Peeling the onion

On the afternoon of her birthday Emily found a package on her verandah. She couldn’t recognise the scrawl on the card—happy birthday my love. It wasn’t Carl’s neat script. 

While the answering machine played she tore open the polka dot paper and opened the box inside. Tabitha, her moggie, coiled around her ankles.

Inside the box was another box, wrapped in crepe. She tore at it, her excitement tinged with a little trepidation. Who could have gone to so much trouble. 

Another layer fell away. Another layer revealed nothing of value. More paper. She remembered Daryl. The taunting of the endless unwrapping was his style. She remembered how bitter he’d been at the end.

The next layer was wrapped in brown paper. Emily had stopped thinking about what might be in it. When she wondered who else would want to torment her and she came up with a role call of former boyfriends. Wayne, Con, Benjamin, Zac—her relationships all finished in acrimony. Even Liam. They’d been engaged once, but she hadn’t seen him for years. 

The layers kept coming. Brown paper gave way to newspaper. Emily felt empty.  Each new layer compelled her to the next.

The package shrank to the size of a matchbox. Beneath a layer of stained kitchen paper she glimpsed green velvet.

2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (