It was a cold, dark evening. A figure in dark clothes walked slowly down the street, stopping in the shadows at the entrance to an alleyway to look over at a house on the other side.
The lights were on in the front room, and the curtains were open.
The figure in the darkness sighed, exasperated, and turned away.
Just under an hour later, the same figure walked down the same street and paused in the same shadows. This time, although the lights were still on, the curtains were now drawn tightly closed. With a soft chuckle, the figure crossed the street.
The gate was squeaky; that could be overcome by patience. The figure opened it slowly, silently, and crept up the path to the door.
From this close to the house, it was possible to hear the occupants inside; not clearly enough to make out conversations, but enough to know they were there.
The figure carefully and quietly took a box out of a bag and placed it squarely on the doorstep, where it would be clearly seen when the door was opened. With a glance back at the gate to make sure it still stood open, the figure raised one hand and braced for action.
Three knocks, then a quick dash back down the path, around the corner and into the shadows, out of sight, breath held.
The door opened, spilling light into the street. The box was lifted and opened.
There was a pause before the call came from the doorway. “Thank you, Father Valentine!”
In the shadows, the figure grinned. Another successful delivery.
© Kari Fay
(Author’s Note: “Father Valentine” is, I’m told, an old tradition originally from Norfolk; mysterious gifts delivered to the doorstep with a knock, which should always be answered with the call of “Thank you, Father Valentine!” It should, perhaps, go without saying that you should make sure the recipient knows about the tradition beforehand… )