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HEART-SHAPED BOX

time is running out

By Tom DemarPublished 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 5 min read
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Frannie pulls the covers tighter over her shivering slender shoulders. Sweat trails from her strawberry curls over her oval face; the saltiness beckons her tongue to lick the corner of her pouting lips. Her eyes dart quickly as she moans softly then laughs out loud like a giggly teenager. A body on the other side of the bed rustles from the sudden sound then settles into stillness again.

A fluttering outside startles Frannie from her youthful reverie. She sits up and lets the covers fall from her naked frame. She pulls her slender legs over and lets her feet test the cold hardwood floor. Rising up she reveals her glowing alabastrine essence. She furtively spies through the side of the curtain covering the window next to the bed, then makes her way to the bedroom door and glides through the hallway to the entryway. Facing the door, she listens. Silence. She peers through the peephole to the other side. No one is out there.

“Hello?”

No answer.

Frannie turns the deadbolt and opens a crack to the end of the chain enough to look down to see a little heart-shaped box wrapped across with sealing tape. She closes the door to remove the chain. She brings the box inside. When she bends closer to the box she hears a slight tick tick ticking.

“Andy? Andy wake up. Come here, honey.”

Frannie closes the door and retreats to the bedroom to see Andy still fast asleep.

“Andy.”

Andy stirs and rolls over then jumps up as if spooked by a sudden feeling. He gets out of bed shivering, his breath visible in the cold nighttime air. Frannie watches as he finds his slippers and goes to the closet to grab a coat to put over his flannel pajamas. Frannie follows Andy as he stumbles out of the bedroom and down the hallway.

Frannie watches as Andy searches frantically for his cell, bumping into furniture and tripping over himself, cursing softly. He returns to the bedroom to find it on the floor next to Frannie’s side of the bed. He calls.

“I have an emergency. You need to send someone right away to 1540 Summertime Circle.”

Red lights flash in the darkness outside the home of Andy and Frannie. An emergency vehicle idles while neighbors huddle to stay warm on the cul-de-sac. A light snow dusts the quiet stillness of anticipation. Andy, in ear muffs and ski cap, speaks softly to try to sort out the situation.

“There’s something I never told you about me. I had a job, before we met, same work I always do, coding, working with a team to build proprietary computer cloud programs. But with this particular job there was something secretive. We signed nondisclosure agreements. Nobody talked. It was all hush,” confesses Andy, letting out a subtle cough.

Frannie thinks, “I always loved your nerdiness. Why are you trying to impress me now?”

Andy continues, “I met you after my last day there. The project finished and we all said our goodbyes at work. It was an unsettled time. I’m usually spent after a long day, heading home to veg with a joystick and monitor. I stayed out of trouble that way. But that evening I went into the first bar I saw on my way home. There you were.”

“There I was,” Frannie tells herself.

“Remember how I proposed to you?” Andy asks rhetorically.

How could Frannie ever forget the time she and Andy sat on their favorite bench at the park, looking at the springtime flowers, when there appeared a fluttering drone, landing in front of them, dropping off a little box.

“I said the answer to all our dreams was inside that little box,” Andy reminisces.

“And it was,” Frannie thinks to herself.

Inside the house where Andy and Frannie spent the best years of their lives together, the tick tick ticking gets faster. The authorities inside are at odds what to do about the little heart-shaped box.

“There’s not much time left,” says one.

“We can't save this one,” adds another.

Time is running out.

The authorities hurriedly exit the house and address Andy.

“We called in another team to handle this,” says one.

“There’s not much time left,” adds another.

Andy drops his head and stares at the ground.

Frannie is more saddened to feel her husband’s despair than her own. All at once she remembers something important she left inside. She backs away from everyone unnoticed until she is close enough to the walkway leading up to the side door that leads to her kitchen.

Frannie runs to find the door unlocked and enters the house. The tick tick ticking is quickening as fast now as Frannie's racing heartbeats.

Frannie glides back to the bedroom. Memories rush through her mind like a sped-up movie. She looks at the dresser with her wedding picture on it. She takes one last look at the bed she shared for years with her husband. At last she finds what she’s looking for on the nightstand. She places her hand on her wedding ring and lies back on the bed.

The ticking ends. The alarm goes off.

The morning sun shines through the curtains. Andy places his hand on the bedside clock to turn off the alarm. He walks sadly out of the bedroom, taking one last look back. He proceeds down the hallway to the entryway and out the door to meet the authorities who are outside the home of Andy and Frannie wheeling a gurney with a sheet draped over a body. The neighbors look on with helpless expressions. The authorities address Andy.

“There was nothing more we could do,” says one.

“We found this under her pillow,” adds another.

They hand Andy a small heart-shaped box. He opens it to find Frannie’s wedding ring.

Andy stops them from wheeling the gurney to the idling emergency vehicle.

“I want one more look,” he cries.

Andy touches his fingertips gently on the sheet draped over the gurney. He bends close as he pulls the sheet back to see Frannie’s face and strawberry curls. She looks as beautiful as he could ever remember. He lowers his face and softly touches his lips to hers. He could swear she’s smiling.

MysteryShort StoryLove
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About the Creator

Tom Demar

I drove from NYC to see a college buddy in L.A. I drove to Oregon, to Seattle, to Kansas City, to Florida. I want to tell the stories of hopes and dreams, desires and desperation, my story, the wilder side of America. tom-demar.com/writer

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