Over the course of the past couple of weeks, Lexie Foster had the distinct feeling someone was watching her. She could feel their eyes following her every move. Street lights brightly lit both the street and sidewalk in her residential neighborhood, giving one a sense of security if they had to be out after the sun went down. She had walked this way home for the past twenty-two years without any trouble. Yet tonight, as rain drizzled down softly from a starless sky, she didn’t feel safe at all – she felt…vulnerable. She picked up her pace; her porch light came into view.
Houses along this street weren’t million dollar mansions but they weren’t cookie cutter homes either. Each home had a good sized yard framed in hedges. She had always liked the hedges but tonight they looked dangerous as they cast shadows on the walk. Who might be hiding behind them? She wondered.
She knew she sounded paranoid when she had told a friend at work about her fears. Still, she didn’t believe she was imagining that tingling sensation on the back of her neck whenever she was out and about. Besides, there were other things too.
It started last Sunday afternoon with hang-ups. One or two might be explained away but whoever it was called her number every six hours like clockwork. No one spoke but she felt there was someone there, listening.
Monday the calls came every five hours apart which was creepy enough but then there was also the matter of the funeral arrangement left on her front porch – white lilies with a preprinted card that read “with sympathy.” Had some florist delivered them to her door by accident? It was possible but there wasn’t a florist stamp anywhere on the card leaving her no one to call to inquire who the flowers were meant for.
Tuesday the calls came every four hours, Wednesday every three, Thursday every two and Friday the phone rang every hour on the dot. Lilies were left on her doorstep every night with the same preprinted card. It was creepy to her but her friends told her it was no doubt a secret admirer. They seemed to think it was quite charming.
Lexie reached her gate with both a feeling of relief and dread. Hesitantly she climbed the stairs to the porch but there was nothing there – no lilies. Today, Saturday, the phone calls had stopped and now there weren’t flowers either. Lexie let her purse drop to the floor as she sagged down on the porch swing to digest this new development.
She never felt she was one to scare easily; she was level-headed, holding down a great job at the library and attended church regularly. Having never married, she was free to volunteer at the soup kitchen and participate in the “Big Brothers, Big Sisters” programs her church sponsored. She didn’t make things up, wasn’t given to fits of fancy and had not a single theatrical bone in her body.
All week the calls seemed like a countdown, to what she wasn’t sure but felt it couldn’t be good. Now everything had stopped but she didn’t feel relieved.
“What if today is the day?” she wondered out loud figuring no one would be listening at this hour and thus think her off her rocker for talking to herself. A quick glance at her watch confirmed it was 10:30 pm – no doubt everyone was inside sleeping or watching the Late Night Show.
Coming to no viable explanation, she sighed heavily heaving herself off the swing. Nothing appeared amiss and the longer she stood here bathed in the glow of the porch light the more vulnerable she felt. Torn between going into her dark house and going back the four blocks to the church to talk to Father Michaels, she stood there for a moment longer.
Lexie chiding herself softly for her paranoia, she picked up her purse and dug for the keys. She was just about to stick the house key in the lock when she froze. Hadn’t she left the hall light on when she left this morning? She was sure she had because she knew she’d be getting home late tonight. One glance at the door window confirmed the hallway light was as dark as the rest of the house.
With a squeal she ran down the stairs and out into the lit street. She’d run back to the church and use their phone to call 911, she decided as she fled in that direction. Someone was in her house, someone had been waiting for her to come home, someone had something bad planned for her, she could feel it. Her chest hurt from the exertion as she passed the “First Church United” sign by the driveway of the white steeple church.
“Safe!” She choked out as if she had just passed home base in a baseball game. Stiffly she walked to the front stairs of the church. She had a key due to the charity work she did. She fumbled in her purse for them as she walked to the door stepping on the “Welcome” mat she had just straightened on her way out twenty minutes ago. Her foot nudged something in her path, flustered she looked over the purse she was still fighting with for the key and froze.
It can’t be! It is impossible! Her mind screamed as her gaze fell on the funeral arrangement of white lilies. She felt her knees giving out, opened her moth to scream but no sound came out before the black gloved hand clamped over it. Nausea, followed by the dizzying sensation she was falling was all that registered before everything in her world went dark.