Paper Trail

“Don’t forget to buy milk.”

This was the third sticky note I’d found this week, this one on the refrigerator door. It was half past six in the morning, and I’d gone downstairs to put some coffee on to brew. My husband John was due to wake any minute now, but I figured he’d written the note the night prior, probably after his late night snack. I thought about sticking this note to his forehead and giving him a taste of his own medicine. What good-for-nothing husband can’t tell his wife in person that we were running out of milk? Instead, I tore it up and tossed the pieces into the trash can. I was on a time crunch anyway. Soon, the kids would have to get up and et ready for school, and my friend Janette would be coming over to help me finish my presentation for tomorrow’s meeting. As I prepared the coffee however, I couldn’t help but glance nervously around the kitchen occasionally, my gaze always landing on the fridge last.

The first note came on Monday afternoon. I’d just returned from running errands. The sticky note was found on the garage door opener next to the door that led into the house.

“Call the principal at Olivias school. There’s been an accident.”

I stumbbled through the door, threw down my purse and bags of groceries and frantically searched for the school’s contact on my phone. With shaking hands, I held the phone to my ear, pacing around the den. There had indeed been an accident. Olivia had tripped and fallen on the school’s front steps while on a walk with her class. Relief replaced my initial anxiety about the note to hear that she was only bruised, and would be feeling better within a few days. I questioned the origin of the note throughout the day, even going to the point to ask my husband if he’d somehow been home during his lunch break and left the note for me. He of course denied it, but we were so focused on trying to console Olivia that we easily forgot about it.

The second note came on Wednesday morning, when I briefly stepped out to water the plants. I sat down in the family room to watch TV, and thats when I saw it, a light green sticky note just like the first one, sticking to one of the phone books on our coffee table.

“Order some flowers for Mrs Gensen. Her husband passed away last night.”

Once a week, I volunteer at our local hospital, visiting sick patients who just needed a little cheering up or someone to talk to. Tom Gensen ha been complaining of severe abdomenal pain, and was due to undergo a procedure. The nature of this treatment wasn’t known to me for obvious reasons, but while he slept, I’d often talk to his anxious wife who was having a hard time dealing with this alone. Knowing the hospital probably wouldn’t tell me if I called to inquire about Tom’s condition, I’d opted to order flowers just in case. Again, I asked John about the note, wondering if he’d intercepted a call from the hospital at some point, but he said He never took a call, and he couldn’t have written he note because he was at work when I found it. I knew he was right. I was supposed to be the only one in the house. I tried to put the note behind me as I went about my day, but it gnawed at my brain like an itch I couldn’t scratch. Sure enough, Tom Gensen had died during his surgery, and the flowers were just what I needed to help comfort his grieving wife.

Fastforward to this morning, a cold and rainy Friday, and that stupid that stupid milk note was just what I fucking needed. Reaching for the milk to pour some in my coffee, I noticed that we were indeed running low. I became furious again and decided this time I’d let John have it. He had to be writing these notes. It must be him!

I hesitated however, as his foot falls were heard descending the stairs. The first two notes I’d torn up, not thinking he’d need to see them because I assumed he’d written the notes. I slapped myself for being such an idiot and ripping this third one up. I could have shown it to him and demanded an answer.

“Morning, Beverly,” John said in his usual cheerful voice after kissing me and reaching for a coffee mug on the shelf.

“We’re low on milk,” I said flatly, just to gauge his reaction. He pulled the almost empty gallon from the ffridge and nodded.

“I see that.” He smiled. “Don’t worry about it. I know you have a big presentation coming up. I’ll go to the store after work.”

Well… that was odd. If he’d been the one to write the note, he would have acknowledged it before having to open the fridge to check it out for himself. Or, was that just an act?

“John, if we’re low on milk, just tell me. You don’t need to put a note on the fridge.” Then, with a warm smile so I wouldn’t come off as bitchy, I added, “I’m sure I’m smart enough to know when the ilk supply is low.”

John looked up from pouring his coffee, a puzzled expression on his face. “Note? Honey, I didn’t write a note. I didn’t even realize we were low on milk until you just mentioned it.”

I didn’t buy it, but decided not to protest any further. We sat down and enjoyed our coffee, going over our plans for the day. He was actually starting to become concerned about me. My repeated anxious glances around the room didn’t go unnoticed. He kept asking me if I was ok, but I told him it was the stress of the upcoming project, plus the death of Tom Gensen. He seemed satisfied with that explanation, and was soon on his way to work. I continued with my morning ritual of getting the kids ready and preparing for the presentation.

I’d just pulled into the garage after picking the kids up from school, when my phone rang. It was my friend Kelly, with good news about her archaeology courses. Her professor had asked her to come to Costa Rica with him, and she’d delightedly accepted his offer.

“I can’t believe it!” She was practically beaming from ear to ear. I heard the brightness in her voice. “I’m going to Costa Rica! Oh, and I have a great idea. the professor said I could take one companion with me so I don’t have to stay there alone.”

“That’s great,” I said. “I think Mrs. Larson from the book club might enjoy it. She’s totally into the stuff you’re doing.”

“Bevie…” She sighed. “Mrs. Larson broke her hip, remember? Besides, I didn’t have her first in mind. I want you to come with me.”

“Oh, Kelly, that’s awful sweet of you, but no thank you. I’ve got the kids, and John can’t take offf time from work. I don’t think I can get anyone to manage things while I’m gone. Thanks for thinking of me, though. Have a great time, and stay safe.”

“Couldnt you get your sister to come down and hold down the fort for a while? Well, I’ll leave the offer on the table in case you change your mind. I’ll need an answer by next Friday.”

I told her I’d think about it, all the while knowing it was still going to be a no. I briefly entertained the idea that I should run it by John and see what he thought, but it slipped my mind as I became distracted with my usual duties. After finishing the dishes from dinner, I told John and the kids that I was going upstairs to lay down for a while. I flicked on the light in the master bedroom, and that’s when I saw it.

“You should really consider taking Kelly up on her offer.”

There it was, that same damn light fucking green sticky note, right on my pillow of all places! At least I knew this time that John hadn’t written the note. What the fuck was I going to do now?

Thank you for visiting. be safe and healthy. Warmest regards, Elena Waverly