“It was never supposed to come back. Ever. But here it is, on your back porch, with a red string tied around it in a knot.”
Claire filled her arms with all of her stuff, ready to walk out the door for work. Tote bag swinging from her arm, travel coffee mug with half a toasted bagel precariously balanced on top, keys hanging from one finger, coat over her arm, sack of sundry items she was planning on returning on her way home later . . . Using her foot and her elbow in unison, she half ducked and pushed open her front door, using her body weight to shift it back into the closed position.
With a flourish, she turned to hustle off her porch, just like on every other morning. But with a gasp, she took a step back towards the door, twisting on the high heel of her shoe and falling against the side of the house, her coffee tipping and spilling hot liquid over her hand and her bagel landing cream-cheese-side down on the dirty wood of the porch.
The sight of a red jewelry box sitting right smack dab in the middle of the porch just in front of the steps had her heart in her throat. The red ribbon was jaunty and a stark contrast to the mid-winter grey-ness that abounded in her backyard and beyond. Her heart hammering in her ears, she looked around, looking for who might have left this suspiciously familiar parcel on her porch. She prayed it wasn’t who she thought it was.
Tembling and trying to convince herself that she was ridiculous for her reaction, Claire set her items down carefully on the porch, trying to avoid the now ruined bagel that was supposed to be her breakfast. Her hands were shaking as she reached to pick up the box and the creepy feeling that ran up her spine made her feel as though she was being watched.
If someone had left this here, they very well could be watching. With a gulp over the yucky feeling that surrounded her throat, she drew back into the shadows of the porch right by the door, blocked by a hedge on one side and a piece of siding on the other. She untied the ribbon and pulled it off and it danced in the wake of her shaking hands as she tried to take a deep breath.
Opening the clasp of the box, she flipped the lid open and the sight that met her eyes made her want to gag. She stared at it, but what she wanted to do was throw it as far away from her as she could.
Her wedding ring, clean, beautiful, sparkled up at her with a bright face. When most looked at such a beautiful ring, they would smile, but it filled Claire with the most deep-seated feeling of dread, despair, danger and disgust. Not believing it to be possible, she took the ring from its resting place within the cushion of the box and turned it to look at the engraving on the inside. Her knees went weak and she collapsed into a sitting position against the door, staring at the reminder she never thought she would see again.
Forever and a day, ‘09
What were the chances? After dealing with years of abuse, guilt, and psychological trauma, Claire had finally been given the opportunity to escape the terror that was her life with her husband. They had married young, but it had all been an act that had turned into the worst nightmare of her life the minute they were alone after exchanging the marriage vows. Her entire family had been duped into believing that he was the most upstanding gentleman. Claire would never forget the evil darkness that suddenly cloaked his eyes the minute he had her alone. After enduring the pain for years, when the opportunity arose for her to get out from under the overbearing relationship that had defined her every moment, she had taken it. Her husband had gone to jail and she had been able to believe that she could put all of that behind her. She had gotten counseling, gone on a European vacation with her incredibly supportive family, and, while in Europe, had gotten rid of what felt like a shackle and chain. She had thrown her wedding ring into the English channel and had left it there as a symbolic gesture of ridding herself of the tragic and traumatic past that had been hers.
With shaking hands she looked again at the engraving. It was exactly the same. Even down to the mistake on the first ‘r’ in forever. This couldn’t be happening. He was supposed to still be in jail . . .
A rustle at the corner of the house made her adrenaline jumps so fast she felt dizzy. In a panic she reached up to grasp the doorknob and thanked the Lord that it was unlocked as she fell through the narrow opening and shut it behind her, leaning her ear against the wood panel, sitting on the floor, desperately listening for an intruder.
She needed to call the police.