I could see a cat huddled outside her window while I parked my car in her driveway. It cried for shelter from the rain pouring down from the darkening sky, I assume. The balloon hovered around the paper bag, getting hit by the drops of rain; the words seem to be melting off the plastic material, "Happy Anniversary".
I jiggle the key into the old doorknob that in our 5 years of dating, I still can't open smoothly. I sit the bag on her hand-me-down coffee table and take out the box of fresh rose petals, pumpkin pie scented candles-those have always been her favorite-and the arrangement of vegetables and two precisely cut steaks. I quickly shove the black jewelry box in my pocket as if she were here and could spoil my surprise; how can a single diamond loop effect someone's life so easily? It's just a ton of weight on a piece of coal, right? Or was that proven a myth? Either way, this is the night…
My phone vibrates in my front pocket, along with my girlfriend's text tone:
1 Notification from AMELIA:
"I just got to my car. Meeting ended late. Might be a little late to the restaurant. Sorry."
"Don't worry about it. I'm running late anyway from the storm. Roads are terrible."
"I can tell. Roads are closed everywhere. Taking the back way now."
"Stop texting while driving. I'll let you go."
I cut off the conversation there even with her typing bubbles visible. I cook dinner and leave it warming in the oven while I prepare the rest of the surprise. A candle lit dinner, rose petal path, and I'm dressed in a snazzy black suit.
I rehearse my 'Confession of my Undying Love'-or at least that's what WikiHow says-in my head: "From the moment I saw you-" Yeah this is gonna be a train wreck…
I adjust the cuffs on my sleeves and rub my thumb on the ring box in my jacket pocket. That's when my phone rings from the kitchen. Unknown. "There's been an accident," is all I can hear over the beat of my heart. The hardest thing I've ever had to do is say 'yes' when they asked if it was her. Me of all people to identify her body; they also gave me the belongings left in her car: useless things like headphones, Passport, coffee punch cards, etc. That hardest thing they gave me was her dead phone. I charged it up and when the broken screen lit up, it turned on to the last screen open… our conversation from that night. At the bottom of the screen, and unsent message from seconds before, "I love you."