ACT I - A Familiar Gesture.
Mel calls out to Bo, her overweight and underwhelming cat of a decade.
She follows the faint meowing to the living room.
It's typical of Bo to only acknowledge the "ps ps ps" of his desperate owner from afar and leave it at that, but this time something else held his attention. The front door. Who...no, what...is that out there? In a normal scenario, curiosity would seduce Bo to be a daredevil and investigate but this isn't a normal scenario and Bo isn't a normal cat. It also helps that Mel is already making her way to the door as she notices Bo's fixation to it.
Mel catches a glance of herself on the television screen. Realizing the state of her hair she turns to a mirror on the wall to correct it.
Mel looks through the peep hole and hesitates. She opens the door and grabs her cellphone from her back pocket.
She aggressively dials a number from memory.
"Hello? It's Mel...Melanie...wait who is this?...Oh my God I'm so sorry." She hangs up.
That wasn't him.
This was a sign to just let it go.
It could have also been a simple misdial.
Mel turns to Bo for confidence. Bo is busy fighting the urge to sleep.
Mel dials another number.
"Can you explain why I'm looking at a box in front of my house?"
"What is this about Pete. What's in the box?"
"I'm doing fine thank you Melanie."
"So am I. I'm really doing fine."
Mel closes her eyes and inhales deeply. Pete takes the silence as a threat.
"Okay okay." He continues. "I have no idea what's in the box in question."
Mel snaps out of it. Maybe she was wrong.
Maybe he's lying.
"Listen, Mel. Do you want to talk about anything? Is closure what you need?"
"What I need is to figure out what this box is all about."
"I have a great idea," Pete teases.
"If you tell me to open the box I'm going to fight you through the phone."
"I no longer have a great idea."
Mel hangs up the phone and stares at the box. She picks it up and puts her ear to it. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just a box. Something is definitely in it though. She needs expert advice.
Mel puts the box down right in front of Bo's line of sight. The cat smells around the box before walking away unenthused.
She could just try opening the box but it could be a gift from Pete and his gifts have gone one of two ways in the past...appropriate or inappropriate. It could be what was left of his box of memories.
It could also be anything else.
ACT II - The Reunion.
The next morning Mel half expected to see Bo had come to his senses and tear the box open for her. Instead the box remained unscathed on the living room hardwood. As for Bo? The feline waits for his breakfast in the kitchen.
Mel feeds her already full cat and returns to the box in the living room. She looks down at her phone.
A text from Pete.
Several texts actually.
Four from yesterday and two this morning that she has ignored.
Mel sits next to the cardboard box. No giftwrap. No accompanying note. Just a bland cardboard box. A mysteriously bland cardboard box.
She should just open it.
She has to.
A knock on her door interrupts her contemplation. Mel approaches the door as Bo slugs behind her.
She peeks through the peep hole.
"I know you're staring at me right now," Pete laughs.
What is he doing here?
Mel begrudgingly opens the door.
"If you would have looked at my messages you would know 'what'", Pete responds.
"Are you here for the box?"
"Not exactly...I'm here for you."
Mel rolls her eyes and begins to close the door but Pete catches it before she can shut it completely.
"Just...hear me out. I'm glad you called me yesterday."
"Don't flatter yourself, Pete."
"Can I come in?"
Once again Mel turns to Bo, waiting for his approval. Nothing. She opens the door fully and invites Pete in.
He approaches the box.
"Still closed I see."
"I was hoping you could just tell me what you put in it."
"Why are you so certain I did anything?"
"Because its so like you to do something stupid like this. Do you know what yesterday was?"
"Oh I know this one" Pete jokes, "Thursday."
"It was our anniversary."
It wasn't their anniversary. It was the week of their anniversary though, which was Monday. It still counts.
"An anniversary to commemorate what exactly? The fact that we've done this whole no-contact thing for nine months now?"
"So it's just coincidence?"
"I've been trying to get you to talk to me all this time and a mystery box finally gets your attention?"
Mel picks up the box and rushes to the kitchen. Pete follows behind. Mel pulls out a box cutter from her drawer of misplaced items. Pete stops her.
"Wait. Let's just think about this."
"What is there to think about? You were right I should just open this to find out for myself."
"It could be anything though. Maybe a bomb."
He's stalling. He knows that this box is the only reason why they are talking. He doesn't want this moment to leave him. He doesn't want Mel to leave him. It's a little endearing actually, but its not enough. Mel cuts the tape binding the box together. Pete steps back. Mel opens the box. Everything goes black. Nothing else matters in this moment. It's just Mel and the contents of the box. Mel snaps back to reality and looks up at Pete. Her dearest Pete. Emotion fills her eyes. Pete slowly takes the box from her and looks inside for himself and smiles.
"Do you like it?"
Mel is at a loss for words. It's beautiful but...inappropriate. Red glitter covers the inside walls of the box. Pink and rose pedals bed a heart of various chocolates. To the left corner of the box is a small piece of paper that reads: With Love, To Love.
It's cheesy but it works. Everything in the box works. Pete, in this moment, works.
ACT III - Left and Found.
Pete opens a bottle of wine and fills two glasses. Mel takes one, smiling.
"You know..." she ponders, "Maybe we overreacted."
"That would be pretty typical of us. We've overreacted what...two, three times now?"
"Yes but this has been the most definite one. I didn't like it. I'm sorry for ignoring you."
"Don't be sorry" Pete whispers as he leans in for a kiss. The pair passionately embrace one another. The wine isn't important anymore. Bo approaches some of the spilled Moscato. Hard pass.
Mel pulls away to collect herself for a moment.
"This...is too fast."
Pete reaches for his glass and takes a sip. "You're right."
"Maybe lets start with...what we've been up to? We're two different people right now."
Pete looks up in thought, filing through his experiences since the last time they spoke in person.
"Well..." he begins, "I finally left my job at that clothing store. They weren't going to give me the promotion so I figured after all that time I should deserve-"
"You definitely deserved it," Mel interrupts. "I'm glad you stood up for yourself. What are you doing now?"
"Uh...I'm actually drawing right now. Painting. For this non-profit."
"Yeah! Just...leaning into my passion. I've done some freelance projects to keep me afloat. I did a piece for our University actually."
"Oh wow! That's amazing Pete."
Mel sits back in her dinning room chair. She bites into a piece of chocolate looking, but not listening as Pete goes on...He's doing what he loves to do and it's showing in the way he talks about it. He really is a different person. Vibrant. Full of life. Dare she say, inspiring even. What has Mel done? She's working at the same thankless job making good money but is that enough for her anymore? Is anything enough anymore? In this moment, nothing but Pete is enough.
"What about you Mel? What's new with you?"
Where should she start? She dated a guy for three hours once. That was interesting. After her and Pete broke up she had a void inside her. She needed to fill it with something meaningless. She didn't care to care. She had every intention of hooking up with the guy that night but his red flags were popping up left and right, beginning with him forgetting to remove his wedding ring. What else...she lost Bo one day and found him asleep in the upstairs bathroom. She didn't even think to look upstairs because lately Bo stays within ten feet of his food bowl at all times.
Before she could muster up the courage to share how boring her life was going compared to Pete's, she's saved by the bell.
She's popular today.
Mel takes the opportunity to escape the conversation and answers the door. It's her neighbor, Mr. Nona. A very sweet old man who never fails to put in the effort and surprise his wife of fourteen years. At least that's what Mrs. Nona always says.
Mel opens the door.
"Mr. Nona! How are you? Is everything okay?"
"Yes! Well. No. I was wondering if you accidentally received a box sometime yesterday? I just got back from a business trip and I had my friend drop off a box I made for Candace but he might have delivered it to the wrong address. It was her birthday yesterday and it was the first time we've been apart for it."
The world goes gray as the color in Mel's face fades and the light in her eyes dim.