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Gift Exchange

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Everyone was gathered in Babar’s throne room, watching the clock tick down. In just half an hour, the animals of the jungle would be ushering in the new year together. And among those animals was Lord Rataxes, who was wading through the crowd, looking for a certain assistant of his. Instead, he bumped into Babar and Celeste.

“Babar! Where on Earth has Basil run off to? I can’t find him…”

Babar turned away from Celeste to address the rhino king. “Oh, Basil?” he replied, cheery. “Why, he’s outside with Pompadour.”

Rataxes looked over the Babar’s shoulder; sure enough, he could see the silhouette of a slender elephant and a shorter rhino on the balcony. He scratched his head.

“Now what could they talking about? We’re not here on business…”
———
Basil shivered. Celesteville may not get snow, but winter nights were still frigid. “Do we have to do this outside, Pompadour?” he asked in a hushed whisper.

“Yes, we do,” Pompadour said matter-of-factly. “Exchanging gifts on New Year’s is an elephant tradition, typically between couples, and…” he briefly looked behind him at the party going on inside. Basil caught his eye, and also looked inside, noticing King Babar, Queen Celestle, and Lord Rataxes having a conversation, paying them no mind at all, thankfully. Pompadour sighed and put his arm around Basil. “I’d like this go off without a hitch. Now, quickly, over here.”

He let the diminutive rhino to the edge of the balcony, so that they were both facing away from the crowd inside. Pompadour then discreetly pulled out a small black box and slid it across the railing.

“It’s a scarf, take it. And don’t open it until you’re in private.” Basil took the box and swiftly tucked it into his coat pocket.

“Happy New Year, Basil.”

Basil blushed and giggled. Suddenly it wasn’t so cold out anymore.

Pompadour rolled his eyes. “Yes, yes, it’s very sweet. Now, it’s your turn.”

“Oh, right!” Basil reached into his other coat pocket and pulled out a black ballpoint pen, with the Rhinoland insignia printed on it gold, and handed it to Pompadour.

“Happy New Year, Pompadour.”

“A pen?”

“For all that...writing you do.” Upon saying it, Basil realized how weak his gift really was. If Pompadour really did so much writing, he probably had hundreds, if not thousands of pens, already. “I know it isn’t much,” he said. Basil turned away and started wringing his hands nervously. “but it was such short notice...plus, this whole gift exchange is new to me...usually, we just—”

“Basil, hush.”

Basil looked up to see Pompadour smiling, a weary, but genuine smile.

“It’s perfect, I love it.”

The rhino sighed with relief. “Oh, Pompadour...I’m glad you do. I’d hug you, but…” Basil laughed nervously and turned towards the door. “Well, we’d best get back to…”

Suddenly Basil felt a hand on his shoulder. “One last thing.” Pompadour picked up Basil and positioned him so that he was facing Pompadour and Pompadour’s back was to the throne room. He leaned down, raised his trunk, and promptly placed his lips on Basil’s, for no more than a solitary second.

“Not one word of this to King Babar or Rataxes,” Pompadour whispered. “Understood?”

“Mm-hmm.” Basil squeaked. Despite the warmth vigorously coursing through his body, he was frozen in place.

Pompadour turned around. Good, it appears no one saw that. As he stood up straight, he couldn’t help but laugh a little. The rush of doing something like that and not getting caught...he wouldn’t deny that he’d enjoyed it.

“Come along, now, there’s only a few minutes to midnight!” Pompadour headed for the door, his associate trailing behind.

Maybe this year he would tell them.