5 Golden Rings

It started with a partridge in a pear tree. Not a real breathing bird of course but a ceramic one in blue and gold. Cindy found the package on the way to work after Clare had left for school. She drove the package kelly green paper with a satin red ribbon to work and opened it on her desk.
“Cute, hon, where’s did you get it?” PollyAnn the dental hygienist said leaning over Cindy’s desk.
Cindy explained how she found it on her doorstep. PollyAnn gave her a weird look. Suddenly embarrassed Cindy reorganized her desk.
The next morning the package arrived earlier. This time the gift was striped red and white. Cindy’s mom brought the package into Cindy’s house when she came to take Clare to school. Cindy’s heart gave a little flutter when she saw the gift on her small kitchen table.
“Don’t get excited. Fat single moms don’t have secret admirers. It’s a mistake. Or maybe an advertising stunt,” Terry said. Cindy hugged her present, two wooden turtle doves salt and pepper shakers, to her chest and then stowed them in her pantry.
Cindy didn’t get the third gift until the evening. Her back hurt, Clare was talking a mile a minute, and dinner was waiting to be made. On autopilot, Cindy headed for the kitchen. Clare placed the wrapped package in silver snowflake paper on the counter and started dancing in front of the sink. Cindy grabbed Clare’s tiny hands and joined in the dance. Clare and Cindy ate pancakes with lots of syrup with a trio of brass French hens.
The four calling birds came on a Friday. Traffic was a nightmare. Her mom called twice. And she had to text Gary that she was running behind for the pickup. Cindy hurried to her mom’s house to retrieve Clare and then raced home to pack her daughter up for the weekend with her dad. Cindy was packing Clare’s pink My Little Pony suitcase when her ex banged on the door.
“Daddy, daddy.” Arms raised Clare ran for the door.
Gary was standing there with a small wrapped box, a jewelry box in gold dotted paper.
“Hey princess. I found this outside for Mommy?” Gary was talking to his daughter but watching Cindy. “Secret admirer or another boyfriend?”
Cindy ignored him and gave Clare a big hug, a little hug, and three kisses. Cindy avoided Gary’s eyes when she took the package but she could feel the heat of his smirk. Later that night with a generous glass of Chardonnay Cindy opened her gift. The four calling birds were a pendant on a gold chain. Cindy gasped in delight. Cindy wore the necklace to bed and dreamt of the Nutcracker.
The next morning Cindy was wrestling two duffel bags of dirty laundry out the front door. She had slept poorly. Nights without Clare were always harder and last night was half forgotten nightmares. The gift was waiting for her. A larger shoebox sized box in powder blue paper with angels. Cindy loved Christmas angels. She reached and then stopped. Who knew her so well? A strange sensation sizzled up her arm. A small voice niggled deep in her mind. Listening, Cindy backed away and locked the door.

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