A bright red heart on the white tile floor. That's what the drip looked like. A perfect little heart. It was like a personalized valentine. A faint smile played across her face. She always did like finding these surprise hearts.
When she was little she would bring her found treasures to her mother. Heart shaped rocks, leaves, flower petals. "Look, Mommy! A heart for you!" And her mother would ooh and aah over each gift as if it was the first time.
When her mother lost her battle with breast cancer a decade ago she had found a little box filled with these trinkets tucked in a drawer with her socks and underwear. All of the rocks, dried out leaves and flowers. All of her found hearts. Plus a few hand drawn ones. And the big gaudy earrings she had bought her for Mother's Day one year. They were for pierced ears and her mother only wore clip on earrings but she had said she loved them anyway. And there they were. She took the box to the cemetery and left them there for her mother.
Her husband had said, "You know some punk kid is just going to steal the earrings and toss the rest away right?"
She had smiled and said it would be fine.
Her mother had just died so he hadn't argued with her about it. Though she knew he was probably right.
She remembered the kitten she got when she was nine. She had been so excited when her little black ball of fluff turned over and she saw the white patch of fur on his belly. A small secret heart. It had made her love him even more. When he had run away a few years later she had been devastated. She had looked for him for weeks. Putting up signs. Phoning the animal shelter daily. Calling out for him over and over again as she walked the neighborhood. Years later her mother admitted to her that he had been hit by a car. She had thought she was protecting her by letting her believe he had run off. Giving her a chance to imagine a better life someplace instead of a brutal end. She knew her mother had meant well, but it had made it worse. Pretending things were better than they were was a lousy idea.
When she was in high school she remembered laying on the grass watching the clouds with the boy she had a crush on. When he pointed out a cloud that looked just like a heart she knew it was a sign they were supposed to be together forever. It wasn't.
It also wasn't a sign when she met that cute college boy who had a freckle shaped just like a tiny heart on his hand. Though they had a fun summer finding other heart shapes. And other freckles. When Fall came and he went back to school she had smiled and waved at the car pulling away, he said he would write but she knew he wouldn't. He would go back to school and the smart funny college girls waiting there. Why would he write to her? She would be the summer fling story, not the girl you come back to. Pretending things were better than they were was a lousy idea.
On the first Valentine's Day she spent with her husband he brought her a bouquet of long stem roses and a box of chocolates. A square box. She thanked him and then said that she thought all boxes of chocolates on Valentine's Day were heart shaped. She should have just been quiet. She couldn't blame him for being hurt and angry. Nobody wants to feel like their gift isn't good enough. And why did she feel the need to criticize him anyway? The chocolate was just as good no matter what shape the box was. It had been rude.
She learned to keep her mouth shut about what she thought things should be like.
But it didn't stop her from noticing her surprise hearts.
A puddle in the street.
A patch of ice melting on the window.
A drop of water on a bar.
A spilled beer on the floor.
A bruise on her arm.
A cut on her cheek.
A spiral fracture in an x-ray.
A drop of blood on the tile.