Written for SCREAMS!! Louise discovers her horoscope...
The newspaper arrived through the mail slot in the front door instead of the bright yellow plastic receptacle by the street. I heard it land with a thwap on the floor, assumed it was the mail and continued sewing the french seams of the custom order blouse I needed to get done by the end of the day. I laid the nearly finished piece aside and took a break to read the mail and sip a hot cup of tea with honey.
I scooped up the rolled bundle and took the daily news to my favorite chair by the window with a view of the Sawtooth Mountains.
When I reached the last page I gasped. I didn’t normally read horoscopes, I didn’t even know my astrological sign, but I noticed one of the horoscopes, Aquarius, was smeared with white-out, a new message printed over it in block letters.
Seamstress sews last stitch
I dropped the paper in my lap, my first thought was to close the heavy drapery over the window. My face felt hot, my hands cold. Could someone be watching me right now?
Wait. How did the scribbler of this message know I was an Aquarius? I didn’t even know that until seeing the range of birthdays that fit within the sign. I didn’t list my birthday on social media, I wasn’t one to boast about my special day.
My throat began to close up. I struggled to breathe. I fumbled for my inhaler in the side table drawer and sucked the medicine in deep. Maybe I should cancel my newspaper subscription. There was a reason I hadn’t left my home in three years.
I tried so hard to keep people out, lock them away from my safe two-story southern Idaho paradise. I had a carefully constructed business that allowed me to work solely from home, operating from an online shop that didn’t give out my personal information. I had a post office box to keep people away from my front door. I had no friends.
Sure, the local mail service was terrible and I almost always ended up with mail in the slot in the door. The newspaper had been my only mistake.
The address label on the top of the front page, covering up half of the paper’s logo mocked me. There, my full name and home address. If times new roman twelve point font could smirk, that’s what it did.
I peeked out the window. The view to the north, that I once found enchanting featured the jagged Sawtooths slicing through the pale blue sky, threatening me with its brutal, sharp edge.
The empty backyard looked in order. My tulips and daffodils were beginning to wilt and die as Spring faded into Summer. I crept to the other side of the house and sat in front of the kitchen window for several moments. Three cars drove by. Only one of the drivers looked my way. I fought away a second panic attack and practiced my breathing exercises.
A single large footprint pressed into the mud near the peony bush by the street drew my attention. The bush wouldn’t bloom for another couple months, but last night’s rain had ensured soft soil.
The usual newspaper boy wasn’t actually a boy. He was a fifty-five-year-old long haired hippy with a beard that reached his belly button. He drove an old sedan, and he always slipped the paper into the appropriate receptacle. He never got out of his car. Sometimes he’d wave to me from the street and I’d slink away. Eye contact always felt so personal, intimate. Like I needed a cigarette after.
This footprint must belong to whoever brought the paper and made the faux pas of walking through my yard. I couldn’t take my eyes off the offending boot shape pressed into virgin soil. A rape. A violation of my little paradise.
Should I call the police?
No, I shrugged the stupid idea away.
I slipped on my jacket and stepped into the cool morning. I didn’t know what I expected to find by inspecting the print. There was only one person in the world that would ever want to hurt me.
Had he found me way out here, so far from our home in New Jersey?
I became all too aware of the lack of trees. The open landscape sprawled out for eternity in all directions stopped only by the menacing, hungry mountains behind me. No hiding places presented themselves. I hoped such a thing wouldn’t be necessary.
I sunk my knees into the frigid, wet soil and studied the ground. The single print, perfectly preserved near the base of the peonies, gave nothing away. I scanned the grass on my way back to the house, looking for anything the man may have dropped.
Nothing. I didn’t know whether to be happy or devastated. I hadn’t had so much as a close call in the few years since coming here. I thought I’d be safe forever. Suddenly, the whole property felt dirty, unsafe, violated.
The crunch of gravel startled me and I froze. A figure in dark clothing stepped around the side of the house, smashing my fragrant hyacinths in the process.
My throat swelled. I reached for my inhaler, but I’d left it inside. Damn it! I sunk to the ground, wheezing for breath. Terror took hold and I braced myself for the worst. Is this what the newspaper meant when it said I’d sewn my last stitch?
The man ambled toward me, not in a hurry. I couldn’t see anything, my vision blurred by tears that I couldn’t control. At last a pair of polished black shoes stood directly in front of me, a fat tear slid off my chin and plopped on the toe of one of them.
A large hand gripped my arm and pulled me up. I didn’t fight, I hadn’t an ounce of energy left. The man led me into the house and set me down in the nearest chair. He produced an inhaler from his pocket and pressed it into my hand.
“Breathe,” he said, his voice calm and pleasant.
“I’m sorry I scared you. I tried to call first, but I couldn’t get through. I know how much you hate visitors, Louise.”
My vision cleared and I studied his face. Fresh tears burst forth as I realized my ex-husband wasn’t going to kill me. Not today, anyway.
Frank, my lawyer passed a thick envelope to me.
“I thought you’d read my message in the paper and come outside. I’ve been waiting out there. As I said, I didn’t want to frighten you. I know how much you hate that.”
“Your message? Do you mean the horoscope?” I turned the parcel over and slid my finger under the sealed flap.
Frank nodded. "I figured women always read that nonsense first. It was all I could think of on short notice.”
“Not this woman, Frank. I didn’t even know I was Aquarius before today. You scared the shit out of me. I thought you were Dave.”
Even hearing myself say his name made me glance back at the inhaler. Frank paled.
“Again, I’m really sorry about that. But, look...I’m here because of Dave.”
I grasped the inhaler, to be safe. “What do you mean?”
“It’s all in the envelope, Louise. I got word last night that Dave was killed. His new wife took him out in his sleep. The thing is, he never changed his will. He left everything to you. Can you believe that? Four and a half million dollars. All yours. That’s what I meant by ‘Seamstress sews last stitch.’ You’re free.”
Frank embraced me in an awkward hug and stayed for a cup of tea. He offered some financial advice, then headed back to his office in Sun Valley.
Alone once again, I set to work finishing the blouse so I could get it in the morning mail. Afterward, I sealed the package and slipped the lawyer’s envelope in my purse before heading out. I wondered if I should send a check to my hero and if the prison system would even let her receive it. I owed that wonderful woman everything. I'd see to it that her imprisonment was as comfortable as possible.
The sun caressed my cheeks as I stepped out. It had warmed considerably since the footprint fiasco. A beautiful day for a walk. My first one in years. Normally, I would get on my computer and schedule for the postal service to pick the package up for me. Not today. Not ever again. I breathed deep the aroma of the spring blooms, gave a nod to my jagged friends to the north, and sauntered down the road to town.