Drops of Red

The following piece was presented at Jersey City Writers’ genre event – The Horror of Love. Please enjoy.

The day had been ordinary until she came home to find her door ajar. Every shadow she’d barely noticed on her way up the sidewalk suddenly looked menacing, and the moon’s cool light turned to steel. A sliver of yellow light spilled onto the doormat, which grinned up at her with its perpetually chipper message.
Someone was inside. And she knew who it was—and why he’d come.
He’d tried to warn her of what he would do, and she should have listened. But it had all been too terrifying, too unreal, to even consider. So she’d feigned ignorance and prayed that his intentions would dissolve like mist. Looking back, that was an incredibly foolish thing to do, but she hadn’t known how to stop him without losing everything she’d worked so hard to cultivate. So she’d let him get close—too close.
Pulling the phone from the pocket, she double-checked the date. White numbers against a black background confirmed what she’d already known. One year had passed since their first encounter. And now, he was following through on his words of promise.
She thought about running. If she turned around now, she could flee to a friend’s place and spend the night there. But she would only be delaying the inevitable. If he missed her this time, he’d surely try again.
She had to confront him.
She sucked in a breath and willed her frozen muscles to move. The door creaked as it swung open, revealing the drops of red he’d left scattered across the floor. They formed an ominous trail across the foyer and down the hallway, leading toward the dining room.
It was worse than she’d thought. She closed her eyes, breathing deeply in an attempt to calm her quickening pulse. There was still time to run, but he would have heard her enter. He might pursue her, and that would make things so much worse.
Opening her eyes, she forced herself to follow the trail he’d left for her. The sight of so much red unnerved her, and she could sense it sticking to the soles of her shoes.
Dim light flickered from the open doorway to the dining room. Though she couldn’t yet see what lay inside, she could sense him lurking.
Stay calm, she told herself. She knew how to handle him; she’d been doing so for the past year, after all. In a way, she’d let this happen by laughing off his warnings and refusing to confront him before, thereby letting his assumptions grow.
Now, the inevitable was coming to pass.
Her muscles tightened with each step, until she was so tense, she was sure she’d shatter. She turned into the dining room, where the trail of red ended in a wide pool surrounding a crouched figure.
It was him.
He was staring up at her, holding the glinting metal in his hand.
This was it. She knew what was coming, what he was about to do, and it was too late to stop him.
He held up the ring and said: “Will you marry me?”

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