Here’s something sappy! This is the second of three flash fiction’s I wrote in January ’11 that I don’t feel like trying to repair. They all came back rejected this week from when I submitted them months ago, so here they are! The third one will be posted next week. Enjoy!
The envelope always found her. She saw it now, lying on the floor where it had been pushed through the slot in the door sometime during the night. Every year, no matter where she moved or what forwarding addresses she used, no matter if she stayed at a hotel or a friends house, every year that envelope waited for her on the morning of her birthday. She knew what was inside and who it was from. And she knew she would now spend the whole day thinking about him, and what might have been.
She poured her coffee and sat in her chair, holding the steaming cup in her hands and staring at the envelope. It looked the same as always. She thought maybe it would be different this year, being as it was her fortieth. That, she supposed, was the point; it wasn’t different for him. He felt the same as he had fifteen years ago, and he made the same offering still.
Again she asked her self why she had turned him down. Again she came up with the same answer: fear; of the unknown, of change, of new challenges. But lately a new fear had started to creep up behind her, and she knew she would be confronted with it when she opened that envelope.
She thought back to when they first met. She had been just twenty-one, and he had looked to be around thirty. He had always been so stoic, so serious when she saw him with others, but with her he was different. “You always make me smile, Linda,” he’d said. Their first time making love was otherworldly; he was so overpowering, yet so gentle. They spent five blissful years together before he finally told her the truth. Though, she admitted, it was not something to easily tell someone. “Come with me,” he had said. But she couldn’t, she just couldn’t. And now…
“Happy birthday, Mom!” her eleven year old daughter Jane chirped, tossing a card into her lap.
“Well, you’re up early.” The card was hand drawn, with a poem inside. “Aww, thank you darling.”
“When’s Daddy getting home?”
“Should be soon. Go turn on the telly, I’ll make us some breakfast.”
Linda snatched the envelope off the floor as soon as her daughter was out of sight, and took it upstairs. Her hands shook as she opened it, though she knew what she would see. She slipped the card out; it was store-bought, with a bouquet of flowers printed on the front and the words ‘Missing You’ written in a fancy script. Inside, as always, a picture of him was affixed to the card on the left. Though clothes and location varied from year to year, he was always in the same pose; his hands behind his back, shoulders squared, long hair tied back taught behind his stern face. Her throat tightened as she looked at him, and she forced her eyes to fall on the right half of the card, and the small mirror glued there.
She saw her own face–with the lines on her eyes and mouth and the beginnings of grey at her temples–right there along side his unchanging one. He was young as the day they met, frozen in time as she passed him by.
Written in his handwriting along the top was the same offering, “Come with me.”
“Oh Cain,” she whispered to herself, touching a finger to his picture. “I can’t, I just can’t.” A tear fell onto his face as she closed the card and placed it into the shoebox in the back of her closet with the rest. She heard a car pull into the driveway and Jane calling for her father. She closed the box and hurried down into the arms of her family.