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The Mystery Box

The Truth is Revealed

By Matthew PerrinoPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 6 min read

The package from no one had come earlier in the day.

Linda stared at the delivery on her kitchen counter. It was a harmless looking thing: a rectangular cardboard box, about the size of an old video tape. And yet, Linda was afraid to open it.

"Linda!" her husband's voice called out from the living room. "Have you seen my cell phone?"

Linda didn't have the wherewithal to respond. All of her attention was focused on that little box. It had no packaging, no company logo. Its only label didn't have a return or delivery address. Just four words printed across the paper:


Linda found this unsettling. It made the package feel both dangerously confidential and deeply personal, as if a life-altering secret lay within its cardboard walls. She also got the sense that this came from an individual rather than from a company, which increased her uneasiness around the package. Yet despite her nerves, Linda found herself hopelessly intrigued. Maybe it contained a romantic surprise from her husband (Unlikely, she thought as her husband's irritated voice rang out for the second time). Or maybe this box held a delayed birthday gift. Or maybe it was something that she'd ordered months ago and forgotten about.

Whatever it was, Linda had to know.

Curiosity pushed her to rip off the packing tape and tear open its flaps. Anxiety made her heart race as Linda's hands reached into the box. But it was shock and devastation that hit her like a punch to the gut, as Linda grasped the contents and brought them up to her face.

They were colored photographs, at least a dozen of them. And they all captured her husband with a woman that wasn't her.

The scene in the photos began innocently enough. At first, the two of them were merely walking side by side. A little closely, sure, but nothing malicious. But as Linda flipped through the photos, her husband's face grew closer and closer to the woman's, like an awful movie that she couldn't stop watching, until their lips became locked in a passionate kiss.

"Hey, Mom."

Linda jumped; she had gotten lost in the photographs, unaware that her sixteen-year-old son had entered the house. Ronny, a spitting image of his father, was standing in the kitchen doorway, his backpack slung over his left shoulder. Per usual, his eyes were glued to the cell phone in his hand.

"Hey, Ronny." She feigned a smile. "How was school today?"

"Sucked," was all that Ronny had to say. His eyes temporarily left his phone and went to the open box on the counter. "What came? Anything good?"

"Nothing that would interest you." Linda shoved the photos behind her back and out of sight.

Anyone other than a disinterested, angsty teen might have questioned this conspicuous behavior. But Ronny simply left the kitchen without saying a word.

As soon as her son had vanished upstairs, Linda went back to studying the pictures. She squinted at the woman's face, trying to identify her. But the woman was unfamiliar. A stranger, who had just impacted her life more than anyone she knew personally. Looking at her now, Linda suddenly felt grotesque and undesirable. This woman wasn't beautiful, but she was everything that Linda had once been. Stylish and young, about ten years younger than Linda. Her body was probably still fit, her breasts still perky, her stomach unmarred by stretch marks. Linda was enraged, watching this stranger kiss her husband. But she also felt--dare she think it?--envious. The joy in their faces, the flirtation in their body language--it had been years since Linda and her husband had shared anything like that. Hell, when was the last time they had even kissed? But beyond that lied a more pressing question.

Who had sent these photos?

Linda peered into the box, digging around at the bottom of it, searching for a clue. Perhaps a message that she'd missed, or a label with the sender's address.


"Jesus, Linda, I've been calling you over and over." The culprit, her husband of seventeen years, stormed obliviously into the kitchen. "Have you seen my phone?"

Linda glared at him, loathing him--truly loathing him--for the first time in their marriage. How dare he ask for her help right now. How dare he look into her eyes and act as though he'd done nothing wrong. Where was this man's guilt? Where was his remorse?

It took all of Linda's strength to keep her voice from exploding; she didn't want their son to overhear their conversation. "No, Larry, I haven't seen your phone," she said with hushed anger. "But I have seen these."

Linda thrust the photos against Larry's chest. Confused, he collected the pictures and glanced at them. And the moment he did, horror filled his eyes. He flipped through the photos one at a time, replaying the awful movie that Linda had watched earlier. When he reached the final one, Larry looked up at his wife's enraged face. "Where did you get these?"

Linda's jaw nearly fell to the floor. "That's the first thing you say to me?" she asked, incredulous.

But Larry didn't seem to hear her and pressed on indignantly, "Did you have someone following me, taking my pictures?"

"Of course not!" The anger in Linda's voice was no longer quiet. "Someone sent them to me." She motioned toward the open cardboard box on the counter.

"Who?" Larry demanded.

"I don't know," Linda snapped as her husband rummaged through the empty box. "They just showed up. But now I have a question for you. How?" she choked, her eyes finally welling with tears. "How could you do this? I know things haven't been great between us...but this? How could you do this to me?"

For the longest time, Larry didn't say a word. He merely gaped at his wife, speechless; the reality of the situation, it seemed, had finally dawned on him. He was just about to speak when a sudden movement behind him caught Linda's eye.

Ronny was standing on the staircase, his brow furrowed. Although his fingers were clutching his phone, his eyes were focused on his parents, watching them intently over the wooden railing. "Is everything OK?" he asked. "I heard yelling."

With tears still brimming in her eyes, Linda offered her son the brightest, most reassuring smile that she could muster. "Of course," she said in her sweetest voice. "Everything is fine. Go back upstairs."

Hesitant at first, Ronny eventually nodded. He went back upstairs, his eyes glued to the phone in his hand. He scrolled through his photos. And when he found what he was looking for, he deleted them from his phone. Now that his job was done, he didn't need them anymore. Now that his mom finally knew the truth about his cheating bastard of a father.

Short StoryMystery

About the Creator

Matthew Perrino

A dreamer and wannabe-author, who flops back and forth between loving and hating his work. Imagination extraordinaire, who spends far too much time thinking about words.

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

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Comments (1)

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  • ThatWriterWomanabout a year ago

    OOh I LOVED that twist! Well done for fitting such an emotive and high-stakes story in this! Great Work!

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