Annie cracked the front door of her suburban home and let the first gust of nippy air rush passed her hooded head, red looping curls peered out around the her hood. The pinnacles of the trees in the neighborhood whirled wildly with the strong winter winds carrying with them much colder weather. A light sprinkle of rain only added to the bone chilling affect. Water logged leaves lay bunched up against Annie's front porch still soaking in the gutters run-off. The smell reminded Annie of her grandparents dirt floor basement in Iowa. Mr. Gibbles, Annie and Derek's British shorthair, began to whisker his way toward the opening in the door.
"Oh, no, Mr. G. You don't want to go out there today." She gave Mr. G a slight nudge backwards with her foot. "Besides the birds won't be out messing around in your tree today. I promise." She smiled, sticking her tongue out at the feline. Mr. Gibbles felt otherwise.
Annie slipped out the crack and shut the door tight, braving the cold to retrieve the mail, knowing what was delivered. Normally, Mr. G would be all up in Derek's business, but since Derek's at work for the third Valentine's day in a row he'll stand at the door window, meowing until she returns. Now that she is down the steps and into the breeze the air freshens considerably. A low thunder growls in the horizon and the gray abstract sky slides by. Striding off the cement the last few steps to the mailbox, Annie's feet sank an inch into the sodden grass with every step and she felt a little sorry for the ground and the fact that it couldn't catch a break these last couple of days.
Annie heard Mr. G clawing at the front door but didn't pay him any attention. By the time she was at the mailbox he was already bored of it and had quit. The metal clang of the mailbox opening revealed precisely what she was expecting. The same old Valentine's day note, in the same old manila envelope that the state pen apparently has an abundance of.
Unsealing the envelope with her finger she recalled Ronald Damascus sliding through the county jail that she had worked at 9 years ago. Ronald was being booked on peeping and was looking at several years for multiple offenses. Although she knew the basics of the letter that followed, she'll never know what drew Ronald toward her while she was working dispatch behind the large "C" shaped desk.
She began unfolding the sheet of notebook paper in the slight rain. Mr. Gibbles stalked up underneath an Oak Tree behind Annie, squatted and stared upwards, darting his tail this way and that. The blue lines of the notebook paper began to blur as Annie looked down, eyes peering through scantly fogged glasses. She began to read,
Not a day goes by that I don't think about being with you, on the outside. The day I seen you in that police department was the day my new life began. Can't you see that all of the stuff that happened before we meet doesn't matter. I was a different man then. One day soon, Feb 16th of 2022, I'll be a free man again and when that time comes you and me will be inseparable. I hope I won't be too late to be your Valentine."
All of this was as usual. This crazy person still had delusions that they would somehow be together someday. Like what he was doing was romantic instead of terrifying. Annie had called the cops several times. When the letters started coming for the first time and then when he had somehow gotten a cellphone, her number and began to text her from prison. The police always said the same thing, "There was nothing they could do." "He's already in prison." They had a point but this was crossing a line.
" I spend all of my time thinking of your perfect face and imagining what our children will look like together. I know you spend all of your time thinking about me. Although, you never come on visitors day.
I got my hands on a real life phone in here and you don't answer my texts or answer any of my calls after that first time. I don't understand why you are doing this to me? Didn't you feel what we had? In that instant? Maybe not but I'll find out by asking you in person
Love, your dearest, Ronnie."
This last bit was particularly frightening. Although the lawyers had said Ronald didn't have a chance in hell getting out when he thinks he is but she still became very on edge. He seemed to know something. A fear had crept over her and a feeling of being watched. Vulnerable.
Annie noticed that the stamp on the envelope wasn't the same basic American Flag stamp that was normally on these letters. She wouldn't have noticed it, and couldn't believe she didn't at first, but the stamp on the outside was a custom Star Wars stamp just like the ones Derek and her have inside. Her mind reeled.
Realizing that the long expanse in time had caused her to make a grave mistake, her heart shot ice cold blood through her entire body in one smooth pump and then stopped, she began pawing at her cellphone lodged deep under her jacket in her pants. More rain droplets quickly littered the screen of her iPhone. A candid picture of Derek, her and Mr. G stared back at her and the rolling clouds as Annie's finger failed to register on the screen. She noticed that she had missed 7 called from Derek. The wind began to pick up, loose leaves began wheeling down the asphalt. Annie's teeth were pushed together so tightly she had the fleeting thought that they may shatter. Messages from Derek began to pop up on her home screen.
"Annie call me now. Rona..."
"ast night. No one has se..."
Her heart had now began pumping again. Last time is was ice but now her love muscle was pumping straight 91 octane. The only thing she could hear was the drumming of her heartbeat in her ears. Her vision blurred and the chill in the breeze was forgotten. A clear thought came to mind that she was going to have to get inside in order to use the phone. She twirled on her heel and sprinted toward the open front door. The wind was screaming in her ears almost as loud as her own heartbeat. The sprinkle had suddenly turned into a downpour and the maintained gust brought it in sideways. She would get inside, lock everything up and give Derek a call because she knew he was freaking out. She was too. Mr.G curled up on the dry side of the Oak, wrapped his tail around him and decided to wait out the birds or the rain. Whichever happens first.