Editor’s Note: This short story was based off a writing prompt in Reddit’s r/writingprompts.
Ruth threw off her pink covers and jumped out of bed. She had all the reasons to be excited: It was her 18th birthday and her Grandma Dorothy had promised her that on this special day, she’d receive an extraordinary present.
“They’re going to take you places, my dear,” her grandma always said.
Ruth ran out her room without even looking in the mirror to the top of the stairs, where she heard her grandmother talking in the kitchen. She might as well had tumbled down the steps she made it so fast.
“Well, good morning, my dear,” her grandma said.
“Morning, Grandma!” she said, trying to hide her excitement.
Her father, still in his PJs drinking a cup of coffee, nodded at her. “Good morning, sweetie. Big day.”
Ruth’s eyes scanned the kitchen, but there were no obvious signs of a gift.
“Care for any toast?” her father asked.
“No thank you, daddy. Not hungry right now.”
The three sat in silence for a moment—almost painfully long. Ruth didn’t want to be rude and demand her present, but it was all she could think about.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, I’m not going to make her wait, George. She’s been waiting for 18 years.”
Her father smirked while sipping his coffee.
“Have at it, mother.”
Dorothy slowly stood up from the table, wobbling a bit more in her old age than from her younger days. She could sense Ruth’s excitement, and could hardly wait herself to give Ruth her long-awaited gift.
They walked into the living room, Ruth holding her grandmother’s arm as she slowly shuffled one foot in front of the other.
“You’re going to love this, dear. I can hardly wait for you to see.”
Dorothy grabbed a box from behind the love seat near the front door and handed it to Ruth. Ruth’s heart nearly stopped.
“Oh, Grandma, thank you so much!” Ruth said.
The box was tightly wrapped in white paper with red lettering that read “happy birthday.” It was lighter than Ruth expected. As she opened it, her mind raced what it could be: keys to a new car, plane tickets—her grandmother had told her the present would take her places, after all.
She tore off the last bit of paper and opened the box: two bright red sequined slippers shined in the morning light.
“Oh, goddammit, Grandma, not these,” Ruth said.
Her grandma’s smile was quickly taken over by a look of shock and horror. Her father, standing on the outskirts of the living room, choked on his coffee.
“What am I supposed to do with these?” Ruth said, throwing the box on the table.
Her grandma, still dismayed, could hardly speak.
“These….these are my special shoes, dear. What do you mean? They’ll take you wherever you want to go.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard your stories, Grandma—the yellow brick road, the wicked witch, the tin man and the scarecrow and the cowardly lion; oh, and the big green man named Oz,” Ruth said, letting out a long sigh. “That didn’t happen, Grandma. You were clearly on some type of drug.”
Ruth grabbed the box and walked to the trash can in the kitchen.
“What a waste of a good surprise,” she said, climbing the stairs back to her room.