Wishlist: A Modern Holiday Story

by
Yamen

To be honest, Martin didn't even mean to find his Christmas presents. He wasn't usually the sort of kid to go snooping in closets and attics, and he liked being surprised on Christmas Day. He knew that waiting was part of the fun. So at first, he felt guilty when he realized he was looking right at his gift. It was right there, in the Amazon recommended products list. His parents weren't computer illiterate, but they weren't exactly cutting edge. They'd forgotten to cover their tracks, and Amazon didn't know better, so the page helpfully offered products similar to "Minecraft + Story Mode Collector's Edition, based on your recent purchases."

There was no doubt it was a gift for him. No one else in his house played games, and Martin's friends had been going crazy about the game for weeks. He played it at Mark's birthday party, and couldn't stop talking about it. He made sure to drop lots of hints, and this was proof that his parents had picked up on it. He was ecstatic! But.. also guilty.

The surprise was ruined. Even if it was an accident, he couldn't just forget what his present was. Would his parents be mad that he found out? Would they be sad? They didn't mean to let Amazon spoil the surprise. They were probably so excited to see him open it on Christmas. Martin couldn't stand the thought of making his parents sad on Christmas. He thought about it, and decided that this was one of those times where he could lie without hurting anyone. He would just have to pretend to be surprised, and keep the secret. At 12 years old, the thought of keeping a secret from his parents wasn't totally foreign to him, and Christmas was only a week away.

And it's not like his parent's would know he'd seen this. In fact, Martin realized, it would be even better if he went and hid the Christmas gifts from the shopping history, so no one else would have their presents spoiled! Of course, this meant seeing what else was bought, for himself or others. But he'd already come this far, and while he might not admit it, there was an illicit thrill from having this secret knowledge.

Paging through the recent purchases revealed quite a lot. An old record player and some ties bought for Dad, some stocking stuffers, a pendent that was probably for Mom or grandma.. and a My Little Pony Fluttershy pajama costume. Obviously for Martin's sister, Vanessa. But as annoying as Nessy was, which he figured was a lot for a 8 year old girl, he couldn't help but know all about her love for My Little Pony. Including that her and her friends would all pretend to be the various ponies when they played outside. And that Nessy always picked Pinkie Pie. Fluttershy was her friend Nichole's favorite pony, not Nessy!

It took a few minutes, but Martin found the button to edit the order. He hesitated. This went a step beyond taking a look, this meant actively getting involved. But.. his parents didn't know the difference between the ponies. He imagined his sister showing up to a party at Nichole's and having to wear the wrong costume. Would she pretend to be happy, the way he was going to pretend to be surprised? No, Martin knew he couldn't back down now. If he was going to risk getting in trouble, he might as well make it worth something! He changed the order to a Pinkie Pie costume, and clicked confirm. And just like that, with no adult running in to check, it was done. Martin finished hiding the rest of the Christmas shopping history, cleared his browsing history, and with a slightly shaking breath, he went to his room to play.

The week that followed was a terrifying mix of paranoia, guilt, and suspense. Did his parents find out? If they did, why didn't they say something? Are they waiting until Christmas to catch him? Was there a problem with the order? If he messed something up, he wouldn't even know! And when those questions weren't eating at him, he was rehearsing opening his presents and being surprised. He didn't want to oversell it and give himself away, but he wanted to make sure it was a happy enough reaction that his parents knew how much he appreciated it. A fist pump is OK, right? Jumping up and down is maybe too much? What does normal surprise even look like?

But the morning had finally come, and for better or worse, Martin hadn't heard anything at all about his accidental discovery. It was pretty easy to figure out which present had the game in it, Martin had deduced that shortly after the presents appeared under the tree last night. He tried not to stare at it, not to treat it as anything special. He watched himself carefully when he opened other presents, the smaller ones like new socks and gloves that aren't that exciting but still a sign that your parents love you. He tried to capture the feeling, so he could lean on it when the big gift finally came. Was anyone noticing him getting nervous?

Nessy reached over and grabbed a present with a clear soft squishiness to it. It must be the pajamas! Martin stopped to watch as his sister tore into the wrapping paper. "PINKIE PIE!!!! MY FAVORITE!! THANK YOU!" she screamed, with the kind of pure joy that only little kids can tap into. If he could just copy that emotion, he'll be fine. He looked at his parents to see his mom smiling ear to ear, and his dad giving him a curious look. Oh no.. did he know? Did his dad remember picking the other pony? What else did he know?

Before he could finish processing this new bomb, his dad handed him the Big Gift. This was the game. He knew it, his dad knew it.. but does his dad know that he knows? Was this some sort of punishment, exposing Martin's secret right in the middle of Christmas morning? He almost couldn't bring himself to start opening it. He fell back on all the rehearsing he'd done, closed his eyes, and carefully pried open the wrapping paper.

It wasn't Minecraft. Martin had to look twice to be sure. It was a box the same size as a video game, there was a CD shaking around inside, but the front was not the cover of Minecraft. It was.. a letter? No, an email, printed out.

"Your edit to order #HME162156140024 was completed successfully. Thanks for shopping at Amazon.com" Martin's heart fell. He was caught red-handed. He didn't think about email confirmations! How stupid! His dad must've known that same night! This whole week, his dad has been watching him squirm just for this payoff. This is what he gets for spoiling Christmas! It wasn't on purpose, but would his parents believe that?

"Martin, I got a strange email a few nights ago. At first, I thought someone had hacked my Amazon account and was messing with my orders. But when I looked closer, I realized what had happened." Martin's dad was talking with the same even tone that he always used when Martin was in trouble. "You found the presents in the history. You found almost all of them."

"I'm sorry! I didn't mean to! It was an accident!" Martin burst out, tears ready to come pouring down. "I tried to make sure it didn't happen to anyone else!"

Martin's dad had a short look of confusion, then smiled. "I know Martin. I believe you. I also know what else you did." He was staring right at Martin's eyes. "Well, as you and I can both see from your sister here, it looks like you did me a huge favor. Thank you, Martin. You know you never have to lie or hide anything from your mom and I. But you're also becoming a young man, and learning to take responsibility for yourself, and sometimes that means doing things you can't tell people about. I am so proud of you. We both are. Anytime you try to make the world better for other people, your mom and I are going to support you 100%. We love you. Now, go ahead and open that box. You know what's in there, right?"

"It's.. I mean.. yeah. It's Minecraft" Martin admitted sheepishly. "Even though I already know, I still love it! It's just what I wanted!!" He opened the seal on the top of the box, and reached in to pull out the CD case within. Instead of the blocky greens and browns of the familiar Minecraft packaging, it was a "Windows Recovery Disk". Huh?

"Oh, I forgot. Part of that present didn't make it under the tree, son. You see, I realized something else the other night. You're getting to the age where you may need your own, private way to go online without worrying about covering your tracks. And it would make it easier for me if you weren't snooping around on the family computer, even by accident. So, it's not much, but John from work assured me it runs Minecraft just fine. Go check your room."

Martin didn't have to be told twice! Racing upstairs, he burst into his bedroom. His older cousin Thomas was there. "Merry Christmas, cuz!" he said, beckoning to Martin's desk. Sitting on top, a laptop with Minecraft up and running.

"WHAT!?!?! THIS IS MINE? OH MY GOD THANK YOU" Martin shouted. He was almost too overwhelmed to notice his fist pumping up into the air as he jumped up and down screaming with that pure joy that only a little kids can tap into.

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