She knows the perfect gift for her husband, but she doesn’t have enough money. What will she sacrifice to buy the gift?
This short story has been rewritten from O. Henry’s “The Gift of The Magi.”
The Gift of Love
I count my money.
32 dollars and 87 cents. That is all.
For a long time, I saved money. 1 dollar here. 1 dollar there. I saved money at the grocery story. I saved money on the electricity bill.
I count again. 32 dollars and 87 cents. Tomorrow will be Christmas.
I don’t have enough money.
I lie down on the couch and cry. Why is life always full of crying and sobbing? Sometimes life has smiles, but it is mostly tears.
Our tiny, old apartment is $225 per week. Rent is so expensive these days.
Our mailbox outside doesn’t get any friendly letters. Only bills. Electricity bills. Gas bills. Water bills. Phone bills. Insurance bills. And once in a while, we get cute cards that ask for donations.
It’s hard to find a full-time job, so my husband and I are freelancers. My husband paints houses, and I write fiction. But our income is shrinking. We used to make about $800 a week, but now, we are lucky to make $500.
I finish crying and I fix my makeup. I go to the window and look out. There is a gray cat walking on a gray fence in a gray yard. Tomorrow will be Christmas Day, and I only have $32.87 to buy Jim a present.
$500 dollars a week doesn’t go far. Even if I write down our budget, money always seems to disappear.
I only have $32.87 for Jim. My husband. I spent a lot of time daydreaming about a nice gift for him. Something wonderful and rare. Something worthy of Jim.
Do you know what I really want to buy? Jim has a beautiful watch. It was a gift from his grandfather. Unfortunately, the watch strap is very worn and dirty. I want to buy him a handsome silver strap for his watch. With a nice watch and a nice strap, he can wear it proudly. Every time he checks the time, he will smile and remember that I love him.
I keep looking out the window. It’s so sad that I can’t get any extra money. I look at my own reflection in the glass of the window. I look sad. My brown hair is tied up in a ponytail, but it still looks long.
Suddenly, I get an idea. I stand up and take out my hair tie. Yes, my hair is very long. It almost reaches my knees. Jim always calls me Rapunzel, the princess whose hair fell out of the tower. How does that story end? Doesn’t she cut her hair?
No, I can’t…
I put my hair up into a ponytail again. I walk back and forth in the room. Can I? Should I?
I go to the closet and get my old brown jacket and my old brown hat. With tears in my eyes, I head outside.
In the shopping district, I find the shop that I need. The sign says: “Miss Sofia’s Hair and Beauty Supply. We have all kinds of hair goods. 2nd floor.”
I run up the stairs. Breathing heavily, I open the door. The owner, Miss Sofia, stands in the center of the shop. She nods to welcome me.
“Will you buy my hair?” I ask.
“I buy hair,” says Miss Sofia. “Take off your hat, and let’s see it.”
I pull off my hat and take the hair tie out. My brown hair ripples down.
Miss Sofia’s eyes get wide. She walks closer. She touches and lifts my hair to examine it. “Three hundred dollars,” she says.
“Give it to me, quick!” I say.
Two hours later, I’m back at home. I’m holding a small box with the most beautiful silver strap. Out of all the watch straps in the store, this was the most brilliant. When Jim puts this on his wrist, he will never want to take it off. And when other people look at his watch, they will respect him.
I go to the bathroom mirror. It’s short. It’s very short. And the haircut isn’t cute; it’s choppy. I pick up the curling iron to try to style it somehow. With some effort and a few burns, I curl all of it. I don’t look beautiful. I look like a schoolboy.
I stare at my reflection for a long time. “Jim is going to be so mad,” I say to myself. “When he looks at me, he’ll say I look like a boy from an 80s rock band. But I had no choice! I couldn’t do anything with only $32.87!”
At 7:00 pm, I finish making coffee and frying some pork chops.
I look at the clock again. Jim’s late. But, he’s never late. The food is on the table, and I’m waiting in front of the door with his gift.
My hear his footsteps coming and my heart skips a beat. “Please God, let him think that I am still pretty.”
The door opens and Jim steps inside. He closes the door behind him. He looks thin and serious. The poor guy. He’s only 22 years old and we have so much to worry about. His coat is just as old as mine.
Jim stops. He looks at me. His expression is… hard to understand. Does he look angry? Surprised? Disapproving? Horrified? I wasn’t expecting a reaction like this.
He just stares at me with a strange expression.
I walk over to him. “Jim, darling,” I say, “don’t look at me that way. I had to cut my hair and sell it. I did it because I wanted to give you a Christmas present. I’ll grow my hair again. Don’t be upset. I had to do it. My hair grows really fast, I promise. Say ‘Merry Christmas,’ and let’s be happy, Jim. You don’t know the gift that I got for you. It’s such a nice and beautiful gift!”
“You cut your hair?” Jim says. His voice is quiet.
“I cut it off and sold it,” I say. “I know you love my hair, but you love me, too. Don’t you love me without my hair?”
Jim looks around the room. “It’s gone? Your hair is really gone?”
“You don’t need to look for it,” I say. “I sold it. It’s sold and gone. It’s Christmas Eve, Jim. Be kind to me. I cut it for you!”
He doesn’t say anything.
“I… I cut it for you,” I say again. I feel my heart getting tight. “Well, dinner is ready. Would you like to eat now?”
Jim seems to come out of his trance. He hugs me. I hold him tightly. I try to forget everything. Whether we have five hundred dollars a week or a million dollars a week, what’s the difference? We have love.
Jim looks at me and takes a package from his pocket. He throws it on the table.
“Don’t misunderstand, darling,” he says. “I don’t think a haircut can change my feelings for you. Even if you shave your head, I’ll still love you. But…”
“But what?” I say.
He looks at the package on the table. “You’ll understand when you open your gift.”
My fingers feel numb. I pull the string and paper off the gift. And then, I scream with joy. But my joy quickly turns into tears. I can’t do anything but cry.
Jim hugs me from behind and we look down at his gift.
A set of beautiful gold hair clips and a gold comb. All of them are decorated with jewels. I can’t even imagine something more beautiful. I pick up the clips and hold them against my heart.
“Oh, I love them, Jim,” I cry. “I hope my hair grows fast. So fast.”
And then I jump up. Thank goodness I bought something beautiful for Jim, too. I hold out my gift to him. The silver watch strap sparkles in my hand.
“Isn’t it wonderful, Jim? I searched all the shops to find it for you. You’ll want to look at it a hundred times a day. Give me your watch. I’ll put the new strap on for you.”
But Jim doesn’t get his watch. Instead, he falls down on the couch and puts his hands on his head. He has a strange smile.
“Darling,” he said, “let’s just put our Christmas presents away. Let’s just put them away for a while. They’re too nice to use.”
I sit down on the couch next to him. “What do you mean?”
He looks at me. “I sold the watch to get the money for your hair clips. Now, let’s eat dinner. It’s smells delicious.”
And so, we stand up and go to the table to eat dinner.
What do you think about us? Are we the most foolish couple you’ve ever seen? A wife with stylish hair clips, but no hair. And a husband with an expensive strap, but no watch? Maybe we are foolish, and poor as well, but we have love.