Pass The Parcel

Entry by: jaguar

21st December 2015
A Few Shared Footsteps

Some idiot had been playing Christmas tunes all morning and, just as the music stopped, Laleh heard a sharp knock at the door. Why hadn’t they rung the doorbell? Then she remembered the embarrassingly huge wreath she’d hoisted on her front door the night before. It probably obscured the bell as well as all the seasons she hadn’t acknowledged before. She peered through the spyhole but saw no one. Cautiously, so slowly, she opened the treble-locked door.

The parcel was wrapped in brown paper, something she hadn’t seen in years, neatly dissected by red ribbon, sat on her doormat as if it was its rightful home. She looked down the harshly-lit corridor to the main entrance but there wasn’t a soul in sight. A large, square present wrapped with precise care.

Laleh slammed her door on it, her heart pelting her chest with its bloodied fists. She knew a Trojan Horse when she saw one. Did they think she was stupid enough to fall for these basic games? Desperate enough to take a present from a stranger? There was too much at stake here to let her guard down now. She’d come so far she’d stupidly thought she was safe. It was best she remembered that sentimentality killed more often than it redeemed.

Her stupid wreath dominating the door, who was she kidding? It wasn’t a part of her childhood memories or of her culture. It had been the laurel that reminded her of home, that and the pomegranates. She'd almost thought this flat was hers to dress, to make nice for the holidays. She was as stupid as her wreath. There was no one here to celebrate with her, no relief from her narrowed, safely sanitised days.

It wasn’t as if she missed the fighting, the raw emotions, the blown away decency, all those shrieking colours but sometimes she found herself longing for anything that made her feel. The chiming bell of belonging, of knowing your place in it all. It would be nice to still have a friend, someone to talk to about all these experiences that tumbled in her sleeping head like clothes that would never dry.

Laleh strode back to the door and snatched it open. Her heart did a frog leap into her throat as the man outside leant towards her. He handed her dog-eared circulars, nodded at the parcel and said ‘Want a hand with that?’ It was over the threshold and sitting on her kitchen table like a malevolent toad before she could refuse.

‘Thank you,’ Laleh said to the postman’s retreating back as her world shattered around her. She started to cry as soon as the door swung shut, great tearing gulps out of the air as she put her palms down either side of the parcel. The red-ribboned bomb. Could she have run so far and fast and have been tagged all along? Was she about to die in this monochrome block of blandness?

This time the knock was more hesitant. Laleh swiped her eyes dry, took a deep breath and opened the door. A woman stood there with pock-marked skin, wearing what looked like a fur coat. She smiled and used her fingers to dramatically frame her eyes. ‘I love your wreath. I wanted to explain – about the parcel. It was thoughtless of me not to realise it might scare you.’

Laleh moved her shoulder just enough to indicate that this person who spoke her language could come in. There wasn’t a lot of point in protecting herself now. It all felt a bit too late and she was so tired it didn’t matter anyway. ‘I haven’t opened it,’ Laleh said through lips that felt too tight to talk but she had to let this woman know she didn’t accept her fate.

‘Can’t say I blame you. I’m an idiot sometimes. My old name’s Pari, my new one’s Pippa – take your pick. I came to this country ten years ago. I never thought I could make it my home, everyone was so suspicious. They all seemed to think I wanted to take what they had. No one understood that what I really wanted was to go back to when it was safe in our country.’ Pari smiled as if bestoying a gift.

Laleh tried to see deep within this woman’s soul. Her eyes were like flashlights, only showing part of her shine. Pari’s mouth moved like a suggestion of wind on deep currents, Laleh couldn’t tell if they’d save or suck her under. The thing was it hadn’t ever been safe for Laleh in her homeland, Pari was a class apart from Laleh’s struggle.

‘It isn’t our country now,’ Laleh said, gesturing towards the parcel on the table, ‘neither’s this one. I don’t have a home.’

‘No. I understand that but perhaps we’ve taken part of the same journey. Aren’t a few, shared footsteps enough? Perhaps we’re not as different as you believe. When I got myself sorted here a stranger brought me a parcel. I’m passing that gesture on to you.’

‘What’s in it?’ Laleh wasn’t sure she cared anymore. She fingered the smooth red ribbon, enjoying its silkiness. If she wasn’t safe she might as well know it now and she might as well take Pari, whoever she was, with her.

'What's always left until the very end - hope.'