Fiction logo

Lifeline in a Box

Starting Over

By Mary HaynesPublished 4 months ago 7 min read

Sloan heard the humming just outside her front door. Pressing her eye against the peephole, she saw a large drone hovering outside her door. She instinctively ducked, a habit she'd adapted since she left Hollywood. Rocking back and forth on the floor, she sang her mantra, "Everything's going to be all right, all right, all right, all right." The humming stopped, and she crawled up and peered out again. There was nothing in sight. She sat quietly until the rumbling in her stomach grew too loud to ignore. Slapping her belly, she yelled, "Fine! You win, stomach. I'll try to find something."

After fumbling around in the cupboards and the fridge, she realized she had no choice but to go out and try to find food. She counted the coins on the counter, mentally reviewing the menu at Burger Barn. She decided on two kids' meals, one for now and one for dinner. She found her jacket and tucked the coins in the pocket. Sloan opened the door and almost tripped over the brown cardboard box. She shivered as she nudged it aside with her foot, hoping someone might steal it while she was gone.

At the Burger Barn, she ordered one chicken nugget kid's meal and one hamburger with extra ketchup packs for the fries. She filled up the two cups with orange soda. Walking back home, she checked to see if anyone was following her. It always seemed that all eyes were on her. The box on her doorstep had shifted slightly toward the door. She unlocked the door and then slammed it shut.

By Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Who sent the box? No one knew where she lived; she didn't want to be found. The life she had was gone, and she didn't want it back. The pace and the stress had almost destroyed her. She squeezed her eyes shut and hummed her mantra.

Later in the day, there was a knock at the door. She squatted, and duck-walked her way to the door, and eased herself up to the peephole. Her landlord was staring into the peephole.

"Your rent is due at the end of the week, but since it's the week before Christmas, I'll give you until the first of January. Btw, there's a box on your doorstep addressed to you."

Sloan mumbled, "Thank you, that's very nice of you. Have a lovely Christmas." Under her breath, she said, "I hate to screw you on the rent, but I have no money left. I'm not sure what I'm going to do now."

That damn box. It was terrifying that someone had her address. She thought she left no trace.

Another knock on the door. She crawled to the door and silently crept up to the peephole. A neighbor woman who'd waved at her several times was at the door with a plate of Christmas cookies. Sloan groaned. She wasn't looking to make friends and had never acknowledged the woman's attempts at being friendly. Sloan wayed her options. She thought about not answering the door, but free cookies were very inviting, given her lack of food.

Sloan opened the door but kept the chain on. "Thank you so much for the cookies, but I've got a cold, and I don't want to get you sick. Please leave them by the door."

The woman looked disappointed and then concerned. "Oh, you poor dear! I'll just leave them here on top of this box. How lovely, someone sent you a Christmas present. I'll make you a big pot of my famous chicken soup. You'll be feeling better and ready for the festivities by Christmas eve. You don't want to miss the annual Santa swim."

Sloan slumped onto the floor. She was trying to ignore Christmas. She used to love the season, the decorations, the songs, the parties…until that party. The lines from Dr. Suess's "The Grinch" floated through her head.

"The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!

Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.

It could be, perhaps his shoes were too tight.

But I think that the most likely reason of all,

May have been that his heart was two sizes too small."

That wasn't the problem, she mused. "My heart was too big and too trusting. I tried to be perfect. The perfect actor, the perfect partner, writer, model, party girl, whatever was required of me. I just wanted to be perfect and loved."

By Colin Lloyd on Unsplash

She pulled herself together and looked out the peephole before opening the door. She picked up the plate of cookies off the top of the box. The box moved slightly when she lifted them. She slammed the door shut. "What's in the damn box?"

She sat in front of the TV, long disconnected from cable, and watched the intermittent fuzzy feed from the local channel. Staring at the screen and eating cookies alone was reminiscent of her childhood. Hers was almost a true rags-to-riches story. Although the ending could have worked out better. "Hmmmm," She said to herself. Maybe these cookies are laced with strychnine. You never know who the crazy ones are. Well, laced sugar cookies in Christmas shapes would be one hell of a way to go."

By Casey Chae on Unsplash

The doorbell rang. "Holy hell, what is going on today? I've been here for almost a year and never had anyone at the door."

Frustrated, she walked to the door, and through the peephole, she saw Santa. She didn't bother engaging the chain; she flung open the door and said, "What the hell do you want?"

Santa was startled. He answered, "Oh, I'm sorry to disturb you, my dear. I just wanted to invite everyone to the annual Santa pool party. Please come. It's always the highlight of the year. We all could use a little cheer." He stood waiting for an affirmation. Sloan just stared. "Well," he said, "I hope to see you there. Btw, there's a package on your doorstep, and I think it's making noises." With a "Ho, ho ho!" Santa was off to the next neighbor's door.

Sloan looked at the box, it was vibrating slightly, and a whining noise was coming from inside. She sighed, "Well if this is how I meet my maker, I'm ready. Let's open the damn box." She brought the box inside.

She carefully peeled back the packing tape bit by bit. A loud meow came from the box, followed by a small black paw. "OMG! It's a cat," Sloan shouted. She furiously opened the rest of the box, and a black cat jumped into her lap.

"Pepper? Is that you? How did you get here? I'm so sorry you were in that box for so long. I'm sorry I left you behind." Sloan hugged the cat, and the cat purred and licked her face.

My photo

Sloan investigated the box and found a plastic bag with an envelope. Inside was a letter and a legal document. It was from Kerry, her best friend, and assistant director on the set of the blockbuster movie they'd been working on, "The Happening." They had been working together on a screenplay based on Sloan's troubled childhood and her rise to a Hollywood A-lister. A lot of late nights and tears were shed as they labored. But the project brought up a lot of emotional damage, and Sloan became reliant on the drugs that were readily available on-site. She distanced herself from Kerry and the screenplay.

Sloan read the letter. "Dear Sloan, please forgive me for tracking you down. Trust me, no one except the investigator I hired and me knows where you are. I am keeping my end of our bargain. I finished the screenplay, and we sold it. Enclosed, please find your half of the option to produce. They love it, and I'm sure there will be more money to follow. I miss you, and I love you. I respect your wishes to stay away. I hope you are happy, healthy, and substance free." Signed, your friend indeed, Kerry. XO

P.S. As much as I enjoyed Pepper’s company this past year. She missed you and I thought you could use the company. Give her a big hug from me.

Sloan opened the sealed envelope. There were one-hundred-dollar bills inside. A thousand of them! Shocked, she held them to her chest and cried.

By Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash

Pepper meowed loudly and ran from room to room. Annoyed at first, Sloan realized that the cat had been in that box a long time. She took the box outside and half-filled it with sandy dirt from under the palm tree. She placed the box on the floor, and the cat jumped in, eager to relieve herself.

Sloan went to the kitchen and cut a chicken nugget into a small bowl. She added a second bowl of water. The cat lapped up some water and then devoured the nugget bits.

After a long cuddle with Pepper, Sloan tucked a thousand-dollar bill in her sweater and told the cat, "I'm going to set you up nicely, new everything for our new life. Everything's going to be alright."

She hummed her mantra as she walked to the mall. She truly believed it this time; everything really will be alright.

My Photo


About the Creator

Mary Haynes

Mary Haynes splits her time between a romantic old sailboat in tropical waters and a beach home in Ontario. A wanderer, by fate, she embraces wherever she roams! Mary recently completed her first children’s book, “Who Ate My Peppers?”

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments (1)

Sign in to comment
  • Mike Saunders4 months ago

    Loved your story. Will be reading more.

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2023 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.