Black Roses and Zombie Vases

February 14th, 7:00 AM

My black boots clacked along the marble lobby as I strolled to my office. It was a day like any other. With one exception. The reception desk buzzed with the scurry of couriers, each juggling armfuls of a baskets and vases. A kaleidoscope of petals bobbed and bowed from severed stems in premature death.

I rolled my eyes and punched the elevator button. Why did people spend money to romanticize a day? Did they need a holiday to remind them to be passionate?

My husband and I had an unspoken agreement on commercialized love. It was just another day.

7:15 AM

My phone rang. Main Reception showed on the caller ID.

“This is Pam.”

“Mrs. Godwin? This is main floor reception. You have a delivery.”

I knew my eyebrows slammed together. “You sure? For Pam Godwin?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

My stomach leapt to my throat.

7:30 AM

I stared at my phone and drummed my fingers on the desk. They had to have made a mistake, had the wrong Pam. They would call back any minute to apologize for the confusion.

7:45 AM

Blackness drenched my office. I’d covered the motion sensor a year earlier, kept it dark. No flickering artificial lights. No annoying hum of florescent electricity. The light cast from my computer screen was soft enough, the shadows gobbled it up before it touched my skin. The fern in the corner stretched and reached for that small light and failed. My lips twitched over my would-be fangs.

8:00 AM

Good God. Why hadn’t they called back? I responded to emails. Combed through production logs. Kicked off some scripts. Stared at my phone.

8:15 AM

Screw it. I forced my feet into the elevator and pressed L.

The doors opened to the lobby. Quiet hovered over the reception desk. A single vase remained, a dozen fat red roses puking from a mass of green leaves. A wave rolled through my gut.

I angled my head toward the receptionist, shoving the sappy display of someone’s McLove out of my field of vision, and cleared my throat. “Pam Godwin.”

She pointed at the lonely vase and smiled. I cringed, swallowed, and hooked my arm around it.

Then, I began my walk of shame–this is what one colleague coined it as he laughed at my expense. It was fitting because anyone who knew me, knew I wasn’t a Hearts-n-Flowers girl. Knew I’d be embarrassed carrying a bushel of trademark roses down the hall. And the person who knew this more than anyone was my husband. Yet they had to have come from him. He was a dead man.

I hurried to my office, closed the door, dug out the card.

I read it. Reread it. Dropped in my chair. Tried to frown, but my lips wouldn’t work right. They kept pulling up. Damn him.

8:30 AM

I read the card again. And again, many times over that day.

I won’t publicize what it said, but I’ll reveal this: It explained how he searched for black roses in a zombie vase (apparently, this isn’t a popular request). And how his purpose was simply to “crack my smile.”

Well, it was just another day, right? Tell that to the foolish grin I wore for the whole of it. It’s nice to know after twenty years, the man can still shock me till I crack.

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