The Exchange – Part 3

Maggie lugged the record player from her closet. She was glad now that she made the choice to leave the handle exposed when wrapping Sam’s gift. Harvey Wallbanger, her golden retriever, pranced down the hallway a few steps ahead of her. He barked as if to say, “Come on! The tree’s in here!”

Once in the living room, Maggie put the record player under the tree and laid a gift-wrapped record on top.

“Sam’s going to be so surprised, Harvey,” Maggie said. At the mention of her significant other’s name, the dog grinned, his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth.

The value of the two gifts combined was still less than the cost of the vintage camera she sacrificed to get them. Although she checked online auction sites, she didn’t have any luck finding the item. If only the thrift store’s part-time employee hadn’t sold it. A collector must have snapped it up, she decided, lamenting that if so, at least it was in good hands.

If only the thrift store’s part-time employee hadn’t sold it. A collector must have snapped it up, she decided, lamenting that if so, at least it was in good hands.

A knock at the door and Harvey’s boisterous barking pulled her from her thoughts. “What is it, boy? Did someone fall down a well?” The fluffy golden dog froze and stared at her. When she laughed and asked, “Is Sam here?” he let out a joyful howl.

Maggie laughed and opened the door for her guest, who stepped in and pulled her into a hug. She returned it until the dog wedged his way between them.

“It’s all good, Harvey. Santa Paws brought you a present.” Sam held out a gift bag. After performing a snift test, Harvey lowered the front half of his body to the floor and wagged his tail.

“Do you want to eat first or open presents first?” Maggie giggled at her dog’s antics.

“Harvey says we should open presents first.” Sam deadpanned.

“Really? He said that? I mean, he didn’t even bark.”

Sam gave a solemn nod. “He sure said it. We used Jedi mind powers to communicate. Us men can do that.”

“Well, you and the big walking carpet,” she pointed at her dog, “join me in the living room. It’s present time.”The golden retriever responded by tearing through the small apartment. He sat at the base of the artificial tree in the living room and gave an impatient woof in the direction of the humans. Maggie and Sam laughed and joined him, sitting cross-legged on the floor.

The golden retriever responded by tearing through the small apartment. He sat at the base of the artificial tree in the living room and gave an impatient woof in the direction of the humans, his tail beat like a metronome on the floor. Maggie and Sam laughed and joined him, sitting cross-legged on the floor.

Sam offered Harvey a gift and the dog made quick work of shredding the paper to reveal a rawhide in the shape of a giant pretzel inside. Grabbing up the treat, Harvey bounded across the tiny living room and climbed into his chair where he began gnawing the treat.

“Thank you for bringing him a present.” Maggie gave Sam a quick kiss on the cheek.

“There’s something else in Santa Paw’s sack.” Sam nodded toward the bag and asked, “Are you ready to open your gift?”

“No way. You’re the guest so you should go first.” Maggie grabbed the gift-wrapped record and handed it to Sam.

“Oh wow, Maggie. This is…geesh, you must have spent a fortune on this.” Sam stared at his gift in awe.

Her heart swelled at his reaction. She slid the record player, handle-side facing away from him, across the carpet. “But wait, there’s more.”

He stared at her for a minute. “What’s this?”

“You won’t get any spoilers out of me. Open it and find out.”

Sam ripped the paper and gasped when he saw his old record player. “How did you? I mean, when? Maggie, um.”

“I’m not sure why you had to pawn it at the Thrifty Purchase, but I know it meant a lot to you so I bought it back.”

“You need to open your gift now.”

“But don’t you want to—” Maggie started, but Sam cut her off.

Handing her a square-shaped gift wrapped in thick paper tied with an ornate bow, he insisted, “You need to open your gift right now.”

“Oh, this paper is gorgeous. Which one of the library ladies helped you with it?” Maggie teased. It was well-known that the elderly women around town crushed on the local librarian. She couldn’t blame them. Even her grandmother, Jade, joked about having a crush on her granddaughter’s boyfriend.

“Just open it,” Sam urged. His voice held a note of tenderness.

“I have no idea what it could be.” Maggie carefully removed the bow and the paper. “Ooh, it’s a box.” When Sam didn’t reply, she lifted the lid and gasped.

“I’m not sure why you had to pawn it, but I know it meant—” Sam began explaining.

This time it was Maggie’s turn to cut him off. She pulled him into a tight hug and held on for several minutes. When she released him, she realized she was crying.

“Please tell me those are tears of joy?” One corner of Sam’s mouth turned up in a smile.

Maggie wiped her eyes with the ends of her sleeves. “Yes. Definitely joy. Sam, how did, when did, oh my God, my camera! The shop was holding it until I could pull the rest of the cash together for your record. Then the clerk accidentally sold it.”

“Sold it to me.” Sam grinned. “When I went in to buy the record, it wasn’t there and I saw your camera. I can’t believe you’d risk losing it to get my gift. It means so much to you.”

“You mean so much more, though.”

Sam leaned in and kissed Maggie softly. Leaning his forehead against hers, he murmured, “Merry Christmas, Mags.”

“Merry Christmas, Sam,” Maggie murmured, a smile spreading across her face.

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