By Ekta R. Garg
Prompt: She opened her apartment door to hundreds of roses. She knew they were from him; he had found her.
Natalee put the key in the lock to her apartment, sighing with relief when she heard the familiar click.
What—a—day, she thought, pushing into the door with her shoulder. She turned the knob and took half a step forward. It’s about time Curt got fired. He’s such a—
Two steps across her threshold, she saw red. And pink. And white.
Roses adorned every available space in her living room. They sat nestled in vases of all shapes and sizes. Squat globes with just a few buds and inches of stems poking at odd angles in the water. Tall crystal monoliths that showed the full length of the flowers from petals to the small thorns at the bottom. Pairs and trios of vases in complicated colors and with indentations of patterns.
Natalee’s heartbeat picked up pace, but she forced herself to turn around and lock the door—then check that it was locked—before letting her purse slide off her shoulder and to the floor.
There’s no way Aiden found me. He couldn’t…he doesn’t even know my name anymore. And the surgeon said I didn’t look anything like my old pictures.
Still fighting to keep her composure, she walked the dozen or so steps to her bedroom. The thin vases in here only had space for a single rose each, but whoever had flower bombed her home had placed the thin vases together so that the roses may as well have been collected in bunches.
Her breathing became shallow. The old familiar panic began creeping across her chest, like a rodent in the house that refused to leave. Her legs began to shake, and Natalee almost stumbled as she went to the bed and sat on it.
No, he can’t be back. I can’t…I can’t live through that again. I don’t have anywhere else to go. I don’t have enough money to start over.
Tears burned at the corners of her eyes, and she pounded a fist against the bed. Aiden couldn’t do this. He had taken so much from her and done it for so long. After the last time, Natalee gathered her belongings in a rush and dashed out of the house Aiden had bought for “them.” She didn’t wait for her courage to follow; she knew from experience that it would limp along when it was ready.
Just then she heard the front door click open.
She covered her mouth with her hand. The tears started to flow, but she didn’t know what to do. She’d spent so many years running from Aiden, had made it out so many times. She had no way out of the apartment right now—the fire escape was outside the living room window—and she had felt so sure that she’d gotten away completely that for the first time in years she hadn’t put together an escape plan.
A scream started to form around her fingers, and she tried to press it back.
“Hon? It’s me!”
Natalee coughed her scream away, but her tears refused to stop.
She pushed herself to a standing position, but her legs wobbled. She fell back onto the bed and pushed herself up again. Her hands started to shake from the adrenaline. Footsteps came toward the doorway, and she covered her eyes with her palms to try to steady herself.
“Natalee? What happened?”
She burst into tears. “Tim!”
Her boyfriend stepped forward and engulfed her in his arms. “Nat? Oh my god, Natalee, what happened?”
She sobbed for several minutes, and she could feel the pressure of Tim’s arms tightening around her. Her body remained rigid for a while, but bit by bit she gave in to the curve of Tim’s chest. It occurred to her as he began walking her back to the living room that she couldn’t walk without him supporting her.
“Nat, is it the flowers? I’m sorry, I don’t want you to think I’m rushing things, but the last year with you has been so amazing, and I thought that tonight I would ask you—”
“Wait,” Natalee said, holding up a hand. “There’s…there’s something I need to tell you. About my past.”