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Ben Sanders felt ridiculous standing at the Miller’s front door. The flowers that he had picked up for Rose were starting to wilt on top of the hot boxes of pizza. The two liter bottle of Coke was starting to slip from his hand right. Two DVD’s were balancing between the flowers and the pizza boxes. He considered ringing the doorbell a second time, but decided that it would be rude. As he shifted the soft drink to his other hand under the boxes of pizza, he heard the sound of footsteps approaching the door.
Megan threw the door open and smiled at him. “You got me flowers? Oh how sweet Benny Boo!” In one fluid motion she had the flowers in her hands and her nose buried in them. With an impish grin, she then turned to hold the door wide for him. “Come into the kitchen and I’ll put them in some water.”
Ben hesitated, his eyes on the flowers. Megan looked up at him with wide eyes. “Is something wrong?”
He gritted his teeth and shook his head, before pushing past her into the kitchen. His fingers were burning under the hot pizza. When he entered the kitchen, Rose was finishing up a load of dishes. She looked up as he set the pizza down and her smile melted the irritation out of his face. He grinned back at her feeling every bit of seventeen himself.
As Megan searched the kitchen for a vase, Ben and Rose set the table together. A few minutes later, Megan bounded upstairs with the flowers so that she could put them in her room.
“Don’t mind her.” Rose sat down at the table. “She and I both know that the flowers were meant for me.” She tilted her head and sent a teasing grin towards Ben who was pouring a glass of soda.
“Probably should have bought two bouquets. But I didn’t think about it,” muttered Ben.
“Nonsense. They’re perfect. And she’s just testing you.” Rose reached for a slice of pizza. “Of all the kids, she had the hardest time when her dad and I split up.” Rose picked at an uneven piece of the pizza crust. “When he died a month later, she was hysterical. Her older sister was a senior in high school at the time and …” Rose paused to listen for Megan’s footsteps but heard nothing. She lowered her voice to a whisper.
“Evelyn and I kept a constant watch on her. For a long time we were afraid she would try to hurt herself. I don’t know how I would have made it through that year without Evie.”
Ben wasn’t sure if she was referring to her sister Evelyn or the daughter who shared her name. He was about to ask her to clarify when the stairs began to creak as Megan came bounding back down. Ben swallowed the questions that had been building over the last few months. Rose had only divulged little snippets of her life, never going into great detail about her history. She would change the subject whenever she felt vulnerable. Now, as Megan reappeared in the kitchen, Rose began to read aloud from the DVD jackets. Both movies were new releases and she wanted Megan to choose which one they would watch.
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Ben and Rose were sitting on the couch holding hands, while Megan stretched out on the smaller sofa. She had chosen a horror movie, which surprised Rose. Megan was usually drawn to romantic comedies. For the first thirty minutes of the movie, Ben and Rose had made faces behind Megan’s back. While she had been utterly engrossed, the older couple had rolled their eyes. Rose feigned terror a few times. Eventually, however, all of them were glued to the T.V.
As the suspense mounted, Megan felt compelled to shout warnings to the heroine. “Watch out! He’s right behind you!” She leaned forward clasping her hands together. Rose and Ben leaned forward too. “He’s going to kill her! He’s really going to kill her! I can’t watch!” Rose covered her face with her hands but she peeked through her fingers.
A blood-curdling scream rose from the back of the house. Megan and Rose turned to stare at each other. “Grandma.” Megan had barely mouthed the word when the lights flickered off. The house went dark and eerily silent.