Monday evening when Catherine arrived home she found a single deep red rose lying by her apartment door. Delighted, she picked it up and unlocked her door, glancing around for a card she might have missed. Nope, nothing.
She texted her date from Saturday to thank him, but it soon became embarrassingly obvious he hadn’t sent it. Awkward! If not a florist, how had someone gotten inside the gated apartment complex? How odd. She thought of her neighbors and how little she knew them.
Ouch! She had been clutching the stem too tightly and now there was blood on her hands…
Catherine pondered the question of who the rose was from all evening. She couldn’t shake the sense of someone having been in her apartment, but knew she was being ridiculous. The gentleman from the security company that managed her building had reassured her that no one would be able to get in or out unless they had a pass code or key.
Thoughts of calling the police flitted briefly through her mind, but what would she tell them? That the innocent blood-red rose on her kitchen counter somehow meant something sinister? Right, she could see the police officers’ smiles already. She double checked her door and window locks before turning out the lights and drawing the blinds.
There, off in the distance, did she see a pinprick of light from a match or lighter? But there was no following glow of a cigarette. Still, she stepped quickly aside as she continued to peer out an opening, glad that the wooden blinds hid her shape from outside view. Nothing. Really, what was wrong with her overactive imagination? She needed a good night’s sleep and things would look better in the morning.
In the distance, a tall man cupped his hand around the match as it caught and turned away from the building to light his cigarette, shielding the flame from the night breeze. Nothing seemed amiss in the area, so he got into the van and started his drive home.
Mitch hoped he’d found the right girl after all this time. His little sister would be about 27 or so now, if his memory was right. By the time he’d driven home, he convinced himself that maybe Catherine Delaney deserved to be left alone to live her life in peace. But other than his wife, Sam, he had no other family and it would be nice to think that someone cared about him. And that he had someone to care for, too.
He pulled into the garage and parked the van, closing the door after him against the dark and dampness and prying eyes. Sammy was waiting dinner for him, he knew, and she smiled that sweet and tentative smile that he loved as soon as she saw him.
“Honey, how was your day?” he enfolded her in a big hug and held on tightly. “Mitch, I’m good, so good,” she said excitedly. “I made a celebration dinner for us.”
“Wow, just because I got home on time today?” he laughed, taking off his gun walking into the living room to secure it in the safe. She knew how uncertain his schedule could be and he was surprised she’d make a special dinner without letting him know about it first.
“Come on, babe, sit down and I’ll dish everything up.” Sammy was already hurrying into the kitchen and he saw that she had, indeed, made a big pan of lasagna and her lasagna was one of his favorite things. There was salad and she was just lifting perfectly toasted garlic bread out of the oven.
“My, God, honey, that smells so good,” he almost felt as though he was drooling and picked up his napkin quickly to check. Nope, just starting to salivate over that wonderful tomato and garlic and melted cheese aroma.
Sammy sat down beside him and picked up her wineglass, which seemed to hold something other than the red wine he had in his. “To family,” she said.
Mitch clung to his wineglass with difficulty. Had she suspected he was looking for his long-lost sister? He knew he should have talked to her about this sooner…
“—in about the middle of December!” she finished, looking so thoroughly pleased with herself that he felt bad he’d missed the beginning. “Mitch, you’re all right, aren’t you? I know we hadn’t really talked about me getting pregnant right now, but these things happen –“ Her face fell as she realized he wasn’t even paying attention to what she was saying. Oh, no, he looked – disappointed.