Naomi scowled and stared at the petals leading down her front walk, “What the hell?” A wisp of breeze tugged at her dark curls and blew one across her face, which she removed with a hooked finger and looked suspiciously at the frozen grass adorning her lawn. The unexpected appearance of rose petals was not happenstance; they did not magically appear there of their own volition, they were placed. They were a trail. Naomi furrowed her eyebrows deeply and gazed past the puffy white clouds of her breath, but saw nothing. The neighborhood was still. She shook her head, pulled her keys from her bag and punched the remote starter. The Elantra in her drive came to life with a purr and she put the weird rose petals out of her mind with thoughts of her warm defroster and heated seats inside her car. She added a few items to her mental shopping list and turned to pull her front door closed.
There was a hint of movement behind her, a flickering shadow, and adrenaline exploded unbidden into her veins. Naomi had never known danger or fear, and the sensations which now darted through her body scared her. Her brain was a convoluted mess of synapses firing warnings that her conscious mind never correctly interpreted, and she was still confused when the heavy force of a man's body pressed her into the doorknob. A large hand pushed against the back of her head and dug her forehead into the frosted glass window pane next to the door, but only for a moment, for a twelve-inch blade was simultaneously plunged into her back between her eighth and ninth ribs, neatly puncturing her lung.
In Naomi's hyper-adrenalized state, she felt no pain at being stabbed, only a curious wet warmth, and for a moment she thought she had peed herself. Desperation forced her body into a twisting spasm in an effort to escape, but the man's weight behind her kept her completely immobilized, and the only thing she accomplished was to bust her knuckles open on her mailbox. Her knees buckled then, curiously, because she had been willing her legs into action, and not only did they seemingly ignore her but now they betrayed her completely.
When she was nine years old, her parents had taken Naomi and her brother Richard to their grandparents' house in Connecticut for a weekend of rafting and canoeing. Richard had been screwing around on the second day and she had tumbled out of the canoe her brother had been piloting. Disoriented and confused, she had accidentally taken in a mouthful of water while calling out to him, before her father could pull her back into the boat.
That image flashed into her skull as a sharp coldness invaded her body from behind and sucked away all her warmth. She opened her mouth to breathe but couldn't; her lungs felt too heavy – like sandbags – to take in any air. It was if there was simply no room for oxygen with all that pond water coming in through her nine-year-old nose.
At last the side of her face impacted her rubber, all-weather welcome mat just below her front door as her body collapsed. Her eyes suddenly lost the ability to focus, so she stared across her porch at her neighbor's house, where the windows were still dark. Mrs. Pittman rarely woke before ten o'clock, so Naomi knew she would get no help there, but a sad thought crossed her mind as her vision began to blur: I wish I could say goodbye to Mrs. Pittman one last time.
But then the cold opened up and consumed poor Naomi Healy.