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I just thought a little operatic Christmas story wouldn't hurt. 
            Carmen was sitting on the steps of the tobacco factory, thinking about Jose. She wanted to get him a Christmas present but didn’t know what to get. She talked to her friend Leonora a few times, but Leonora was busy thinking about her present for Manrico. Carmen was lost in thoughts when she saw Floria and Vitellio coming her way. Carmen jumped up and ran over to them.
            “Hey, Carmen!” called Floria, as she noticed Carmen.
            “Hey!” Carmen pulled the two aside and glanced either way to see if anyone else was coming.
            “Listen,” she continued, “I want to get Jose a present and really need help in figuring something out.” Vitellio thought about her complaint and sighed.
            “Floria is complaining about the same thing. She doesn’t know what to get Mario. Any ideas?”
            “Vitellio!” cried Floria. “You can’t go blabbering about that to everyone! I’m beginning to regret that I told you anything!” She crossed her arms on her chest and turned towards Carmen.
            “Vitellio! Floria!” whined Carmen.
            “I’m sorry,” murmured Vitellio, “Nothing to offer.”
            “Same here,” added Floria. Vitellio, Floria, and Carmen departed.

            Manrico, Jose, and Mario were sitting in Vitellio’s lounge. Vitellio himself was rushing about the kitchen, preparing tea and cake for his so-called guests.
            “So, Manrico,” began Jose. Mario was painting a Madonna on Vitellio’s wall, forgetting that Vitellio didn’t give him any permission. They were all waiting for the tea with anticipation.
            “So, Manrico,” repeated Jose, “What are you getting Leonora?” At that moment, Vitellio walked in holding three cups of tea with a slice of cake next to each one.
            “I’m gonna sell my sword and buy her a necklace. I’ve seen one in the store the other day, and it will look beautiful with her red dress. How ‘bout you?”
            “Me?” Jose sat down in a chair and sipped his tea. Vitellio noticed that Mario painted a Madonna on the wall and swore under his breath.
            “Well,” continued Jose, “Carmen always complains that I’m not devoting enough time to her because of my job as a soldier. So, I decided to quit my job for her sake.” Manrico smiled and Vitellio sighed. The plan sounded pathetic to him. He sat down on the floor, crisscrossing his legs and sipping his tea.
            “Mario Cavaradossi!!!” said Vitellio with disgust in his voice. “What are you gonna get Floria?” Mario backed away from his masterpiece and stared at it from afar.
            “This beauty is blonde,” he mumbled.
            “So?” Vitellio wrinkled his nose.

            “My Floria is brunette.” Everybody stared at Mario. “I don’t know what I’m gonna get ‘er. Probably sell my paints and go buy her a ring to go with her green hat.”
            At that moment, Gavroche and Cherubino ran into the room. They were street boys who were usually got coins for passing letters from one pair of hands to another.
            “Mr. Scarpia! Mr. Scarpia!” cried Gavroche.
            “There are three ladies who wanted you to know that they are coming to see you!” Cherubino looked about the room with frightened eyes.
            “Three?” Vitellio gave Mario a soul-sucking glance. “I’m so popular.” Cherubino and Gavroche didn’t move. “Tell them I’m waiting,” added Vitellio. Gavroche and Cherubino still didn’t move. Vitellio sighed and flipped a coin at each of them. The two boys ran out the door, laughing.
            In about five minutes Floria, Carmen, and Leonora marched proudly into the room.
            “Is my door open?” mumbled Vitellio.
            “Oh, dear!” cried Floria. “Is that Mario?”
            “Floria,” said Mario, “What are you doing here?”
            “Jose?” Carmen stared at Vitellio with disbelief.
            “The young men were leaving already,” said Vitellio, pulling Manrico up from his chair. “Run along now!” He swerved around and accidently caught Carmen’s penetrating glance. He quickly looked away and continued pushing Manrico along with Jose out of the building.
            “Vitellio!” cried Leonora. “Are you doing double-play here?” Vitellio let out a nervous laugh.
            “Yes,” he said with a proud countenance. “But I’m not telling you anything.”
            “Aw, why?” said Leonora. “Please do. We’re your friends, aren’t we?” She made her common Bambi face. Vitellio backed away and launched into the kitchen.
            “Have you all decided upon what your gift is going to be?” said Carmen. Vitellio ran back into the room with another portion of tea and cake.
            “Yep!” cried Leonora. “I’ll go first!” Vitellio sat down in his chair and looked scornfully at the Madonna painted on his wall. Floria came up to the chair and stared down at him. Vitellio sighed and slowly slid down on the floor, making room for her to sit. Floria smiled satisfactorily and plopped down into the seat.
            “Alright,” began Leonora, “ I’m going to sell my red dress to get my Manrico a sheath for his beautiful sword. What do you think?” Vitellio let out a muffled giggle but quickly sucked it in.
            “I’m going to quit my job at the tobacco factory to spend more time with Jose. We don’t spend enough time together.” Carmen spoke with dignity.
            “I guess I’m last,” said Floria, “I’m planning on selling my green hat in order to buy Mario a huge canvas so that he can paint me on it. By the way, why is this Madonna blonde?” Vitellio sucked in another giggle and sipped his tea.
            “What’s so funny!” cried Floria.
            “Have you seen the fan?” teased Vitellio. Floria ignored his comment. A few months ago she had thrown a fan at Mario’s painting because she believed that Mario was unfaithful to her. Now, she was ashamed to even remember the incident.
            “Tomorrow is Christmas,” murmured Leonora, “Will we have time?”
            “Of course you will!” exclaimed Vitellio encouragingly. “You mustn’t lose any time! Let’s go, ladies! Get a move on it! Come on!” Floria, Carmen, and Leonora exited the building.
            Vitellio was vey relieved to be alone in his house. He was finally able to think about what present he would get his wife…

            It was Christmas Day. Mario invited everyone to his villa. Vitellio and his wife, Marina, came as well. Vitellio had given his wife a new ring and she had given him a new jacket. The unmarried couples hadn’t given out their presents yet.
            “Shall we have our present exchange?” said Floria.
            “Ooh! Ooh!” cried Jose. “Can I go first? Carmen, I quit my job. Just as you wanted.” Carmen’s eyes widened but then grew dim once again.
            “I quit my job, too! How are we going to live with no income?!” Carmen sounded devastated but then started laughing. Jose joined her after a second.
            The next couple was Manrico and Leonora.
            “I bought you a necklace,” cried Manrico, pulling a box out. Leonora opened the box and put the necklace on.
            “I got you a sheath!” replied Leonora. “For your sword! Come on! Take your sword out of its old sheath.” She pulled the sheath out and stared at Manrico.
            “Well,” he began, “I sold my sword in order to get money for your necklace. I thought that your red dress would look good with it.” Leonora first seemed worried but then smiled.
            “This is turning out to be a silly Christmas. I sold my red dress to get money for your sheath.” They both began hysterically laughing.
            It was now Floria and Mario’s turn. They both seemed nervous now that they had witnessed everything that had happened.
            “What did you get me?” whispered Floria.
            “A ring,” replied Mario even softer than Floria had.
            “Where did you get the money?” continued Floria.
            “I sold my paints.” Floria clutched her hair.
            “I got you a canvas! What are you gonna paint on it with?”
            “Where’s your hat?” asked Mario.
            “I sold it…”
            Suddenly, the whole room began laughing and they all sat back down at the table, continuing their dinner.
            “It’s alright,” said Mario, “I can always use Scarpia’s bleach and paint you on his wall.” Mario smiled.
            “If only I could send you to the gallows…” murmured Vitellio.
            “It’s all right, dear,” Marina comforted her husband.
            Gavroche, Cherubino, and Barbarina, (Who was, as a matter of fact, Cherubino’s girlfriend), joined their dinner with presents of their own. The couples explained to them what had happened and the children began laughing as well.
            Once everybody calmed down, Vitellio stood up from his chair.
            “I would like to make an announcement,” said Vitellio, “I am the police captain and I talked to all of the shop owners you were going to sell your things to. I told them that I am willing to pay them if they return your things to you.” Jose mournfully stared at Vitellio.
“Don’t look at me like that, Jose!” said Vitellio, a sinister smile flitting his face. “I talked to your boss. Yours too, Carmen. One of you can go back to your old job, if you wish. Congratulations, ladies and gentlemen! Everything cannot be lost when Scarpia is at the scene. All you have to do is tell Scarpia all of your secrets!”
Everybody started laughing hysterically, yet again.
“You’re a sneaky guy, eh!” cried Maria Floria, elbowing Vitellio in the stomach.


Story prompt: The Gift of the Magi
After: Il Trovatore, Tosca, Carmen, The Marriage of Figaro, and Les Miserables.


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