Halfway through the third piece of chocolate, my apartment bell rang.
Too late for a UPS delivery or for a friend to stop by.
Definitely too late for Bob (see last week’s The Wrong One...).
I hit my pink-manicured finger on the speaker and asked, “Yes?” Only it sounded more like, “Yethhh?” since I was swallowing the last bit of dark chocolate caramel.
“Sloan?” a male voice inquired. “Ms. Molly Sloan?”
I had a bad feeling about this, but I couldn’t deny the inevitable.
“That’s me!” I admitted too cheerily.
The man sighed with vigor. “Thank God. I hope I’m not too late!”
“For what?” My mouth was pressed up against the speaker and, weirdly, I felt like I was having an intimate conversation with a stranger who, somehow, I knew.
“I believe you have my suitcase,” he blurted out.
I hit the ENTER button, and with that buzz, my life became forever altered.
But of course, I didn’t know that. Instead, I ran to the brown suitcase still sitting on my bed, threw the box of candy on top of the negligee and bathrobe, zipped up the bag, and placed it on the hallway floor.
The quick knock on my front door caused me to jump. What was the matter with me? I had nothing to feel guilty about.
I wiped the lingering chocolate off my lips, revising my indignation. Well, I had little reason to feel guilty.
But when I peered through the peephole, I gasped. Then I opened the door. The man’s look was one of confusion and, perhaps, embarrassment. “Do I know you?” he asked.
Relieved that he didn’t remember, I deflected his question. “You’re carrying a brown suitcase just like mine,” I replied.
With earnest hazel eyes and lips that lifted a bit crookedly, the man explained: “I got to the baggage area late.” He carried his sincerity well on a tall cyclist’s frame that wore his khaki slacks and button-down shirt with nary a wrinkle. “This suitcase was one of the few left on the carousel. It looked exactly like the one I checked in at the airport.”
“So you flew in from Tampa also?” I tried to not appear overly curious but invited him to come inside with a swing of my hand. His eyes swiftly scanned the room: tan couch and two comfy side chairs, a tall antique bookcase stuffed with hardback books, a thriving green plant overlooking curtained windows.
“Nice place,” he said, then answered, “Yes, one-day business trip. 3D.”
“Aha,” I answered. “Visiting family. 21D.”
His booming laugh bounced against my lonely walls.
“Derek,” I said, softly.
His expression changed from blank to a dawning realization.
[Who’s Derek? The first one who guesses the right answer gets a copy of my book: The Right Wrong Man. (E-book for an outside-the-US winner.) Final installment of this flash fiction story next week…]