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.
Paige stood at the stove, heating oil, adding chopped vegetables and chicken, stirring to make sure everything was cooked perfectly. The rice needed a little more time and she hoped Dennis was late. His anger could escalate quickly, especially if he’d had a “bad” day.
The bruise where he’d last kicked her stomach was fading but she feared for the baby he didn’t want. Her hands shook as she set the table, cleaned the kitchen, hid ingredients away.
After they began eating, Dennis clutched his throat. She moved out of reach as he struggled for breath. “Peanuts?” Paige nodded. “Oil.”
My theme this year is 100 word fiction. (So, no, don’t count this line!)
Her eyes fluttered open to feather light kisses on the back of her neck, that sensitive spot behind her ear, then her jaw, his morning whiskers rasping lightly against her face. She turned fully in his arms, her hands softly stroking his hair, then his face, then curling into the soft brown strands on his chest.
She could smell the minty scent of his toothpaste and covered her face with one hand as she climbed out of bed to rush into the bathroom. When she returned to the bedroom a small, red-wrapped rectangular box lay on her pillow and he watched her approach through those gorgeous sapphire eyes.
She pounced on the gift excitedly, pulling off the ribbon and paper quickly, exclaiming in delight at the sparkling charm bracelet filled with beautiful charms representing their life together these past seven years. A pineapple for their Hawaiian honeymoon. A typewriter to symbolize her career. A tiny, three-tiered wedding cake. A heart with a ruby chip to represent their love for each other. And in the box, still to be added, a baby carriage?
Her brown eyes widened in dismay as he splayed his fingers over her still flat tummy.
“But I just found out for sure yesterday. You guessed?”
He shook his head, smiling, and pulled her close. “You’re even more beautiful than usual. More sensitive. So I hoped.” That was all they spoke as she covered his face with kisses and then eventually one thing led to another…
Leaning back from her computer, satisfied with her work, she placed her right hand over her slightly rounded belly and smiled to herself…
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!