought out that old, crinkled, faded gold package and placed it beneath his Christmas tree. This was done, of course, despite his wife’s attempts to get rid of it and the passion their pugs held for the early opening of presents when no one was at home. What started as a hope that one day Steve and Kelly would reunite and could open it together eventually grew into a habit, a sort of charm — that he received pleasure out of knowing he’d kept it for so long without spoiling what’s inside. Over the years he’d taken many guesses as to what could be hidden under the now fading wrapping. Could it be a book, a photo of the two or even a now-crusty box of his favourite childhood chocolates? Although, when he thought on it, the feeling of seeing the timeless gold under his tree every year was a gift in and of itself.

That was until his secret got out…

After uploading a photo of their Christmas tree and decorations to Facebook, a simple throwaway comment from Auntie June typed up during one of her notorious “Christmas benders” pointing out the forty-seven-year-old present attracted the attention of the whole town. One tag turned into two, two into five, and very quickly the photo of the Gallagher’s Christmas tree had three hundred comments and over one thousand likes. Everyone wanted to know more about the ‘secret present’ and, most importantly, what was inside. By the time dinner was ready, the post had received close to five thousand comments from people all over the country who were now sharing the story and taking guesses at what could be inside. Hoping the buzz would die down the next day, Christine deleted the photo and the two retreated to their bedroom and fell asleep. Though, like wildfire spreading, the interest only doubled overnight.

The next morning, Steve was awoken by Christine, who had a phone pressed against her ear. RPM News was calling, saying they wanted to interview him about the ‘secret present’. The deleted photo was circulating on news websites and blogs who were all asking the same question — what is inside? BuzzFeed had even created a list of “25 Things That Would Fit in the Secret Present”. Annoyed and unsure how to navigate the unsolicited attention, Steve grabbed the phone and hung up. As he walked towards the kitchen to start the day, he noticed a small gathering of people standing on his front lawn waiting around with their phones in their hands. Puzzled, but assuming they must be a morning walking group, he ate his breakfast and ducked past the windows and into the garage. As the garage door opened and he backed down the driveway, he was met with cheers and waves from the crowd of strangers. Smiling and offering a confused wave, Steve headed for work. He was determined to go about his day as if nothing had happened but when he arrived, he was greeted by his coworkers as though he was a celebrity. Balloons and a cake with an unflattering photo of him and the words “Town Legend” decorated on it was sitting on his desk. Becoming frustrated, he began working the floor, hoping it would distract him. He approached a young man who said he was looking to buy his first car. Though strangely, the man seemed more interested in taking selfies with Steve than of the cars he was looking at. Realising the customer was only looking for one thing — that wasn’t a new car — Steve walked back into the office where he remained until he clocked off. The cake wasn’t bad.

Steve and Christine both returned home from work and crawled to the sofa. Their pugs followed. Together, the dogs sighed and dreamed. But Steve and Christine could only sigh, long and deep. The buzz hadn’t died down, in fact it was only growing. Steve turned to Christine and Christine turned to Steve. Right. That’s it. Things need to change. RPM News was more than happy to help with that; so happy, in fact, that they sent around a reporter the following day. As he sat on the opposite side of their kitchen table, Christine noticed that his hair matched the colour of their lemon tablecloth. Steve didn’t like the way he smirked instead of smiled, that little curl to the lip. Shark-like. It felt very odd telling all the gory details of his life to a man he’d only just met. But it wasn’t only his life he had to talk about. Her’s too. Speaking about a ghost makes it real — this mystery giver of the gift. Soon enough, the reporter had what he needed: a tragic backstory, a car crash, and a last gift of love. Golden Kelly, the reporter dubbed her. Whatever he called her, Steve was just happy to get that sleazeball out of his home. At least now, their lives could return to normal. Or so they thought.

After RPM published the article, the story touched the hearts of people all over the country and, not all that long after, most of the world. In countries as far away as Slovenia, avid Golden Kelly fans recorded songs, edited Youtube videos and campaigned for Steve to open the present in memory of Kelly — who they learned tragically died in a car accident only three years back. The story had gone viral, and for the first time in almost forty-seven years, Steve missed Kelly and almost felt guilty for their breakup all this time later.

As Steve’s story of his forty-seven-year-old unopened Christmas present went global, he found Christine becoming more and more distant from him. At first, she stopped engaging in conversations about the ordeal, then she demanded Steve throw the present away — she even threatened to take the pugs and stay with her mother for a while! Then came the break-ins. At first, the Gallaghers were woken by the sounds of voices and steps outside their house. Later on, a window was smashed. People all over the world were claiming they wanted to steal the present to reveal what was inside and more and more people started visiting the house. The once humble and meaningful golden gift Steve had treasured for so many years was now ruining his life. The fear of a burglary, the constant abuse he received from people he had never even met, his inability to sell any cars without a small crowd taking selfies around him and the toll he could see it was taking on Christine was all too much. Steve contacted RPM News who offered a solution.

‘Enter now to unwrap history!’.

It was plastered on every newspaper, magazine and website. One lucky winner would be given the opportunity to unwrap the ‘secret present’ live on television and finally answer the question that had captivated the world. The competition lasted only three days but received hundreds of thousands of entries that came from all corners of the globe. After a lifetime of being under wraps, Steve’s faded gold gift now had an opener — twelve year old Eliza Wood.

On the day of the unveiling, #secretpresent was trending on every social network, and fans lined the windows of the RPM News studio hoping to catch a glimpse of the almost five-decade-old present. Christine joined Steve in the studio and held his hand in support — probably glad it was almost over. Steve, on the other hand, was agitated and would spend long periods with his eyes shut in deep thought. He didn’t realise how much the present truly meant to him until now — when the magic of it was about to be lost in front of the eyes of millions. It was when Steve saw the studio cameras pointed in his direction, when the roar of the audience’s excitement washed over him, and when he caught eyes with the young girl holding those golden scissors that he knew he’d made a terrible mistake. Though knowing it was too late to change anything, he waited as the television presenters, the young competition winner and the crowds of fans counted down from ten.

As each number was called out, Steve closed his eyes and could so easily picture the cold Christmas Eve he’d received it. He could hear the carollers and feel the frost of the snow. He felt the necklace in his pocket and saw the watery eyes of Kelly once more. Three seconds remained. The crowd scrambled at the windows, Christine took a deep breath. The scissors were raised, and the countdown finished. The young girl took a step forward, moved the scissors towards the faded gold wrapping and stopped. Everyone froze, and Steve opened his eyes. As the world looked on in stunned silence, the young competition winner placed the scissors down on the table and picked the present up and walked towards Steve. As everyone watched on in awe, the young girl handed the crinkled package to him and said, “I think you should open it”. Tears began to stream from his eyes as he held out his hand and took the present from the girl. Taking a final look down the lens of the studio camera and then towards Christine, who, with tears in her eyes as well, gave a nod of approval, Steve peeled back the loose sticky tape and unveiled his present — forty-seven years later. Inside the brittle golden paper was an empty white picture frame with a note attached that read, “Fill this with your life’s greatest memory. Merry Christmas, love Kelly”.

* * *

It’s been two years since the magic of Steve’s ‘secret present’ touched the lives of millions around the globe. While he still does occasionally get recognised in the streets and at work, he and Christine did eventually get their wish of an ordinary life again with their two pugs. As for Steve’s forty-seven-year-old present, it can be seen standing next to his Christmas tree every year with his life’s greatest memory inside — a cut of the gold wrapping paper.

 


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