Lindsey Stirling blared from my ear buds and I bobbed my head, furrowing my brow. My hand was shoved deep into my purse, searching for my keys. Instead, I found receipts from the Stone Age, a collection of seashells from last year's vacation, and enough pepper spray to blind at least twenty bears.
Frustrated, I dumped my portable landfill on the welcome mat; lipstick tubes and loose change bounced across the wood and disappeared, lost beneath the porch. Spreading objects out with my hands, I sighed. No keys. "Damn it all to Hell and back ag--"
Glancing up, the box near my door caught my eye. Wrapped with neon-colored paper, a large skull-and-crossbones bow held a handwritten "FRAGILE" note in place. The colors were garish, clashing with the ivory siding.
Wrinkling my nose, I pulled the package toward me, keys forgotten. The paper was slick, slipping against the pads of my fingertips like silk. Examining the box, I flipped the "FRAGILE" note over--and gasped.
Yanking the ear buds from my phone, I dialed the number etched across my brain, my frantic fingers finding the keys with ease. I stared at the box as the line connected, then rang. "Han? It's happened. No, no, I came home and found this--this ugly box on my porch and-- No, I haven't opened it, are you crazy?! What? Yeah, okay. Okay! See you soon."
Pressing end, I shoved my head into my hands. Three years, twelve moves, and at least twenty new names and he was still there, breathing down my neck, promising pain. Promising more broken bones to add to my chart, another piece of me scraped off the bottom of his shoe like used gum.
Chewing on my bottom lip, I watched the street out of the corner of my eye, old habits taking over. Tucking my hair into a ponytail, I hunkered into my sweater, a chill working down my spine.
"You won't win. Not again. DO YOU HEAR ME?! HUH?!" Control skittered out of my reach, the daily mantra blazing a trail across my disheveled thoughts. Not again. Not again. Not again.
Hoisting the box up by the bow, I slammed it against the wall once, twice, threefourfive times and then stomped on it, hard, for good measure. Fragile or not, this box was nothing I wanted.
Turning around and pushing my bangs out of my eyes, a grin flopped across my lips like a fish out of water. And then, I collapsed.
They said it must have been the stress. An aneurysm, maybe. But I know the truth. It was my heart in that box.
The piece of me I always forgot to pack when I ran.