It was dusk by the time I was released from the hospital and allowed to return home. I had spoken to half a dozen police officers of varying ranks throughout the day, all asking what I’d seen, and I had the same answer for every one of them. Nothing. I saw nothing. I dropped my purse in the snow and because I am so clumsy, I’m alive. If I hadn’t spilled the contents on the ground, if I hadn’t had so much to pick up, if I hadn’t been distracted by Rob and taken so long, I would have been in that building. I would be dead. But I hadn’t seen a thing.
When I walked into my apartment, I threw my bag on the floor, kicked off my heels, and left my coat where it landed. Turning on the television, I went to the fridge and opened a beer.
“…While the fires caused by this morning’s explosion at the head office of PNL Industries continue to burn, the task of accounting for employees has begun. There have been no concrete numbers released by authorities, but those on the scene estimate that the number of casualties may put this as one of the worst disasters in the history of our city…”
I landed on the couch ungracefully and turned the television off. I’d seen enough to know I couldn’t see any more. Holding the bottle, I closed my eyes and breathed. I’m sure I had been breathing all day, but until now, I hadn’t noticed. The cool air filling my lungs and then rushing from me, paced evenly, controlled, washed the day from my mind.
**knock knockknockknock knock**
“Graham? It’s me. I have something for you.”
“It’s open, Phil. I don’t want to get up.”
Phil had lived in the apartment next to mine since I moved into the building straight out of college. In that time, he’d asked me out every single week, at least twice. At first it was annoying, but then it became a running joke when he finally realized the answer would always be no. It became even funnier when he finally admitted he only wanted me to go out with him as a beard so he could tell his homophobic mom he had a girlfriend.
“Jesus, G. Are you ok?” He bent down and hugged me like I’d just returned from war.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Really shaky, which I’m hoping the beer helps, but other than that, I’m ok.”
“It’s not like you to drink during the work week, but I suppose you’ve earned it.”
“Phil, my work just blew up. I’m not sure a Wednesday counts as part of the work week if you don’t have a workplace to go to on Thursday. What’s that?”
“Oh. Right. A package came for you, so I signed for it.”
“What is it?”
“Honey, I don’t open your mail. Unless the return address looks interesting. Or it looks like a cheque. Or it’s from Amazon. Or it’s handwritten (I love handwritten letters). But other than that, I would never open your mail.”
“…the sides are resealed with scotch tape, Phil.”
“Ok, so I peeked, but it was boring, so I don’t remember.”
I opened the poorly sealed box, to find a letter folded neatly into a square and a blurry photo. I picked them out and turned them over in my hand.
“This is it?”
“I swear. I may be a snoop, but I wouldn’t steal from you.”
“I know you wouldn’t.”
I unfolded the letter and began to read. The letter was handwritten in block letters, like an architect or landscaper would use. The photo was out of focus, but I could recognize my back, crouched down in the snow and Rob standing beside me, looking to the side. It was from this morning, just after I’d dropped her purse.
One of these things just doesn’t belong here. One of these things should have been in the building today. One of these things is lucky to be alive and should wonder why the other one chose today to start talking to her.
“What’s wrong, G.? What did the letter say?”
Phil took the photo from my hand and looked it over, trying to make out who the two in the photo were.
“Is this you? Who’s that with you? Wait, you’re wearing what you wore today – was this taken this morning?”
Without answering, I turned on the television again.
“…initial reports say there are no survivors…”
To be continued…
“You just received a package in the mail. Tell us about it.”
and I challenged Billy Flynn with
“…so she followed him home and waited until the time was right.”