by Charlie... 🌈
It's Natalie and Paul's tenth anniversary, so why doesn't she want her gift?
Gift for Natalie
Horror Round Prompt: Use the sentence, "A black fog crept along the ground as if it were alive" anywhere in your story.
“Well, aren’t these beautiful?” Shelly, my coworker said, moving the smooth petals between her fingers. “Someone’s lucky!”
“You mean someone’s getting lucky,” Tyler teased, reaching over her for the box of donuts.
I laughed, eying the bouquet carefully to make sure Shelly hadn’t messed anything up. “They’re for Natalie. It’s our tenth anniversary today.”
“Oh my God. See, I told you. How romantic, Paul! You know, my husband doesn’t have a romantic bone in his body.”
Our boss, Linda, walked over to join in on the conversation, “Your husband? You know what my husband did for our anniversary last year? He ordered pizza and watched the game on the couch in his boxers. How’s that for romance?”
“Well, after ten years, it’s the little things that make so much of a difference. You have no idea how hard it is to find peonies this late in the year. But she had them for our wedding, so I’ve gotten them for her every anniversary since.”
Shelly and Linda squealed in unison while Tyler rolled his eyes and sighed dramatically. “Well, man, you must be doing something right. I can’t keep the romance alive after ten days, let alone ten years.”
After work, I stood in the full-length mirror, giving myself one of the usual pep talks. You can do this. Tonight is the night. I pulled my suit jacket over my broad shoulders. Marino’s was one of those fancy restaurants with a dress policy. This was the only time of the year I ever dressed up. Natalie would probably wear a nice little black number with a big fur jacket. I closed my eyes, losing myself in her fiery red curls and glistening emerald eyes that conveyed so much emotion. I inhaled deeply and smelled her vanilla perfume.
This year, I’d gone all out with a tie, just so I wouldn’t look out of place with her on my arm. Just one more thing.I grabbed the bouquet off of my bed and held it close to my chest. I made the motion of handing them to her, reaching out to see how I would look. You're ready. I brought the buds to my nose and inhaled their sweet scent, but they still didn't compare to her. With that, I took one last look at my dark eyes and headed out.
It was warm for late September. I snaked myself through the fenced in yards of Natalie’s neighborhood while a black fog crept along the ground almost as if it were alive. I felt like a character in a video game I’d been playing all my life. I knew exactly what had to be done.
Her sprawling house came into view and I made my way to the rose bushes I had planted near the shed. They made for a good hiding place and I decided to take a moment to regroup. I had parked my car a few blocks away. That’s pretty far to drag someone who’s kicking and screaming. I shook the thought away. You’re being negative again. It won’t come to that. But I had some duct tape and rope back in my car, just in case.
She was naive to leave her kitchen curtains open. I could see straight into the living room where she was sitting with her back to me, watching a movie. I crept a little closer and saw that she was talking on her phone. Who is she talking to? It better not be another guy.
I was close enough now to see the individual ringlets of hair that she twirled mindlessly around her finger. I heard a buzzing noise coming from just inside the window. The oven. It’s time.
I crouched beneath the window and watched her come toward me. She’s coming to talk to you. She’s coming to see you. She pulled a cake from the oven and set it on the counter, still talking on the phone, laughing with her perfect smile. She’s making a cake for your anniversary. She’s waiting for you to arrive. She talked animatedly, waving her hands around smiling. She’s telling her sister about you, about how in love she is. She comes over to the sink and starts washing her hands, laughing still about how jealous her sister is of our relationship.
Suddenly, I see the high arch of her eyebrows furrow together. She leans forward, squinting, and then backs away with her mouth agape. I can hear her screaming into the phone as she darts toward the front of the house. It sounds like she’s shouting, “he’s back”.
I bolt around the corner of the house, meeting her just as she’s running out the front door, keys in hand. She lets out the shrillest scream I’ve ever heard and drops the phone. “Leave me alone! What do you want? The police are coming!” She looks around to see if the neighbors have heard her, but there are no signs of movement next door.
Her words are threatening, but her meek stance and scared eyes are not. “Natalie, it’s me. Why are you acting this way? I have flowers for you in the car for our anniversary.” Why is she treating me this way after how much I’ve done for her?
“Anniversary? What anniversary. We were never together, you psycho.” She backs up, reaching behind her for something, probably a weapon, but there are none.
“Why are you saying that, Sweetheart? We’ve been married for ten years today. I got you peonies, like at our wedding.”
Tears roll down her face, as she leans against the front door of the house. “I don’t even know who you are.” She looks like a wounded puppy and I just want to hold her close and smell her vanilla perfume again.
I take a step toward her and she tenses up again. “I know it might seem that way, Natalie. I have changed so much, sometimes I don’t even feel like I know me.”
“Who’s Natalie?” she cries, sinking to the concrete porch we’re sharing. “Who’s Natalie? Who IS Natalie!” she continues screaming with her hands covering her face as a crowd of neighbors start to form on the sidewalk. Red and blue flashing lights flood us, like they always seem to when we’re together. Some women, I swear.