She never saw it coming. The day had begun in the most ordinary way. She, wrapped in her favorite chenille robe, was reading the Times on her laptop. He, already dressed in business casual, tapped out an email on his Blackberry as he sipped the coffee in his to-go mug. A dog barked in the distance. Something was nagging at a corner of her mind. Something she had to do. The wind was whistling around the corners of buildings as she walked the two blocks from the BART station to her office. Odd for May in this usually benign climate. The light was a little off, too. It should be brighter at this hour. She shivered a little, not from the cold but from the strangeness. Everything just a millimeter off, even the building where she had worked for ten years. Wasn’t that revolving door going in the other direction yesterday and all the days before that? And when did they change the lettering above the canopy? She could have sworn the letters had serifs the last time she looked at it.
Entering the building, she fumbled in her bag for her employee badge. It was not exactly where she always kept it but she found it before she had to use it to get through the secure door. Standing in the crowded elevator, she checked her schedule for the day. Whatever she thought she needed to do was not there – just regular meetings, nothing in the afternoon.
The morning came and went. Nothing unusual. Lunch, a salad at her desk. The receptionist buzzed her intercom. “Rose, there’s a package for you at the front desk. Happy birthday – I didn’t realize it was today.” Was it today? She glanced at her smartphone. Of course. Her fortieth birthday. Something special about that, certainly. She got up slowly and walked to the receptionist’s desk on the fortieth floor. There was a large package and a beautiful arrangement of flowers with her name on it. She brought them back to her office. The package was heavy. She opened it. A bottle of Opus One from the Napa Valley with an opener and an elegant wineglass. A very good, very expensive wine. No card. Normally, it would never have occurred to her to drink at work, but today was different. She got up and closed her door.
The wine was a beautiful deep red. She admired the color as she swirled it, looking through the glass at the shimmering light from her window overlooking the Bay Bridge. “To me,” she whispered as she drank. She turned to the flowers. Red roses. Like her name. From him? There was a cream-colored envelope tucked into the arrangement. As she reached for it, she pricked her finger on a thorn. She opened the envelope. A drop of her blood spilled onto the enclosed card. She blotted it and read the simple words. “It’s time. The extension is over.” She got up slowly, opened the window and stepped out into the waiting vehicle.