An Exceptional Gift

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Harvey’s pretty blue eyes... Khèri was terrified of talking to him. She longed for his clear blue eyes to focus on her. Who was she kidding? She was a freak.

She looked at her tattered diary. It had seen better days, but at least all days were accounted for. She couldn’t remember when she started writing about Harvey. Imagine if he got his hand on her book.

Harvey and I, Elevated

The glass lift stops halfway between the shopping centre floors. Harvey takes me by my shoulders, presses me up against the wall of the lift and kisses me for everyone to see. He tastes like sweet orange soda and my tongue is sparkling.

Khèri had heard it on the television recently: ‘If you want an exceptional life, you need to act exceptionally.’ Well, she did not particularly want an exceptional life, normal would do, whatever that was in Ghoston, but the thought of kissing Harvey did seem pretty exceptional. He was single after his recent break up, but that wouldn’t last long with his dazzling eyes and muscular build. She made up her mind. She would ask him out.

Her foster parents had flatlined her pocket money so she would need to pull some cash together for this project. Tomorrow would be the day. Well, tomorrow would be a bit too soon but she needed to get a head start on the competition. Clothes and makeup could be sorted in a day. It was Wednesday and if her plan worked, she would see him on Friday after school. She drafted a letter:

Dear Harvey,

Your eyes are so pretty. I have seen them many times, but you don’t know who I am. I would like to see them again, hopefully you will look back into my eyes and like what you see.

I hope you have time tomorrow evening to come to The Fair. I have a gift for you. There is a candy stand near the fountain, I will be there at 7 holding two candy flosses.

Yours expectantly,
A secret admirer


The butterflies in Khèri’s stomach kept her awake all night. Her school bus was unpredictable, so she walked instead. She hurried nervously into the hallway and found Harvey’s locker, the one with the picture of the owl. She doused her letter with a spray of perfume and shoved it through one of the locker’s air vents. Her knees buckled as the hallway door opened behind her, but it was just Albert, hardly interested in her romantic delusions.

‘Rise and shine, Miss.’

‘Good morning, Albert.’

‘You’re up early.’

‘Today is an exceptional day.’

‘Every day is my dear. The Lord made it so.’

‘Yes, Albert. See you this afternoon.’

‘Looking forward to it.’


Khèri stood at the library entrance. Thursday afternoon was her favourite time, when she had two successive free lessons, the one time of the week where she wasn’t obliged to sit with the others.

Albert nodded for her to come over to his desk.

‘Thought you might like to read this,’ he whispered as he handed her a battered old book. ‘It’s my own book from a long, long time ago. Long before I listened to The Lord and settled down.’

Khèri took the book and stared at the cover. A pile of salt, enough to fill a teaspoon, lay before a steaming teacup, both neatly laid out in the foreground of a large jagged mountain with a sparkling white snow cap.

‘I picked this up in Kolofistan. I guess it might mean more to you than it does to me. I want you to have it.’

‘Oh, Albert, I don’t -’

‘Now, Khèri, didn’t you tell me that today was an exceptional day? You should accept this gift to prove your words true.’

‘Thank you, Albert.’

‘My pleasure. Maybe you can tell me what all this means one of these days? I never did grasp that language of yours during my time there.’

Khèri thanked Albert again and went to find a window seat. On a lucky day, she would catch a sports lesson when Harvey was training outside. The gift threw her off track though and she sat down by Albert’s desk. She stared at the pictures in her new book. Giant mountains, vast lakes, wild rivers, dense forests. Sprawling cities, plain villages, tall trees, exotic animals. Despite having never visited Kolofistan, she felt awfully homesick. It was a beautiful country. She longed to go there, to speak with her people, to taste the air, swim the waters.

‘Is this seat taken?’

It was Harvey. He had a pile of books in his arms. She gulped, looked down at the desk and mumbled that it was free. Her face lit up like Christmas lights. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted her letter sticking out of one of the books. She couldn't take it. She kept her head down, excused herself and made her way out of the library, without a word to Albert.


Back at home, Khèri’s attention was split between her unconfirmed date and Albert’s gift. She had 24 hours to get her act together. She had never missed a day of school in her life, well not intentionally anyway, the days lost between foster home transfers weren’t really her fault now, were they? If she were to get a nice outfit, some fancy makeup and a sexy hairstyle by 7pm, she would have to take some drastic measures.

Her foster-father left his wallet in the bedroom, far away from the front door, hidden strategically inside his clothes. A great hiding place he thought. Little did he know that the biggest threat to his finances lay beneath his own roof. Khèri heard him yelling at the sportsmen on the television set. Her foster-mother was out with her friends as usual. Khèri often wondered why they ever bothered signing up for the foster program. After hearing them complain about late welfare cheques, she soon developed an understanding of her significance within their turbulent trio.

‘Damn rat pack rattlesnakes!’

The menacing slurs grew more aggressive as the beers soaked in. Father had suffered a pay cut recently, so in went the large screen for a smaller, cheaper model. Feeling further away from the action, father had the inclination to yell even harder to get his point across.

I guess he won’t miss this for a day or two. The silver credit card dazzled under the flickering bulb hanging from the dresser mirror. It was a gamble, but how many times had father called in sick on Friday mornings recently, as he puked up the leftovers of the previous nights chips and beer.


Oh it’s the badgers again is it, father?

Khèri tucked the card away inside her knickers. Father was a mean drunk but he would never go there. He was incapable of doing something like that. He could shout and curse all night long, but he wouldn’t find that card.

Khèri had promised to act exceptionally and that’s what she was going to do. If not for herself, then at least for Albert. Thinking of Albert reminded her suddenly of Harvey’s visit to the library. Had he come to inspect her letter in privacy? She thought back to Albert’s gift. She looked at the cover, then peeked inside. Her eyelids weighed down as her mind drifted further away. She had acted exceptionally today, now she was exceptionally tired.

She dreamt of the mountains. Harvey came from higher ground, face sunburnt and weatherbeaten from the summer winds. How handsome and manly he looked, like a cowboy from the Western movies one of her previous foster-fathers used to watch. The horse was strong and tall but Harvey handled him confidently and swooped down from his saddle.

‘I received your letter. Come, let us go to the mountains. I have a message to deliver and I need your translation.’

‘I cannot speak Kolofi.’

Harvey smiled as if he didn’t hear a word, as if her eyes were beckoning him to kiss him. His blue eyes sparkled in the sunlight and contrasted pleasantly against his tanned face. His blond hair had bleached from the sun’s powerful rays.

‘Come, let us go. We can set up camp at the base of the mountains. Jared’, he patted the horse, ‘can take us both. I have bread and we will cook fish from the mountain stream.’

‘I have to go home. I shouldn’t be here.’

Harvey smiled again and lent his hand to Khèri. She grasped it longingly as he reached in to tell her-

The alarm went off. Khèri awoke in a cold sweat, distraught in finding herself imprisoned by her bedroom’s walls. She longed for the mountains. The nightlight shone in her face, strong like the Kolofi sunshine. She scratched between her legs and was shocked to find something hard and flat irritating her thigh. Credit card? And off she snuck downstairs, heading straight for the back door.

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