She walked over to her desk, noticing the small box perched precariously on her keyboard. Tossing her car keys down next to it she picked up the box. It was Valentine's Day. She knew she should have expected a present from someone. It was tiny, barely bigger than a matchbox, coated in wrapping paper with tiny yellow flowers and tied together with a yellow silk bow.
"What did you get?" It was her best friend rushing over to see what she got in her small parcel.
"I don't know," she giggled, her stomach going a little queasy in anticipation.
"Love, Patrick," her friend read, folding back the miniature card attached to the box. "Oooh, I think he likes you, Mandy!" she teased, jostling Mandy's shoulder.
She giggled again, her face flushing with colour.
"Open it, open it. Let's see what's inside!"
"It's private," she whispered, stepping back and clutching the box to her chest.
Her friend retreated in mock indignation, hovering near the switchboard to see what happened. "Oh, okay, if you want."
She pulled the cord on the bow, laying the yellow silk over her keyboard. Gently she lifted the lid off.
Her friend rushed over as her expression changed to one of puzzlement.
Mandy ran a finger around inside the box, turning it upside down and tapping it out over the floor. The box was empty!
He looked up from his desk. "Hi, Mandy. What can I do for you?"
She held her hand out with the box in it. "It's empty."
"Have a seat," he motioned, taking the box from her as she sat down. He examined it, tipping it upside down and shaking it out over the floor.
He gave her the box back, kneeling down beside her. "Yep, it's empty."
They locked eyes, smiling at each other.
"I didn't know what to get you. There are so many things I'd like to give you that I couldn't decide. I didn't even know if I should give you anything, so I came up with a Patrick solution. This isn't an empty box, it's a magic box."
She laughed at him. "Don't be silly."
"No, it's true. You know I think the world of you but you never let me near you, and I wasn't sure if you'd accept a gift the way I'd like you to. So I thought I'd give you a magic box."
She laughed at him with confused eyes.
"If you look at it it's an empty box, but it's not. I've filled it up with everything I want to give to you: all the kindness and caring, and all the roses and chocolates you could want plus a million other things. The only thing you have to do is reach inside and take out what ever you want from it. My gift to you is anything you want from me."
He leaned over and kissed her gently on the cheek, taking the box out of her hand and showing her the emptiness inside. "I have so much I want to give to you, but it's up to you to say let's have dinner, or let's go for a walk, or flowers would be a nice start. I can't give to you if you won't receive it. That's what a magic box is. Do you understand?"
She nodded, her hair falling loosely around her face, her big grey eyes bright and shiny under the fluorescent lights. She took the box from him and put the lid back on. "I understand."
"Do you think you could handle dinner tonight?"
She smiled and blushed, standing up to go. "We'll see."
He caught her at the door before she left. "I'm serious," he whispered. "I'd like to spend some time with you."
She lowered her head, looking away. "You should give up."
"We're different, and I never see you around anywhere. Maybe you should ask someone else."
"You don't make it easy, do you?"
"No," she giggled, brushing the hair from her cheek.
"Hey,I'm not a lost puppy. I'm not gonna follow you all over town." He took her hand, moving next to her. "I know what I like, and that's you. Of course we're different, everyone is."
She looked down, feeling his thumb rubbing against hers.
"If you're not going to give me a chance there's not much I can do, but that doesn't mean
I'll stop caring about you."
She gave his hand a squeeze. "I'm not saying I don't like you, just that you should ask someone else."
"What are you afraid of?" he called after her as she walked away.
"I don't know." She opened the box, looking inside. "I'll see what I can find in here and let you know."
He watched her go, the sun setting even though it was only nine o'clock.
"Hey." He looked up from his work to see Mandy walk over to his desk. "I've decided what I want isn't in the magic box."
"Oh," he said downhearted, already knowing that's what she'd say.
"What I want is to give you my magic box."