The Birthday Present
Gabby grinned through gritted teeth and accepted the gift Uncle Morty held out to her.
“Happy birthday, Gabby,” he said, his top hat askew and handlebar mustache out of place in the small living room and her brother’s Xbox exploding in the adjacent den.
“Thank you, Uncle Morty,” she forced an even bigger smile.
Uncle Morty was the strange one, the oddity who enjoyed being eccentric, even if he put his relatives in awkward spots.
He also gave the worst gifts.
Last year he’d given her an old-fashioned, poofy shower cap with frills around the edge. The year before that, a kaleidoscope which took up space on her chest of drawers (she never admitted it, but Gabby somewhat like that gift).
This year, Uncle Morty, recluse extraordinaire, gave her…
A fountain pen.
A plain, black fountain pen, which she didn’t know how to use.
Gabby tried to suppress her disappointment, though she knew not why she felt it at all. Uncle Morty’s gifts always disappointed.
“Go on, try it,” Uncle Morty said, and Mom fetched the pad by the telephone.
Gabby unscrewed the cap. Though beautiful, the pen looked awkward between her fingers.
She poised it over the paper.
“No, no,” Uncle Morty said, and flipped the pen so the nib pointed down instead of upwards, “Now write, but don’t press down on the paper too hard.”
Gabby obeyed, and it surprised her when the ink flowed smoother than from the run-of-the-mill ballpoint pens. She squiggled and doodled; Uncle Morty’s proud smile softened Gabby’s heart towards him. He was a total weirdo, but in a good way.
She screwed the cap back on and the party continued.
That night, Gabby stared at the pen before opening her Biology notebook to the last page. Gabby wrote:
“Hello, I am Gabriella, but everyone calls me Gabby.”
She liked the ink’s flow and the smooth passage of the nib on the paper.
She shrugged and smiled.
Gabby changed into her pajamas and was about to get into bed when her eyes fell on the notebook, still open to the last page.
Gabby frowned; beneath her big, girly handwriting words had appeared. The handwriting was small and wavy.
“I am Gabriel, nice to greet you Gabby.”
Gabby gasped, and trembling, took a cautious look around her bedroom. She was alone, the windows and door shut, and she hadn’t left the room since she’d written her introductory sentence.
“Who are you?” She wrote, “What is happening?”
“I am your guardian angel. I am always present, but it’s difficult to communicate with you. Until now.”
Words appeared in the same flowing ink, though she held the pen against her heart.
“Why now?” She wrote.
“You know the pen is mightier than the sword?”
Gabby nodded as the words continued to appear.
“Well, this is The Pen. Many have used it for good, others for evil. You can choose how you use it.”
Gabby’s heart thudded in her ears. She gulped and brought out an old and tattered notebook. Not her diary, but kept just a secret and just as private. She pressed the notebook to her chest, as if re-absorbing the part of herself hidden from everyone—for fear of ridicule and mockery—that she’d ripped out long ago.
The notebook contained the fantasies she’d imagined as a child, jotted down in candid vocabulary, childish hand and simple pictures. She had not opened this notebook since the first grade, when her curmudgeon and strict teacher had objected to it. Miz Prism had no imagination and pure contempt for those who did. Her parents had tsk-tsked and pooh-poohed and, once she’d buried it in her closet, forgotten all about it.
“Yes,” the words appeared, “write to your heart’s content. I will guide you.”