I put my gift on the table, smiled hello at the people I recognized and scanned the room. I didn’t see him anywhere.
“Have you see him?” I asked Sharon.
“No,” she said with a shake of her head. “But did you have some of the cake? It’s delicious.”
They had cake already? Did they sing and I missed it? It was his party—every year it was his party. So where was he?
Sharon hailed someone from across the room and I moved toward Ren. “Where is he?” I asked, still peering around bodies, hoping to catch sight of him.
Ren shrugged, “I don’t know,” he said with the same lack of concern Sharon had showed.
“You haven’t seen him?”
“Nope,” he said with a shake of his head. “Did you get me anything?”
“You?” I repeated. Why would I bring a present for Ren?
His shoulders slumped and he walked off muttering. I watched him go, perplexed, then looked around the room again. Maybe I wasn’t at the right place.
Everyone was eating, laughing, talking, enjoying themselves. Was I the only one that noticed his absence?
I saw Cloe on the other side of the room and hurried toward her. Maybe she would know. When she turned to me, I didn’t waste any time.
“Where is he?” I asked. “No one’s seen him.”
“Oh, he’s not here,” she said evenly, stabbing her final bite of cake with her Santa-handled fork.
“But it’s his party,” I said as she put the cake in her mouth. “Why isn’t he here?”
“Well,” she said once she swallowed, blinking her big blue eyes and looking thoughtful. “I don’t think he was invited.”
It was my turn to blink. “Not invited?” I echoed. “Why not?
Cloe shrugged. “Don’t get all bent out of shape. The point it we get to celebrate. In fact, we combined it with Ren’s welcome home party and Lisa’s baby shower. Isn’t that great?”
“Why would you do that?”
“Well, it didn’t seem fair to do all this just for him, yah know—I mean what makes him so special? We wanted everyone to feel included.”
That was the strangest thing I’d ever heard of. “But without him? He’s the one that started all this. What about the gift I brought?”
“Just give it to someone else—Lisa maybe.”
“Lisa?” I said, my frustration showing in my voice. “But He’s the reason I’m here at all.”
“Yeah,” she said with a nod. “I get it. It’s his birthday—and Ren’s welcome home and Lisa’s baby shower.” She put a hand on my arm and leaned in, her tone hinting that I should know all this already. “It’s not about him anymore,” she whispered. “So just have a good time, okay, that’s what this is about—oh and the food and the presents.” She laughed. “But don’t make a big deal about it, okay, we don’t want anyone to get upset. It would totally ruin the party.”
LDSP Comments: Another variation on a theme. I've heard similar stories. I like this one better than #2 because it does have more originality to it. Also, it made me stop, think and re-evaluate my Christmas behavior. That's always a good thing. Still, not original enough for publication.