Sunday, December 18, 2016

Kiki Lowenstein and the Missing Gift Part V

By Joanna Campbell Slan

Author's Note: I decided to challenge myself by writing an ongoing short story. I'm doing this live--and I sure hope it works! I plan to end it around Christmas. In the last installment, we learned that Kiki Lowenstein's friend and co-worker Margit has neglected her own health while caring for her mother, who has dementia. Meanwhile, Kiki and Clancy are working long hours in the run-up to Christmas, but Kiki has a problem. One of the gifts she bought for Anya is missing.

Read Kiki Lowenstein and the Missing Gift, Part II here—

Read Kiki Lowenstein and the Missing Gift, Part III here--

Clancy stood back to admire the gift she’d wrapped. With her hands on her hips, she cocked her head and smiled at the beautiful trio of packages stacked like a colorful tower. “I hope Margit likes what I bought her.”

“Of course she will. She needs new accessories to spruce up her wardrobe.” I struggled with the tape dispenser. Somehow I could never rip off a piece without twisting it.

“And thanks to you,” Clancy said with a nod to the boxes wrapped and ready on the table, “she’ll have three nice outfits to rotate into her wardrobe. Her clothes were getting threadbare, Kiki. Honestly, she’s really let herself go while she cares for her mother.”

After giving up on the tape piece in my hands and trying again, I nodded to my friend. “Yes, she sure has. I contacted the administrator of the memory care unit where her mother is staying. A Mrs. Claws. Is that ironic or what? She confirmed that Margit has been sleeping next to her mother’s bed for weeks now. In a chair. Not even a recliner. Mrs. Claws was upset, because none of the night staff had told her what was going on.”

“What does she plan to do?” Clancy ran a perfectly manicured fingernail along a stray wisp of her dark pageboy. With the recent release of the movie about Jackie Kennedy, more and more people were seeing the resemblance. We’d even had requests for selfies with Clancy from folks wanting to post pictures of themselves and “Jackie” on their Facebook pages. Luckily, Clancy took it all in stride.

To keep the cash register ringing in the run-up to Christmas, we’d decided to set up long tables and invite our customers to come here and wrap their gifts.  We kept spiced cider warm in a slow cooker, hot chocolate packets next to an electric kettle, and a huge plate of cookies nearby for munching. The idea had proved so popular that Clancy and I hadn’t been able to get to the task of wrapping our own gifts until after closing hours. Here we were, ten minutes before midnight, the weekend before Christmas, surrounded by packages, paper, and tape. But I didn’t mind. I enjoyed spending these quiet moments with my dear pal, Clancy. Besides, this way I could wrap all the kids’ gifts and not worry about prying eyes.

“Mrs. Claws ordered an oversized recliner to be moved in, next to Margit’s mother’s bed. She was very nice about the whole thing. I guess Margit’s mother really is at the end of her life. Mrs. Claws expected her to go any day now, so she’ll try to make the transition easier for Margit.”

“I wonder if she’ll fall apart.” Clancy took down a box with a LEGO set for Erik and centered it on a broad expanse of wrapping paper.  “Margit, I mean. She’s been her mother’s caregiver for decades. Even before her husband died.”

A lump in my throat made it hard to talk. “Mrs. Claws doesn’t think Margit will go to pieces. Her mother’s decline has been horrible. When I last saw the woman, she had reverted to her childhood. Since then, she’s become more and more withdrawn. Mrs. Claws says I wouldn’t recognize her.”

“I guess having her die will be the kindest outcome possible.” Clancy used the back of her hand to flick away a tear. She hated being emotional. Especially she hated crying or being sloppy, as she called it. “I foresee myself in the same situation with my own mother. I know it’s inevitable. It will come as a relief. But…”

“But once she’s gone, any chance of you mending your fences or smoothing over the rough patches will die with her, right?” I inhaled sharply, thinking of my mother, a woman who has never liked me. Even so, I had these fantasies that one day she would tell me I’d done good, that I’d married well, raised lovely children, and made a success of my life. But, gee, who was I kidding?

“Right.” Clancy opened a small white box that was empty. “What’s up with this?”

“That’s the box for the gold chain that I bought Anya. It’s to go with her Star of David charm. I have no idea where the chain has gone. None. I put all the kids’ gifts on that shelf unit in the back. Everything else was there, but that box is empty. I checked under Margit’s desk, under yours, and under all the other shelves. I have no idea where the chain has gone, and I hate to go out and buy a second one at pre-Christmas prices.”

“Then I’ll wrap this box and you can give it to Anya as it is. Empty. The chain is bound to show up. Could Baby Ty have swallowed it?”

Just last week the sparkle in Ty’s diaper scared the living you-know-what out of me. On closer examination, he must have swallowed a piece of silver tinsel. Since then, we’ve put a pet fence around our tree. The whole episode made me nervous. However, my husband Chad Detweiler had laughed and said, “What goes in must come out. I expect he’ll eat all sorts of trash before he’s a grown man.”

“No. Ty couldn’t have swallowed the chain. I had it here, at the store. I never took it home with me. Ty hasn’t been here since Thanksgiving. There’s no way he could have gotten those chubby little hands on it.”

“Hmmmm.” Clancy smiled. “Then you’ve got yourself a real mystery to solve. I know my mother mislaid plenty of gifts as I was growing up. She’d be cleaning her closet and next thing you knew, she’d be triumphantly waving a box in festive paper. Actually, I thought it was super-cool.”

Yes, but I didn’t. I was annoyed. Where on earth had that gold chain gone to?


Next week I’ll share the last segment of "Kiki Lowenstein and the Missing Gift." Until then, remember: The BEST gift you can give anyone is the gift of being totally present.

Reserve your copy of Love, Die, Neighbor: A Prequel to the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series, right now for only 99 cents. After the release date -- 12/31/2016 -- the price will go up. So pre-order your copy today!


Billie Jackson said...

Thank you! I am so loving this time with Kiki and so worried about Margit. Of course I have been worried about her for some time. My uncle, the greatest guy outside my dad, is in later stages so I understand some of her pain and that of so many real friends.

Starfire259 said...

I missed part 4 and the link only takes me to part 1. I've tried many times, and I would love to read part 4. Thanks, Meredith

Starfire259 said...

I missed part 4 and the link only takes me to part 1. I've tried many times, and I would love to read part 4. Thanks, Meredith

Starfire259 said...
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