Short Story Sunday – Heart Shaped Box

Welcome to Short Story Sunday…

Back in October I posted Heart Shaped Box a fun story from Mandy White – and it was so popular that I decided to share it again (spread the love).

I’ve featured Mandy’s work before with the Jealously Game and Creepies – Twisted Tales from Beneath the Bed.

Here, for your reading pleasure (or horror),  is an exceptional and exceptionally wonderfully creepy and uncomfortable tale of romance…featured in her new anthology Dysfunctional – out now on Amazon.

Heart-Shaped Box

by Mandy White

Megan wept, curled on her side in the tightest ball she could manage. She had been curled up in the fetal position on her bed for hours – days, actually, doing nothing but cry. Barely moving except to use the bathroom and drink a bit of water. She couldn’t eat, she couldn’t sleep and the ache in her chest wouldn’t go away no matter how many painkillers she took.

So this is what a broken heart feels like.

She now understood why they called it heartbreak. What she felt was beyond sadness; it manifested as a tangible physical pain in her chest that radiated down into her belly. It was the most horrible sensation ever, and it was all HIS fault. How could he have been so cruel to her when all she had done was love him? She didn’t know where she had gone wrong. She had given him everything; waited on him hand and foot and catered to his every wish but in the end it wasn’t enough. He took her heart and tore it to shreds and then walked out the door as if the last two years had meant nothing.

She wanted to die.

If I died, you’d be sorry! You’d have to live with it for the rest of your life, knowing that YOU were the one who drove me to suicide!

Died of a broken heart.

That would show him how much she loved him.

Nobody else will ever love you the way I do! You’ll see! One day you will come crawling back to me with your heart in shreds, then you’ll know how you made me feel. And then I can kiss you better. We can heal together.

No, she would not end her life. Life was worth living as long as there was a chance of winning him back.

She would get him back.

Or die trying.

Richard had tried to leave her a few times during the last year but each time she had managed to convince him to stay. She begged and pleaded and promised to be everything he wanted in a woman but he became cold and aloof nonetheless. He didn’t want intimacy anymore. He participated in sex when she was persistent enough to make his physical urges overcome his mental reluctance but his lack of desire was clearly evident.

She was willing to accept his lack of enthusiasm in their relationship as long as he didn’t leave. They could work things out. She would make it better. She just had to make him see how much she loved him and he would know they were destined to be together.

It was the pregnancy that did it.

The one thing that should have cemented them together forever turned out to be the catalyst that ended their relationship. He was willing to stay for the sake of the baby. He even agreed to marry her after much pleading and cajoling on her part.

It would be the perfect wedding. She had already chosen her dress – a high-waisted design that would look stunning even with the bulge in her belly. She booked the church and hired the caterer and sent out invitations. It would be the beautiful fairytale wedding she had always dreamed of. Afterward, he would take her in his arms and carry her over the threshold and make love to her, tenderly and passionately the way a husband should. Their life together would be picture-perfect.

There was just one small detail.

She wasn’t pregnant.

Megan had thought she was pregnant, without a doubt. Even though the pregnancy tests (three of them, to be exact) were negative, she figured that it was just too early. She experienced all the symptoms – the missed period, tender breasts, bloated belly and irritability. She even felt sick in the mornings. When her period arrived late, it was easy to hide it from him since he showed no interest in her physically. Since their engagement Richard had become even more distant, never meeting her eyes and only speaking to her when it was absolutely necessary.

The pregnancy was a false alarm – just a bad case of PMS – but it didn’t matter. She would be pregnant by the time they got married; she would make sure of it.

She managed to convince him to have sex once during the following month but it did not result in pregnancy. Panicked, she redoubled her efforts to seduce him but it seemed like the harder she tried the less receptive he became. Eventually he couldn’t even sustain an erection long enough to finish.

Four months passed. Then five and still she wasn’t pregnant. She faked the symptoms, pretending to get sick in the mornings and eating like a horse so she would gain some girth and appear pregnant. The wedding was just six weeks away and she only needed to keep up her charade until after the minister declared them to be husband and wife. After that, she could fake a miscarriage and he would be there to comfort her and they could try again to start a family.

She began to wear padding under her clothing to keep up appearances so she would have the appropriate look under her wedding dress.

She didn’t hear him come into the house that day.

He had been moving around the house like a ghost lately with a faraway look in his eyes, never speaking unless spoken to. On that particular day, he came home from work early and she wasn’t expecting him. She was in the bedroom, in front of the mirror; trying on the next size of pillow she was going to bind to her belly to make it look thicker.

She had no idea how long he was standing there, watching her in silence.

He said nothing.

He refused to speak to her, no matter how she cried and pleaded. He started packing immediately and left that night, taking only the bare necessities and leaving everything else behind. She clung to his leg, begging him to stay but he peeled her off of him in disgust. He walked out of her life without giving a second thought to their future together, leaving her blubbering on the floor in a pool of tears.

Megan was not only heartbroken; she was humiliated. He told his family and all of their friends about her deceit and his reason for leaving. Nobody would speak to her.

She was alone.

* * *

A year later, Megan still sobbed herself to sleep but not as often. The pain in her chest had diminished to a dull ache but it never went away altogether. They said time heals all wounds but she knew that in her case it wouldn’t. She still loved Richard heart and soul and would never stop. They were meant to be together. He was hers and no amount of time or distance would ever change that.

She wasted her Saturday afternoons wandering aimlessly through the mall, gazing at the gowns in the bridal shop, the sexy lingerie in Victoria’s Secret and the endless displays of adorable children’s clothing. From infant to toddler to preschooler… there were too many cute outfits to choose from. She should have been buying clothing for her own child – for their child. Instead, she could only look, and dream.

She wandered toward the food court to feed her craving for sweets. She had been living on junk food lately and had gained a considerable amount of weight. It didn’t matter, because she had nobody to stay thin for. At that moment, Cinnabon was calling her.

A baby stroller blocked her path as she navigated through the tables to get to the food counters. She edged around it, pausing for a moment to admire the infant, a little girl about three months old, dressed in an adorable pink outfit. The parents, deeply engrossed in conversation, giggled and shared an intimate kiss.

Megan froze.

No.

It couldn’t be!

It was him. Richard.

Her Richard.

Judging from the age of the infant in the stroller, he hadn’t wasted any time after leaving her. He might have already been seeing that woman behind her back! That would explain his lack of interest in Megan. The slut had already tired him out before he got home.

Rage boiled over inside her when she saw that the bitch wore an engagement ring – a large, stunning diamond solitaire. Much more spectacular than the shitty little band he had grudgingly given her.

“YOU BASTARD!” Megan roared, sweeping the food and beverages off the table onto the couple’s laps.

“YOU DIRTY CHEATING MOTHERFUCKER!”

“Richard?” the woman said, her voice shaking as she protectively pulled the baby stroller closer to her.

“You stay out of it, slut! I’m talking to my husband. You’ve done enough already!”

Richard finally spoke up. “Get the hell away from my family, you crazy bitch.”

“YOUR family? YOUR family?” Megan sputtered. “What about OUR family? The one you couldn’t even give me because your dick was always limp!”

“I never wanted you, Megan. I never loved you. You were a mistake. The biggest mistake I ever made.” Richard’s tone was calm. He spoke the words without emotion. How could he not feel anything after sharing his life with her for two years?

Richard’s bitch had taken her child and moved away from the table. She was talking to the clerk at Cinnabon and a security guard was already making his way toward them.

“You think you’ll be happy with her?” Megan yelled. “She’s nothing! You and ME! WE were meant to be together! Nobody will love you the way I do. Nobody!

The security guard stepped between them.

“I’ll have to ask you to move away, ma’am. Leave these people alone.”

“Fuck you!” she spat, leaning around the uniformed man to make eye contact with Richard once more.

“You can’t escape fate, Richard. You’re mine! One day you’ll come crawling back. You love me. I know you do.”

Two more security guards came from behind and took her arms, leading her away from the food court. They demanded that she leave at once or the police would be called.

Megan left. She had said her piece.

Richard knew the truth.

She would make him see the truth.

* * *

Megan had newfound energy. It was as if her outburst with Richard had broken her free from the shackles of depression and given her a new purpose in life. Richard was her purpose and she fixated on him like never before. She had seen what their life would look like. She just needed to take the place of the baby-making whore in the food court and everything would be perfect again.

She would win him back. His heart had always been hers; he just didn’t realize it yet.

Having been banned from the local mall, Megan’s Saturday shopping trip took her to the streets and a new neighborhood where she had never been before. Her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder often prevented her from visiting new places because OCD made it very difficult to deviate from an established routine. Occasionally, change was forced and this time she found it refreshing instead of disturbing. Her therapist, whom she hadn’t seen in more than five years, would have called it ‘a positive step’.

The buildings were old; many of them made from weathered red bricks. It was a nice change of pace from the icy-smooth grey concrete of downtown. The new neighborhood featured a wealth of second-hand stores, a few hippie shops selling bongs and other paraphernalia and some dusty-looking used bookstores. It was in one of these bookstores that she found it.

The tattered brown binding of the book caught her eye for some reason and immediately she reached for it.

The Joy of Spellcasting.

She chuckled to herself.

Kind of cheesy, she thought. It sounded like a cookbook. Why not? It could be fun. Megan purchased the book placed it in her bag. Her step had a new spring to it on the way home.

She opened the book to the table of contents and quickly found what she was looking for.

Love Spells – page 131.

Something was handwritten at the bottom of the yellowed page. The ink had blurred over time but it was still legible. Megan held it up to the light to make out the words.

“Be warned, ye who goest here. Think ye long on what thou desirest. The spells contained within be those most powerful. What thou desirest, thou shalt receive.”

Megan smirked. It sounded like something out of a low-budget after-school Halloween special.

Good to know. Let’s see if it’s true.

She turned to page 131 and began to read.

There were several love spells and potions but most of them looked complicated. They contained ingredients she had never heard of and took too long to yield results. They ranged anywhere from six months to three years to complete a spell. Megan wanted results now.

She settled on the One Moon Love Charm. It claimed to return a lost love in one month and she had all the ingredients to make it work:

A container made from wood or metal.

A likeness of your lost love. OR

An object belonging to your lost love, OR

A sample of your loved one’s blood or flesh.

Write on a piece of parchment exactly what you desire.

Seal with your own blood or flesh to bond with your lover’s flesh for all eternity.

Bury the container three feet deep in dark soil under the light of the full moon.

Stand over the burial site and turn around three times and then say the incantation every night for one month. When the moon reaches its next fullness, the object of your desire will come to you.

Megan selected a heart-shaped wooden jewelry box Richard had given her when they first started dating – back when he still knew he loved her. The box held no jewelry except for the engagement ring she no longer wore. She had been using it to store her favorite photos of Richard, all carefully cropped with a pair of scissors to a heart shape.

A likeness of your lost love.

What better likeness than an actual photo? She left all of the photos in the box.

OR an object belonging to your lost love.

That was easy, since Richard had left most of his belongings behind when he left, so why not add that as well? She selected a watch she had bought him for Christmas that he always seemed to forget to wear and his razor, which he had left in the bathroom.

OR a sample of your loved one’s blood or flesh.

Technically, the razor already had that covered, since it contained beard stubble and no doubt skin cells as well. She wanted to add as much punch to the spell as possible. More would be better, right? She cleaned the bathtub drain, finding a slimy hairball made up of both his hair and hers. That covered both samples of their flesh.

On a plain white piece of paper, she wrote the words she had chosen:

Richard Cole, I desire your heart and nothing else.”

She folded it carefully and placed it in the box.

She sliced her index finger with a razor blade and let the blood flow freely over the contents of the jewelry box.

Under the full moon she stood, on the fresh mound of dirt beneath which the box was buried. She turned around three times and then recited the incantation, which she had memorized:

“By the Earth below and the moon above,

You will be my one true love.

Bound in blood and sealed in Earth,

Waiting for our love’s new birth.

Empowered by the Law of Three,

Richard’s heart will come to me.

Three times Three.

So mote it be.”

She repeated the incantation two more times just for good measure. If the Law of Three was a real thing, then it made sense to do everything three times to amplify the power threefold.

The following night she repeated the ritual, chanting the incantation three times. After a pause, she recited it three times more.

She couldn’t stop the pattern once it had begun. Richard had hated her OCD but it was one of the things that made her organized and precise in everything she did. Every night she added three more repetitions to the incantation. When she reached the 29th night she recited it a total of 87 times. When she went to bed at night, the rhyme played over and over inside her head until she fell asleep.

The moon had reached the first day of its three days of fullness. It would be at its fullest the following night. Megan snuggled happily into her bed, confident that Richard would be with her soon.

* * *

“Jenkins! Get in here! You gotta see this!” Ralph Anderson shouted to his assistant.

Jenkins wandered through the double doors of the morgue, stuffing the remains of a tuna sandwich into his mouth.

“I’m still on break. Couldn’t you have waited another ten minutes?”

“No, I need you to see this. You gotta tell me I’m not crazy.”

Jenkins approached the table where his superior was conducting a routine autopsy. The ribcage was splayed open, revealing the inside of the stiff’s chest.

“So what’s the deal? You find an alien in there? Looks pretty normal to me.”

“Look again. Tell me what you see. More specifically, what’s missing?”

Jenkins leaned over the corpse to take a closer look, licking mayonnaise off of his fingertips.

“Yeah, so it looks like you’ve already removed the heart, and—”

“But I haven’t,” Anderson said, almost in a whisper.

“Sure you have. It’s not in there.” Jenkins looked around at the empty stainless steel trays that surrounded the autopsy table. “So, where’d ya put it?’

“I’m telling you, it wasn’t in there when we got him.”

“So, what is this then, a serial killer case?”

“No. Probable heart attack. Sudden death, cause unknown.”

“So, where’s the heart?”

“That is the question, isn’t it? There was no incision in the body, no sign of hemorrhage inside. It’s just… missing.”

“We gonna record this?”

“Who’s gonna believe us? I’m closing him back up and labelling him a coronary.”

* * *

Megan woke the morning of the thirtieth day, feeling well rested and energized. Today, Richard would return. She would take a nice long bath and put on something pretty and fix him a nice dinner. It would be the perfect day – one for which she had worked very diligently.

She stretched and yawned, rolling over to caress the pillow where Richard would lay his head that night.

Her hand touched something wet.

Something rounded, about the size of her fist.

It was warm, and pulsed with a steady, rhythmic beat.

___________________________________________________________________

Links to Dysfunctional and Other Books by Mandy White

Horror and Thrillers:

Dysfunctional

A Feast Not So Fancy

Avenging Annabelle

 

Creepies – Twisted Tales from Beneath the Bed (Horror Anthology from the WPAD Group)

Nocturnal Desires  (Erotica Anthology from the WPAD Group)

Non-Fiction

Jealously Game

Happy reading and keep checking back to Vampire Maman for more GREAT reading suggestions!

And to my extra special blogging friends…if you have written a short story (any kind – romance, literature, horror, fantasy, adventure, YA, kids, anything) and would like for me to consider posting it on Short Story Sunday, contact me at juliettevampiremom@gmail.com

And remember I just do this for fun. Nobody is getting paid anything (but I’ll add a link to your blog if you want)

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman