"One hundred thousand, eight hundred sixty-three dollars and fifty-two cents! Is that all?"
Madge I. Young - she always insisted on using her middle initial - scowled as she read the numbers on her bank statement. She hadn't looked at one in weeks. There was really no need to. Her husband, Mr. James Dillingham Young, Esquire, Ph, D., LL. B., C.P.A., a bright and promising young executive at one of New York City's most prestigious firms, received a huge bonus after every successful closure of a project - and nearly every one he directed ended successfully.
Madge I.'s checking account received a $20,000 monthly allowance from James. By avoiding avaricious spending and pinching pennies left and right, she had accumulated what she considered a rather modest bank balance, but Christmas was approaching, and she worried that the $100,863.52 might not be enough for the presents she wanted to give James.
It was their first Christmas as a married couple, and she wanted so much to give him a gift that would make him remember this Christmas forever. Yes, she wanted that very much, but she just couldn't decide which possible gift to give him. The Corvette would have been nice,but she had given him one on his thirtieth birthday two weeks ago. Then there was the sailboat, but they already had a yacht, and while they could tow the little boat behind when they sailed off to Tahiti again or to Bermuda once more, that wouldn't do for a Christmas gift. What could she give her James?
In a quandary, Madge I. lay down on the couch she had picked out from W and J Sloane, and prepared for a long cry, brought on by her desperation regarding the Christmas gift for James.
"To Hell with crying," Madge I. said aloud, with conviction. "I'm going out to buy myself that stylish dress," the special one with that flair, the look that her James would love because it brightened her eyes, and which she had always thought was too pretentious.
"Too pretentious?" she said to herself. "How could anything be too pretentious for James' wife?" And off she went to Bergdorf's on Fifth Avenue.
The dress she had in mind is too upscale to describe here, dear reader. Just imagine the most beautiful, alluring and a smidge short of seductive outfit that the wife of one of the city's up-and-coming young execs would wear. That was the dress Madge I. had seen one day last week when she ventured into Bergdorf's to browse. All the Bergdorf salesladies knew her, even though she had never purchased a single item on any of those forays. It wasn't because they thought she was out of her element at Bergdorf's, She was always dressed as stylishly with clothing that might have come from Bergdorf's and one day, they knew, she'd buy an expensive outfit there. Was this the day?
Madge I. tried on the dress, paraded in front of the store's mirrors to the whispered ohs and ahs of the sales corps. She had no doubts about purchasing the dress, but one hitch did develop when she reached the cash register. She had forgotten her checkbook and her credit cards were maxed out, even with the additional $20,000 credit Visa had given her.
Somewhat embarrassed, she turned to the saleslady: "I don't have my checkbook with me, and there's no credit left on my cards."
With great disappointment, clearly evident to the sales staff, she graciously but with embarrassment returned the dress to one of the associates and sadly left the store. She did not return before Christmas.
On Christmas eve, James and Madge I. opened the gifts under their tree. There was a high-end Rolex watch for James, and a Tiffany necklace for Madge I. On the second round, James opened the latest, most expensive Iphone on the market. Madge I. received the latest model lap top. Usually at Christmastime they had only two rounds of gift opening. But, this year, there was a third present for James. He was dazzled when he unwrapped a key to a top-of-the-line Range Rover.
A genuinely impressed James crawled on his knees to his wife, and with an enormous smile embraced, hugged and kissed her repeatedly. "I would never have bought this for myself, and I never imagined that you would buy it for me."
"If this were an O. Henry short story, there would be a twist along about now. But I don't see one," Madge I. said, almost wishing for the surprise ending that she knew ought to be coming but wouldn't.
"But there isn't any twist," James replied. "We aren't poor, so you didn't have to cut your hair to pay for the Range Rover, and I didn't have to sell the yacht to buy the necklace."
"Oh," he continued, almost as an afterthought, "I do have something for you. I almost forgot." With that he went to his closet and brought out a very large package marked "For the Madge I."
"Here, darling, this is for you."
Eagerly, she removed the expensive wrapping paper... and saw a box from Bergdorf's. She instantly knew what was inside. She didn't have to open it.
"The Bergdorf people called me when you had to put the dress back," James said. "They knew how badly you wanted it and correctly guessed I'd buy it for you. Merry Christmas, darling. O. Henry had it all wrong. In this case, it's really "a gift for the Madge I."