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through the curtains and through the door

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The flowers were found on the doorsteps in the morning. There were lilacs, petunias, and pansies arranged in a beautiful bouquet, a bright patch of colour on the concrete steps. The small card nestled in the stems was covered in looping cursive handwriting. The sender was anonymous, just like it always was. Just like it had been for the last three weeks. 


“Again?” Cameron asked, wrinkling his nose at it. “That’s the second time this week. Don’t they ever get tired?” 


“I think it’s kind of sweet,” Mitchell replied, admiring his name written in the beautiful writing. He held the bouquet in his arms tightly. “I don’t think they know I’m married.” 


“Yeah, because best friends move in together and adopt a child all the time,” Cameron said sarcastically. He moved into the kitchen like he was done with the conversation and Mitchell followed him, an amused smile on his lips. 


“Is that jealousy I sense? Don’t worry Cam, I’m still all yours.” 


“I’m not jealous because of that,” Cameron shot back. “I know that already. I just don't know why they focus on you when I live here too.” 


“Wow, okay Cam,” Mitchell laughed. “You’re really upset because someone won’t send you flowers? Here.” He reached into his own bouquet and withdrew a single pink petunia. He presented it to Cameron with a cheeky bow, holding it out for him to take. “There you are.” 


“Aw,” Cameron smiled, admiring it. He leaned over and kissed his husband on the cheek, his previous anger forgotten. “How sweet of you.” 


“Yeah I am pretty great,” Mitchell replied, doing a little wiggle. 


“Okay, try and stay humble, nobody likes someone who brags,” Cameron muttered, patting his husband's back gently. He walked past Mitchell into the living room to get ready for football practice that morning with the team. Mitchell watched him leave in disbelief. 


“Cam, you brag all the time,” he yelled after his retreating back, but Cameron pointedly didn’t look back. Mitchell rolled his eyes, then turned his gaze back to the bouquet in his arms. He allowed himself a small, secret smile before getting ready for work. 

“Damn,” Claire whistled, holding a glass of wine in her hands, her second one already that night. “They really have it bad for you huh?” 


Mitchell was over at his sisters house at their annual gossip session. Cameron would usually be with them, but this time he was in the other room, most likely annoying Jay and Phil while watching the football game. Mitchell was just telling her about the bouquets that had been showing up nearly everyday for the last few weeks. 


“I don’t even know who they are,” Mitchell said, taking a sip of his drink. “But they know me. How did they know tulips were my favourite flower?” 


“I’m sure they were just guessing,” Claire replied. “But lucky you. I would kill to have someone bring me flowers everyday.” She leaned in close, speaking softly. “Phil used to, but he barely remembers anymore. It’s like they always say, the magic is just gone.” 


“I don’t know Claire,” Mitchell said, brushing his finger along the rim of his glass. “It’s getting kind of creepy if I’m being honest. They should know I’m married by now.” 


“Mitchell Mitchell,” Claire said, shaking her head, sounding disappointed. She grabbed his hands tightly and Mitchell looked at her weird. “Someone likes you so much that they leave flowers everyday. When was the last time Cam did that?” 


“Uhm, I don’t remember but-” 


“That’s just it,” Claire laughed and Mitchell wondered if she was a little drunk. “Savour this. You don’t have to do anything, and the admirer will give up eventually. You’re not harming anyone by enjoying this.” 


Mitchell contemplated it. “You don’t think it’s cheating in some way?” 


“No. Sometimes I go to the grocery store and do some harmless flirting, but I’ll never actually do something. Nothing is going to happen Mitchell. Just enjoy the flowers while they last.” 


“You’re right,” Mitchell said, shaking his head. “This isn’t going to last long. It’s not wrong that I enjoy it.” He smiled at her, like he was sharing some dark secret. “It is kind of nice to have an admirer.” 


“I hear that,” Claire laughed, clinking her glass with his and drinking. From the other room they could hear the laughter of the others, and they smiled at each other, happy they were in the company of family. 

Mitchell drove on the highway, waiting impatiently for his dad to pick up his phone. The ringing filled the car and Mitchell tapped the steering wheel anxiously. The phone clicked and at last he could hear his dad's voice on the other end. 


“Mitchell! What do you need?” his dad asked, sounding even gruffer through the phone. Mitchell didn’t even think that was possible for him. 


“Hey dad, I’m just heading to work right now, but I just called to say that me and Cameron won’t be coming to dinner tonight. We got other plans.” 


“What could be more important than family dinner Mitchell?” 


Mitchell licked his lips, suddenly nervous at his dad’s accusing tone. The silence filled the car until it was almost unbearable and he had to say something. 


“A Taylor Swift concert,” he said, before leaping in to defend himself. He knew his dad wouldn’t be proud of him and even in his thirties he felt the need to prove himself to him. It was pathetic, even he knew it. “We got tickets a few weeks ago and we’ve been looking forward to this for so long. Lily is heading to Pepper’s and we’ll have the night to ourselves for the first time in forever.” 


“For God's sake Mitchell,” Jay muttered. “Could it kill you to go to a rock concert every once in a while?” 


“Well, if that was the music I enjoyed, then sure,” Mitchell said sarcastically. “Honestly dad, why do you even care?” 


Jay sighed through the phone, seemingly done with the conversation. “Do whatever you want,” he sighed. “You don’t need to bring me anything back.” 


“It’s not like I was going to anyway.” 


The line went silent. Neither of them knew what else to say to each other. Mitchell could see his workplace coming up in the distance and started to turn into the lane. It would only be a few more seconds and he’d be there. 


“Are you still getting those flowers?” Jay asked after a minute of quiet. “Claire told me what was happening.” 


Mitchell pulled into the parking lot of his workplace. He put the car in park and sat for a few seconds to finish up the phone call. “Yeah dad, I got some this morning.” 


It was a bouquet of daisies and daffodils. There was no note this time, but Mitchell already knew who sent them. It wasn’t that hard to deduce, especially not after their living room was full of flowers from the same person everyday. 


“Be careful Mitchell, you don’t know who’s sending those.” 


“I think I can handle it dad, though thanks for your concern. I need to go now, I’m at work.” 


“Goodbye,” his dad said, and Mitchell repeated the phrase, then hung up the phone, sighing loudly. He shut off the car and grabbed his briefcase, getting ready for work. He had a big case to work on and it would take at least a month to complete. But it was important that he got it done soon before his boss started breathing down his neck for the paperwork. He loved his job, but sometimes it was really tiring. 


He entered the building to a flurry of whispers and side glances his way. He was clearly the subject of some kind of gossip. He looked around curiously, wondering what he had done or if something was on his shirt. He looked down self consciously, finding nothing wrong with his outfit. 


“Mitchell,” Ethan said, running up to him excitedly and Mitchell blinked. He barely even knew the man. “You’re a lucky man. I wish I married someone that romantic. I can’t remember the last time my wife got me flowers. Or if she ever.” 


Mitchell looked at him in confusion. “What are you talking about?” 


“Your husband!” Ethan stopped for a second, like something had just dawned to him. “I’d assume anyway.” 


“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” 


“Why don’t I just show you?”


Ethan beckoned him forward and Mitchell followed suspiciously. The rest of the office watched, gossip following them like wildfire. They went through the entire office, heading to Mitchells desk, right next to Ethan's. Every eye seemed pinned to him, like they were waiting to see what would happen. 


“There. You see?” Ethan said, pointing to Mitchells desk, smiling widely at him. “How romantic huh?” 


Mitchell didn’t think so. He looked on in horror, feeling a sense of dread fill him, like a lead weight pulling on his heart. An icy coldness filled his body, causing him to shiver in the warm office. Everyone was watching him, whispering about how romantic it was. 


A bouquet of a dozen white roses, bundled up in a bright red ribbon. There was a note next to it, written in the same flowy script Mitchell had been seeing for months, laying there like it was announcing Mitchells doom. 

Cameron watched his husband pace around the room anxiously. He rolled his eyes at him, and tried to concentrate on his book instead, but the constant movement was distracting, making it hard to concentrate. 


“How did they know where I work, Cam?” Mitchell said nervously, continuing his pacing. The two bouquets he received that day were laying limply beside each other, already dying. “Flowers at the house are fine. Flowers at work are creepy.” 


“You’ve posted where you work on Facebook right?” Cameron said, flipping the page nonchalantly. “They probably just found out from there.” 


“No,” Mitchell cried, turning to his husband. Cameron sighed and put down the book, knowing he wasn’t going to get much further with his husband's frantic energy in the room. “I only have twelve friends and my account is private.” 


“That’s kind of sad,” Cameron muttered. 


“Cam,” Mitchell yelled, throwing out his hands. “I’m freaking out right now. Would it kill you to have a little compassion?” 


“Okay honey, you need to calm down,” Cameron said, getting up and placing his hands on Mitchells shoulders, trying to be comforting. He was getting tired of Mitchell freaking out. “Why don’t you call Claire? She might have some advice for you.” 


“I’m not calling her.” Mitchell shook his head, before his eyes lit up. “But I can call Haley. Last I heard, she had at least five stalkers. She’ll know what to do.” 


He grabbed the phone and started dialling her number. He anxiously waited as the phone rang, tapping his foot against the floor. He was still reeling from the flowers at his desk, feeling the fear fill him as he realised his stalker knew where he worked. It wasn’t a good feeling to have. 


“Hello,” Haley said, and Mitchell breathed a sigh of relief. 


“Haley, hi.” 


“Oh, hey uncle Mitch,” she said happily. “What do you need? Do you need a babysitter for Lily?” 


“No, I was actually looking for you. I need some advice.” 


“Oh, is it boy trouble?” Haley said, excitedly. She collapsed into her bed, getting comfortable. “Lay it on me. You can tell me anything.” 


“It’s not that Haley,” Mitchell sighed. “I might have a stalker and I was wondering how to deal with it.” 


“I got this,” Haley promised. “I get a new one every week. So what you want to do is give them enough that they want you, but not enough that could ruin your life. Next time you're changing, make sure to open the curtains a little bit. Maybe wear some sexy underwear.” She stopped for a second, sounding confused. “Do boys even have those or is it just boxers?” 


“Haley,” Mitchell said, rubbing his forehead in disappointment. “I want to know how to get rid of a stalker, not tempt one. And what the hell?” 


“Oh,” Haley said sheepishly. “I got nothing. Maybe you should talk to Alex about that. Not that she’d ever have a stalker but she’s always on that computer of her’s. She should know what to do.” 


“Thanks anyway,” Mitchell sighed. “And don’t think we won’t be talking about what you said young lady. That is dangerous.” 


“Bye-bye uncle Mitch,” she said, ignoring the last bit purposely. She hung up the phone and Mitchell sighed again. Cameron walked over, looking curious. 


“What did she say?” 


“Nothing helpful,” Mitchell muttered, putting the phone down. “What am I going to do Cam? This is starting to get scary.” 


“Okay, you know what will help you?” Cameron suggested. “A date night with your loving, wonderful husband. Maybe your stalker will see you out with me and give up.” 


Mitchell rolled his eyes. “You just want to go out don’t you?” 


“Hey now, don’t twist this,” Cameron said in a way that made Mitchell think he was right. “I’m doing this for you. In fact, I’m a little insulted that you think I have my own agenda.” 


“What about Lily?” 


“I’m sure Gloria can take her,” Cameron shrugged. “What do you say?” 


Mitchell looked at his husband's excited look, feeling the worry drain out of him. He looked down, pretending to contemplate it so Cameron won’t know how easy it was to convince him. It wouldn’t be good, giving Cameron that much power. “I suppose,” he finally said. “It won’t be too fancy though.” 


“And I’m fine with that,” Cameron laughed, tucking his arm into Mitchells and leading him to their bedroom. “We have to get ready if we’re going to leave soon.” 


Mitchell laughed, following his husband into their room. Maybe a date night would be a good idea to get his mind off things. After all, the flowers wouldn’t last forever.

It was the middle of the night and Mitchell was wide awake. His heart was racing too much. Beside him Cameron slept easily, snoring softly. Mitchell watched him, feeling too hot underneath the blanket. 


It had been two months since the flowers first appeared. They kept coming to the office, but never further than that. His coworkers said they didn’t see anyone coming in and the security cameras would go black periodically from three am to four. It was strange, considering the cameras had just been installed a few months ago. It quickly became part of his daily routine, throwing out the bouquets and notes without reading them. It had been sweet at first; now it just made him uneasy. 


His stomach grumbled loudly and he was reminded that he didn’t eat dinner. He stayed late at work, getting some extra paperwork done, and when he got back home the food was gone. Cameron hadn’t even bothered to save him a plate. 


It growled again and Mitchell sighed. He tossed off the blankets, getting out of bed. He threw on his housecoat, hoping to find something small in the kitchen. It would be good to get his mind off things anyway. 


He approached their bedroom door and opened it, yawning loudly. A flash of red went across his vision and he felt his heart stop, forcing him awake. He looked down and almost screamed. 


A single red rose sitting outside his bedroom door with a note tied to it securely. Mitchell already knew who it was from, didn't even need to guess anymore. The loopy handwriting stared back at him, almost taunting in a way. 


“Mitchell honey?” Cameron asked sleepily from the bed. “Is something wrong?” 

The police had been called as soon as Cameron realised what had happened. He talked to the operator while Mitchell comforted Lily, finding nothing wrong with her. He checked the windows and doors after, finding no tampering, so signs of forced entry. His hands shook, still in shock from the break in. 


“They said they’ll send an officer first thing tomorrow,” Cameron said, hanging up the phone and walking over to him. “They said if everything is okay here, the stalker is probably gone.” 


“Cam, that’s not good enough,” Mitchell yelled, getting up from the couch, looking nervous. Lily curled in on herself, closing her eyes. “We need one now.” 


“Mitchell,” Cameron said softly, trying to comfort his husband in a strange turn of events. Usually it was Cameron who was the emotional one who had to lean on Mitchell for support. He supposed it was his turn now to be the support for Mitchell. “I know you’re worried, I am too. But we need to think clearly.” 


“Cameron,” Mitchell snapped, eyes wild. “There was a strange person in this house. It was fine when it was outside on the sidewalk, it was fine when they were just targeting me. But they were inside the same house as Lily. What if she got hurt Cam? What would we do then?” 


Cameron licked his lips nervously. “I don’t know,” he said honestly. He grabbed Mitchells hand and held it tightly to his chest. “We can’t lose her.” 


“Exactly,” Mitchell said, before sighing. The fight seemed to drain from him and he was left feeling tired. He leaned on Cameron slightly, rubbing his eyes. “I can’t stay here tonight Cam. Maybe we should go to Claire's.” 


“That’s a good idea,” Cameron whispered, before heading over to Lily, who was sleeping on the couch. She woke up as Cameron hovered over her, shaking her gently. “Hey sweetie, do you want to go to a sleepover?” 


She nodded slightly, wrapping her hands around Cameron's neck so he could lift her. Mitchell watched the scene, trying to be happy, but it felt like there was a stone inside his stomach, heavy and cold. 


He called Claire on the way to her house. When she picked up she sounded mad about being woken up, but when Mitchell explained what had happened, she allowed them to stay over. When they got to her house, she was already waiting for them, already getting the guest bedroom set up. Haley, Alex, and Luke watched anxiously from the stairs, wondering what was happening. Mitchell could barely look at them. He didn’t want them to worry too  much. 


They went to sleep, Lily between them, the door locked tight, feeling safer now that they were far away from their own house. The bed was small so they all had to cuddle together, but it was better than being alone. 


In the morning Claire walked into the kitchen where Mitchell was sitting on the counter, sipping a cup of coffee. She wordlessly placed a bouquet of lilacs in his lap and walked away. Mitchell stared down at the flowers, feeling like he was going to throw up. There really wasn’t any place he could hide. 

Mitchell was home alone, sitting at his bed. He looked down at his hands, feeling them shake slightly. Maybe it was just his imagination, the fear tricking his brain, but he could have sworn there were eyes on his back, watching as he fiddled with his hands. He felt caged, like an animal at the zoo. He knew he was being irrational, but he hated the feeling. It was like there was something itchy on his palm. 


His phone rang and Mitchell jumped, heart racing. He rolled his eyes at himself, before reaching over and picking up the phone. 




“Hey Mitchell,” Jay said, his voice soft. “How are you holding up?” 


“Well besides a creepy stalker who has managed to get inside my house, I’m doing quite well,” he said sarcastically. The line was silent, and Mitchell sighed, already feeling bad. “I’m sorry, this has taken quite a bit out of me.” 


“I can see that,” Jay said. “Look Mitch. I’m sorry about what’s happening, you’ll get through this. And if you ever need a place to stay, our door is always open. We’re here for you, whatever you need.” 


Mitchell smiled gently. “Thanks dad, that’s really kind of you.” 


“They’ll find this person soon and arrest them,” Jay promised. “It’s just a matter of time. Then everything can go back to normal.” 


“I hope so.” 


“Well, I have to go. Gloria is making me go on this weekend trip in New York with her friends from Columbia. You say hi to Cam for me, okay? Love you.” 


“Okay dad, I love you too, bye,” Mitchell said, then hung up his phone. He sighed, collapsing down on his bed, the bed creaking under his weight. The silence seemed louder than before, the clock on their wall ticking away. Somewhere in the house, he could have sworn he heard a whirl. 


He stared up at the ceiling, feeling his heart pounding against his chest. Cameron and Lily would be home soon, coming back from grocery shopping. He would be so relieved when they finally did. He didn’t feel safe alone, like someone was watching him. 


It dawned to him, something he had learned back in school. He hopped off of his bed, running over to the curtains and shutting up completely. He closed the door and turned off the lights, before grabbing his phone. He was sure he was being paranoid, but it couldn’t hurt to check. 


He turned on his phone flashlight in the darkness and started to turn slowly, shining it over the room. The light cast shadows along the walls, and he was almost too scared to check in the closet. His mind kept creating images of reaching and feeling a warm shoulder huddled in the very back, behind the suitcases Cameron had packed for no reason. Of course there was no one there, but Mitchell could stop trembling. He remembered at the beginning, when he thought the flowers were sweet. It wasn’t anymore. 


He continued turning, the light reaching into every corner of the room. He stopped when a flash of red caught his eye, all the way by the small bookshelf. He flicked back on the bedroom lights and went to investigate. He moved aside the books and little trinkets Cameron brought back from wherever they were vacationing and there. Hidden between the pages of an unheard book, a camera. It was small, just barely the size of half his pinkie. It whirled slightly, a small red light flashing. Mitchell felt cold, almost like he was a corpse. 


He mindlessly walked into the kitchen, setting the camera down on the counter as he grabbed the kitchen phone, dialling a number. 

“Mitchell,” Cameron yelled, running into the house. Lily was holding his hand tightly, almost being dragged behind him. “Why are there cops inside of our house?” 


“I found a camera inside of our bedroom,” Mitchell said flatly, voice filled with no emotion. He shook, his body practically vibrating. “The police said it had probably been in there for at least a month.” 


“Oh my God. So that means they saw-” Cameron stopped, then covered up Lily’s ears gently. “-that one weekend?” 


“That’s what you’re worried about,” Mitchell said, rolling his eyes. “Whether or not the stalker saw us have sex. Cam, there is a camera inside our house. What if there is more? What if there is one in Lily’s bedroom?” 


Somehow that was worse than anything that had happened to Mitchell. The idea that someone had a camera in their little girls room, watching her get changed, play with her toys, and sleep filled Mitchell with disgust and anger. 


Cameron looked nervously in the direction of Lily’s room. “Did they find one?” 


“I don’t know yet,” Mitchell exploded, throwing his hands up. “They’re checking right now for anymore, but they said they couldn’t trace the source of the camera for at least a couple days.” 


“At least it’s almost over,” Cameron pointed out. Mitchell glared at him, looking cross between angry and terrified. 


“That’s not good enough,” he muttered, walking over and grabbing Lily from Camerons grasp. She went easily, looking confused about what was happening. “I’m not staying here until they get results. Me and Lily are getting a hotel, you can do whatever you want.” 


“Why don’t you stay with your dad or your sister?” Cameron asked, following Mitchell as he went into Lily’s room, bypassing some policemen working through the house. Mitchell grabbed a small bag and began tossing clothes and stuffies into it for Lily. 


“Dad is in New York and the stalker knows where Claire lives,” Mitchell said. “I’m not risking anything. Are you coming or not?” 


Cameron looked at his husband, who looked frantic, his hand moving quicker than they ever had before. He looked terrified, and Cameron couldn’t leave him alone like that, not terrified out of his mind. 


“I’ll get a suitcase from the closet,” he sighed. Mitchell barely looked up as he left the room, still packing for Lily. 

The drive to the hotel was tense. Cameron drove, not trusting Mitchell at the wheel, who was still going through shock. He looked out the window, watching the cars as they drove past. He wondered if someone in them was his stalker, wondered if he had passed them on the street before. He wondered if he actually knew their name or what they looked like, or if it was someone close to him. 


The hotel room was small, with one twin bed and one queen sized. Cameron threw their bags inside, ushering Lily into the hotel room. The window was open, revealing the dark sky outside. The sun had set only a few minutes ago, the sky turning from pink to black within seconds. 


Cameron called their family, informing them of what happened. Claire promised they would be there tomorrow, while Jay was already working on getting a flight back home, though Mitchell knew that was more of an excuse to get out of the trip. Either way, he appreciated his family's support. Everything seemed surreal to him, like it wasn’t happening. He couldn’t believe this had happened to him still. 


He wasn’t anything special; he worked a boring lawyer job, he lived in a boring house, he lived a boring life. He didn’t think he would ever get a stalker like this. It wasn’t something that happened to people like him. 


“Okay, Lily is asleep,” Cameron said, coming over to sit next to Mitchell on their bed. Lily was curled up under the blankets, looking so small and delicate. Mitchell wanted to protect her forever. “Are you doing okay?” 


“I don’t know Cam,” Mitchell said quietly. “I just wish this never happened. Stupid flowers. Stupid notes.” 


“Hey, it’ll be done soon,” Cameron promised, holding Mitchells hand tight. “They’ll find the culprit, they’ll be charged, and we can go back to normal. And in ten years we’ll laugh about this.” 


“You’re right,” Mitchell said, breathing in deeply. “This is just so tiring.” 


“I know honey,” Cameron murmured, then his eyes lit up like he had just gotten a great idea. “Do you know what will make you feel better? Alcohol.” 


“That is a fantastic idea,” Mitchell laughed, though it sounded fake to his ears, feeling Cameron slip from the bed and walk to their suitcase. He didn’t feel like being sober that night. There was too much happening. “What did you get?”


“It’s from the hotel, so it’s shit quality,” Cameron said, pulling out some bottles. “But it should be enough to get your mind off things.” 


“Thanks Cam,” Mitchell said, getting from the bed. “I’ll go get some ice for us.” He reached up into the cupboard above the small kitchen they were given with the room and pulled out the ice bucket. 


“Be back soon,” Cameron called as Mitchell stepped into the empty hallway. 


He walked over to the elevator, heading down to where the ice machine was. The ride was silent, the lack of noise pushing down on Mitchells chest, like an imaginary pressure. He gripped the bucket tight, feeling the same fear fill him as before. He tried to reassure himself that nothing would happen as he stepped out. 


He was filling up the bucket when someone cleared their throat from behind him. Mitchell jumped up and twirled around, clutching his chest, feeling his heart pound against his ribcage. He hated himself for his fear, hated the way he jumped like a scared little rabbit. 


“Whoa there,” someone laughed heartily. “I’m just here for something to drink.” 


Mitchell turned to see a large vending machine a few feet away from the ice machine. He laughed uneasily, before turning to the voice. It was an older man, about in his late fifties. His hair was peppered with grey hair and he wore a suit, something like what Jay would wear. His eyes were bright green, the only splash of colour on him. The rest was greys, blacks, and whites. His eyes watched Mitchell, looking cruelly amused. 


“Sorry about that,” Mitchell laughed awkwardly. “I’m just a little on edge. There has been this…” he trailed off, wondering why he was talking about it to a stranger. “Nevermind, it doesn’t matter.” 


The man passed by him to get to the vending machine, pushing B6 for a Pepsi. The vending machine shook, processing the command as he put in a paper bill. 


“You doing some drinking tonight?” the man asked, pointing to the bucket in Mitchells hand. Mitchell stopped shovelling ice inside it, looking at the man. 


“Yeah, me and my partner are having a rough few days,” Mitchell said nervously. There was something about the man he didn’t trust. Maybe it was the way his eyes twinkled almost unnaturally, like he was in on some sick joke no one else in the world knew about. He knew he was just being paranoid, distrustful of all those around him, but his heart was still racing in his ribcage. 


“What’s your partner's name?” 


Mitchell licked his lips, wetting them. “His name is Cameron. We’ve been together for eleven years.” 


“Wow,” the man said, reaching into the vending machine to get his drink. He stood back up, focusing all his attention on Mitchell. Mitchell backed up a few steps, ready to leave but not just yet out of politeness. “I was married for twelve years, but she died.” 


“Oh my God, I’m so sorry.” 


“It’s okay,” the man said dismissively. “It was a long time ago. Y’know,” he continued, squinting his eyes at Mitchell. “You kind of remind me of her. Your eyes are the same shade of blue.” 


“Really?” Mitchell asked, ready to bolt. 


“Yeah, it’s a very nice colour. You must be asked all the time to model. I know my wife was. She would be stopped on the street by agents, but she never said yes. She was humble.” 


That had never happened to Mitchell. He was glad it never had. He knew he didn’t have what it took to do it, probably didn’t even have the looks. 


“Well, it was nice talking to you,” he said, trying to get back to his family in their room. “But I need to go. Cam is expecting me.” 


“Oh, of course,” the man laughed. “Sorry, I’m keeping you from your partner. You go have fun.” 


“I will,” Mitchell said, then turned, ready to run. He walked calmly out, trying to appear like everything was natural, like he wasn’t scared out of his mind. He kept his gaze straight ahead, refusing to look back. Heavy footsteps followed after him, then there was a cloth over his mouth, preventing him from screaming. The other one wrapped around his arms, holding them tightly to his chest so he couldn’t run. 


Mitchell tried to struggle, but there was something on the cloth and Mitchell could feel himself start to drift off. The smell was slightly sweet and his vision slowly went black, his body sinking to the floor. 


Brilliant green eyes stared back at him as his eyes shut. 

Claire watched the new anxiously. Her brother's sixth grade photo flashed across the screen, then a picture of him as an adult, his arms wrapped around Claire and Cameron, smiling wide at the camera. She remembered that day; it had been at a music festival. A picture of him at his law firm came on, showing him working on a case diligently. They had been donated by Jay to the news anchor a few hours ago. 


“Mitchell Pritchett has been reported missing after his husband called about stalkerish behaviour around the house,” the announcer was saying. “Mitchell was an environmental lawyer, currently working on saving a forest from being cut down. His father is Jay Pritchett, owner of Pritchett’s Closets. If you have any information about this missing person, please contact the nearest police.” 


In the next room, Claire could hear Lily crying, Cameron trying to calm her down, sounding close to tears himself. He had asked Claire to watch the news for him. He couldn’t do it himself. Claire didn’t even think she could, but she kept her eyes open. Her younger brother was gone. Her sweet, innocent, uptight brother. She could barely process it. 


Upstairs Jay was yelling at someone, telling him to start looking and to start looking now. Gloria was at home, apparently looking for her guns with Manny, while Phil tried to explain the situation to the wide eyed Dunphy children. Claire continued to watch as more pictures flooded the screen of her smiling brother, as information about what he looked like was given. 


“Oh Mitchell,” she sighed, wiping her eyes. 


Someone knocked on the door, the sound filling the house. Claire immediately shot up, hoping it was a police officer with news of her brother. She ran to the door, hearing everyone else do the same, desperate for information. The door was thrown open, the door nearly flying off the hinges. 


Nobody was there. But nestled on the doormat was a single yellow chrysanthemum, a flower meaning goodbye. There was no note. There didn’t need to be.