The Happy Carrot

Laura sat on her natural hemp cushion and admired her perfectly curated minimalist home; the accented colours and plants made for a tranquil and pleasing environment. More is less, was her mantra and she’d stripped back her possessions to only those things that made her happy. She was writing more, sleeping better, had more energy. The psychological weight of those possessions had been lifted, like Atlas being freed from the world he carried.

Her friends and family had gotten the memo, her birthday hadn’t increased her possessions at all, except for the wrapped box that sat on small table by the front door. The golden wrapping paper, glistening in the morning sun – it was like a giant symbol of excess. You’ll love it her friend had said – right up your alley, she insisted. Unless it was an empty box, she doubted it. Even the wrapping looked like the kind of paper intwined with plastic.

She got up, picked up the birthday cards that flanked the box and walked into the kitchen to put them in the recycling. That was part of the memo they’d all decided to ignore – it’s recyclable they’d all independently said – as if they’d all got another memo, from Clinton’s or Card Factory. At least that was true, except for that wrapping.

Laura returned from the kitchen with a duster and made short work of the few items she had to dust. She dusted along the spines of the books and took each one off the bookshelf to dust all the way around. She plumped up the cushion she sat on and sprayed the leaves of her plants. Then she picked up her phone and dialled the number for The Hungry Carrot – easily the best vegan place in town.

She placed her order and then sat back down and stared at the shimmering box. Next to it sat a photo of her family, her gran sat in the middle of them all, perched on a chair, as if she knew that she’d soon fall off the perch of life. Her frugality had been learnt in harsher times, cemented in better. She was a strong woman, far stronger than her father who abandoned them chasing the next big pay day. Far stronger than her ex, who’d done the same. Or her mother who’d left.

The present just sat there glistening.

The sunlight began to set behind the buildings in front of the flats, casting the box into shadow. She walked over to it and picked it up, gave it a little rattle and then sat back down on the cushion. She caught herself biting her nails and put her hands under her legs. Looking up at the clock she tried to work out how long ago she’d ordered the food and figured she had a few minutes left. She walked over to the video intercom ready to buzz them up.

She could hear the clock ticking, so walked over to the window to look down at the street, perhaps – then it buzzed. In her haste to answer, she tripped over her only rug and went sprawling onto the floor. ‘Fuck’ she shouted as she got back up – the door buzzing over and over.

‘Come up’ she spoke into the intercom, a cheery note in her voice, then she opened the door and waited. Tapping her foot on the floor, she sighed in relief when the lift opened and the man in green and orange walked over to her with a smile.

She smiled back, said thanks, and handed him the money, ‘Wait’ she said as she handed him the tarnished gold box and closed the door. She put the food on the side where the box had sat and then sat back down on her natural hemp cushion.

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