By: J.J. Cheesman
This year on Valentine’s day, I was a very busy woman. My sister Cherry’s birthday happens to fall on February 14th and I was rushing to get everything ready for her surprise party. The night before unfortunately, I had trouble sleeping because of an incessant tapping on my bedroom window. Every time I got up to check to see what it was however, there was nothing there. It was very windy that night though, so I finally assumed it was the window rattling and made a mental note to fix it. I woke up late that morning, so I was trying to make sure I had everything together before everyone arrived. I ran out into my van in a rush but as I got into the driver’s side seat, I had realized I had forgotten my phone. I shot out of my van and into the house and moments later I ran back out. Before I was out of my driveway I was calling a mutual friend of Cherry and mine to ask her to drop by my house while I was out.
Laura picked up her phone on the first ring and I explained that my door was unlocked, and I had balloons and streamers ready to go on my kitchen table. “What time is everyone supposed to be there?”, Laura asked. I was about to answer when I smelled a distinct odor of old mud. It reminded me of my flower garden that I often tended to in my tennis shoes. “Katie, are you okay?”, Laura’s voice came out as slightly worried. “Oh yeah, just realized I need to get my van detailed”, I said, then it occurred to me that I hadn’t been watching for cop cars and that I should probably get off the phone. I told her that we would all meet up around three to make sure everything was set up before Cherry came at four, and then I hung up. I went to the bakery just outside of town first to pick up the cake I ordered. The cake was white with pink icing, and it was decorated with little cherries and hearts. Written in white on the cake were the words ‘To the best sister and Valentine a girl could ask for’. I couldn’t wait to see my sister’s face light up when she saw the cake. I threw a party every year for my sister, so truth be told she always expected the ‘surprise’. But this was the first year I did a traditional cake and I was sure she’d love it. I left the bakery and set down the cake on my passenger side, and I noticed a mess of blankets on the floor in my back seat. “Duh!” I thought to myself. I just planted a ton of new flowers in my garden at home, and I used the blankets to rest the plants on top of so dirt wouldn’t get on the seats. I made a mental note to take those blankets out to be washed when I got back home.
From the bakery, I went to the liquor store in town and bought an obscene amount of alcohol as I did every year. Most of the people attending Cherry’s party didn’t have Valentines of their own; including myself, the alcohol would help numb that reality. After the liquor store I arrived home and noticed that already quite a few people had arrived to help get things ready. It really was amazing how many great friends Cherry and I had. I got out of my van and was met by Laura who helped me with the cake and booze into the house and we were off putting the finishing touches around the house to make sure everything was perfect.
When Cherry arrived, she walked through the door and we all jumped out from hiding places and yelled surprise. Cherry did her best to act surprised; she blew out the twenty-four candles on her cake, and we all got started on drinking and playing card games. The crowd started to thin out to only a few early on, as most of the guests had work in the morning. Cherry, Laura, and I stayed up drinking and talking though. When it got to be the early hours of the morning, we decided to shut it down. Cherry passed out in my bed wrapped up in my covers, so Laura and I took separate couches in the living room falling asleep with the T.V. on. The next morning, I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep. I threw the cover that I had cocooned myself in off of my body, Then I got up and shambled into the kitchen to make coffee. As I was adding water to the coffee maker, Laura came walking into the kitchen yawning and rubbing her eyes. “Why is your van door open”, She asked groggily. “Wha…?” I asked, only half understanding her. “Your van is wide open”, she repeated, sitting down at the kitchen table. “Jesus”, I said, “What the hell did we do?” I said, assuming that one of us in an inebriated state had gotten something out my van and forgot to shut it. I left Laura in the kitchen with her head resting in her hands while I walked outside to investigate. I grabbed my keys from their spot in the bowl that sat on a small end table next to my front door, and headed outside.
Walking outside my front door and waving to my neighbor Eva who was walking her dog I saw that indeed, my van’s rear passenger door was wide open. When I approached the open door, I saw that the blankets I had in the back seat were tossed about. My first thought was that in a drunken state I must have remembered that I wanted to bring the blankets in, but had for whatever reason simply just turned around and left my van door open. There was a piece of scratch paper on top of the blankets and I went to grab it. But as I reached in to grab the paper. I noticed there were large muddy prints; boot prints if I had to guess, all over the blankets. The prints were also on the van floor board and they led out of the van onto the grass of my front lawn. I turned around and my eyes followed the prints as they seemed to go around behind the house leading near my flower garden. Hesitant but curious, I followed the prints and found that they indeed went behind my house and into my small garden. The prints stopped just under my bedroom window and I knelt down angrily as I inspected the trampled roses beneath. I cursed under my breath and stood up angrily as I examined the crush rose I’d picked at random from a bed of trampled flowers. I was angry, but my anger was mixed with another emotion, one I couldn’t quite place. I was breathing hard now, and my breath was enough to frost the glass of my bedroom window. “Who would do such a thing?” I thought. But then I thought of the tapping outside my window from two nights before, and the realization hit me like a brick. I looked up to my bedroom window then, and my breath was stripped away from me as if someone had punched me in the chest. There, in the frost created by my breath on the window, was the outline of a face. Tears began to form in my eyes as I slowly walked in a daze back to my van, pulling out my phone to dial 911. I reached into the back seat of my van pulling out the paper that had been left there; it was silly, but I had to know what it was. As I read what was on that paper, my phone fell from my hand.
The ride was fun, I have to say,
Being that close to you, made my day.
I got excited, and it was dark,
When I crept in, and left my mark.
I wish I knew, it wasn’t you,
I would not of hurt, your sister too.
Don’t be frightened, that’s just absurd,
You’re fine today, you have my word.
But next year, I will have my fill,
As I’ll be much closer, than your window sill.