Alone in her flat early Monday morning, Marie surveyed the cramped parlor, the tiny water closet, and the kitchen alcove. She even opened the counter-high icebox, though she wasn’t sure what she expected to find inside.
In her bedroom, a thick pair of woolen socks lay on the floor where she had dropped them, and the bedding appeared undisturbed. Except for the droop of de la Rivera’s wilting roses, everything was as she had left it.
Holding her breath, she opened the wardrobe.
If Frost hadn’t told her he had been there . . . even his jacket appeared untouched. She removed it from the hanger and buried her face in the lining, inhaling deeply to detect any hint of his recent presence. But the scent of his aftershave no longer lingered.
She plopped on the bed and checked the pockets. Empty as before. Smoothing out the material, her fingertips brushed frayed threads. About six inches of the stitching where the lining attached to the hem had been ripped apart.
She slipped her fingers inside the gap, feeling for anything that didn’t belong between the layers of leather and lining. But whatever secrets the jacket concealed were gone.
Her heart pounded against her chest as harsh truth assaulted her. Whatever Frost had taken must have been important. But what could it have been?
She hugged the jacket and collapsed onto the bed, her mind racing to make sense of Frost’s actions. He didn’t need to leave the jacket. He didn’t need to meet her in the alley. But he did, and he had. Why?
Facts. What were the facts?
Something secret had been hidden in the lining.
Frost broke into her flat to retrieve the secret.
He left the jacket behind.
He found her at Smokey Joe’s.
He told her where he had been.
He hadn’t harmed her. He hadn’t threatened her.
She squeezed her eyes shut as another fact added itself to her list.
He knew she wouldn’t tell.
An involuntary groan escaped from deep inside her. She was a trained operative, working for the Allies on an important mission for a major operation that could change the course of this war. Her duty, her obligation, was to follow orders. Colin’s orders. Orders she had disobeyed.
As she clutched the jacket, Frost’s words echoed in her heart: A warm memory in the midst of a cold, barren time.
He trusted her, but could she trust him? Which side held his allegiance?
Marie glanced at her watch. Dress rehearsals began today, and she needed to be at the theatre early for a final fitting of her costume. Hanging the jacket back in the wardrobe, she carried the vase of neglected roses to the kitchen counter.
She gingerly grasped the thorny bouquet and lifted it from the vase. Velvety petals drifted from their stems to the counter. Usually, she avoided throwing away flowers as the poignancy of their transitory beauty saddened her. But roses from Hector were only a reminder of times she’d rather forget.
Just as she was about to toss the bouquet into the dust bin, she caught herself. One, two, three . . . she counted the wilting buds.
She counted again. Still eleven.
But Hector always sent a dozen roses.
The corners of her mouth tilted up.
On an impulse, she pulled a baking sheet out of the oven drawer and covered it with a couple of cloth napkins. Then she sprinkled a single layer of the white petals on the napkins to dry. Frost must have taken the twelfth rose. Knowing that transformed the others into a treasured memento.
She’d think about the jacket later.
Christian Fiction Friday is a weekly blog hop where authors post snippets from their current works in progress. It is hosted by Alana Terry and Hallee Bridgeman. Click here for a full list of rules and suggestions.