I promised you one of my stories. Well here you are.
This was written in response to a prompt in a writing group I am part of on facebook called Imagine, Write, Inspire.
The prompt was a true story… Every year on the same day, a bunch of 6 red roses has been delivered anonymously to the British consulate in Chicago. No one knows why. This has been occurring for the past 50 years. So here’s the challenge, why? Why just 6? Was it a lost love, a thank you for an amazing act of kindness, a debt that had to be repaid? Feel free to pick your own date/flowers/place, but let your imagination run wild.
Red Letter Day.
My heart raced as I picked up the post. The red envelope caught my eye; he had not forgotten. It was April 29th, my birthday.
I placed the letters on the kitchen table, three white envelopes, and one red. Two were obviously birthday cards and from the handwriting I guessed they were sent by my brother and sister, the third white envelope had all the hallmarks of a letter from the bank. Alone in the house I opened the birthday cards, lotto scratch cards spilling out from both. My sister’s was one of those ‘To a special sister’ cards, with a birthday message inside. My brother as usual, had picked a humorous one, which for a moment distracted me as I laughed out loud at its joke. I placed them both on the top shelf of the dresser, beside those from my mother and husband; the bottom shelf I reserved for the cheery, childish, handmade creations of my children. The letter from the bank I threw in the drawer, unopened.
Only the red envelope remained.
I leaned over the kitchen table inspecting it at close range, not daring to pick it up, or even touch it. My name was scrawled in blue ink, and I recognised those wide loops and that spidery slant. With fresh horror I noted the Irish stamp, but the post mark was smudged. Instinctively I backed away, as terrified I clearly saw his face before me.
My palms were sweating, my fists tightly clenched, “Get a grip!” I breathed in deeply, filling my chest; my shoulders beginning to relax. Like someone who has pulled against a coiled spring, I felt myself being recoiled towards the red envelope. Staring at it my mind raced about in all directions. He had touched that envelope; his hands had placed the card inside. I shuddered picturing his chunky fingers, his nails dirty and ragged and his wedding band clearly visible. I wondered… had he licked the envelope? Leaning forward, mere inches away from it, I tentatively inhaled.
Even after all these years, I can recall the smell of his expensive aftershave. I have no clue what it is called, as a young child I would not have known such things, but occasionally while standing in a queue, I know the man behind me is wearing it. Alarm bells ringing, my conscious mind attempts to reason with me, it is not him; simultaneously my unconscious mind, blinded by flashbacks, is transported back to those lost childhood days. To my fellow shoppers it appears as if I have forgotten a very important item, as I casually leave the queue. In truth I am doing my best to walk and not run, as memories chase after me.
The Bastard. I grab the letter and rip it open. It is empty.
Of course it is empty. For almost twenty years I have received a red envelope on my birthday. The very first, when I was ten had contained a birthday card, as had the next five, until at the age of sixteen I learned to shout “No”. Ever after the envelope has been empty. I presume it is his way of reminding me, “Our little secret”.
As I watch the envelope burn I know he is right, but maybe, just maybe someday I will tell.
Just to clarify, this is a work of fiction.