Audrey worked from home.

She’d been doing so for the past seven months and she liked it. She was glad for the trend towards remote work.

There were lots of benefits. No dress code. No commute. Peace and quiet to get her work done.

One benefit she had not expected was getting to see the mailman come to the front door every day.

Audrey had a major crush on her mailman.

When she worked in the office, she never saw her mailman. She never really thought about the fact that one existed. Her mail showed up magically, like so many other things in life—office supplies, Facebook friend requests, unwanted sexual advances from male coworkers.

Had this mailman been her mailman the whole time she had lived in her house? She’d lived there for five years. Audrey thought about this handsome man approaching her front door every day for the past five years. Of course, maybe her mailman was new, but it was nice to imagine that he’d been around for some time. He probably developed a little story for each house he visited each day. It must be a lonely job. He would have to construct elaborate narratives for each mail recipient, wouldn’t he? Just to keep himself entertained. What was this man’s story for her? He knew her name. It was a good name for a girlfriend she thought. He probably wanted a girlfriend. He could probably see himself with a girl named Audrey.

Hopefully he was single. God, he must be single. You could tell, Audrey thought, in the way that he walked. Every day, she watched his happy approach to her front steps. She watched from her upstairs office. He would sing to himself softly. Barely above a whisper Audrey guessed. What a delightful man who sings to himself. A man with a little love tune always on his lips. Those lips.

For months Audrey watched her mailman. She never let him see her. She was terrified that any interaction between them would ruin the fantasy she had built in her mind. Maybe he was happily married. Maybe he yelled at his kids when he got home. Maybe he hated being a mailman. Maybe he wasn’t singing, but in fact, cursing his own life under his breath.

Sometimes she felt like a stalker. She was creeping on him no doubt. But she never left her house, never left her office. It was a stalker’s dream come true really. The object of desire walked right up your front steps at the same regular time, and you only had to glance down to see, at no fault of your own.

Christmas was nearing and Audrey realized her crush was nearly ten months old. She had constructed a beautiful crush. A lasting one, which she had nurtured and fed with genuine love. Should she give her mailman a gift? Yes, a small one. To show her appreciation. To hint at her admiration. Audrey had always imagined her mailman to be a hunter. He didn’t have a lot of time for it, but he made time on Sundays and holidays. He tried to get a deer every season. She bought him a hunting knife, a nice one. She had done her research. Maybe this wasn’t such a small gift. Audrey had spared no expense.

On December 19, her mailman came to the door, put the mail in the box, and then picked up the package. It was addressed to “My Mailman” with a red heart and Christmas tree drawn in colored pencil.

Audrey watched from her window.

He looked around and then up towards Audrey’s office window. He didn’t see anyone. He opened the gift. Surprised at the contents inside, he knocked on the door.

Audrey didn’t move. No. This wasn’t supposed to happen. What did she think was going to happen? She didn’t know. Her fantasy was about to end. Why had she given the gift? She was not going to open the door. He’ll go away. He’ll forget about it.

Her mailman started to open the front door. Who is this guy? He’s trespassing. Why does he think he can open my door? Oh no, what if he’s a psycho? What if he’s going to come in here and kill me with the knife?

“Hello?” the mailman called into her house. He didn’t cross the threshold, just held the door open and called inside, “Hello, anybody home?”

Audrey did not respond.

The mailman closed the door and left, looking back at Audrey’s house several times.

He was confused. Oh no, she had called attention to her house. Audrey felt her anonymity slipping away.

The next day, her mailman left a note for her.

I opened a package addressed to “My Mailman” that was on your steps yesterday. I’m sorry if this was intended for someone else. I’m confused at the hunting knife that was inside the package. Is this a gift for me? I do hunt and would be grateful for the knife, but will be really embarrassed if this is for someone else. Let me know if I should return the knife. My email is Yes, it’s a cheesy address, I know.

Clayton Dodson, Your Mailman

Audrey emailed him. She came up with an excuse about the knife. Something about trying to pay it forward during the holidays and a brother who was accidentally shipped two of the same knife. Amazon’s mistake. What a happy coincidence he could put the knife to use.

Clayton emailed back. What a nice gesture. How would he repay her? This was forward of him. Could he take her to dinner? If she wasn’t involved with anyone of course.

Audrey was beyond amazed. And terrified. Was he interested? He didn’t even know what she looked like? Or did he? This was just supposed to be a crush. But she said yes to the date.

The first date went well. And the second and the third.

Clayton and Audrey were a terrific couple. What a beautiful pair they made. All their friends laughed at the serendipitous way they met. What a great story. Fairy tales are real sometimes.

But Audrey kept the crush a secret. She played the gift off as an afterthought through every retelling of the way they met. It would have been embarrassing and creepy to let Clayton know she had fantasized about him for almost a whole year before their first encounter. Why ruin things? Chemistry like this was hard to come by. Better not to mess with this happy lovers’ fate.

The wedding was stunning. The bride even more so. Everybody said it was the best wedding they’d ever been to. No really. They hadn’t seen anything as touching and genuine.

What a whirlwind. They had a happy marriage. The first ten years were great, especially the first three. Audrey never told Clayton about the crush. At first, she didn’t feel guilty. It was necessary not to say. Not to break the magic.

But as the years waned, the magic slowly fizzled away. She found herself dissatisfied with the Clayton in front of her. She felt ashamed that she still measured him against her fantasy of him. A man can live up to a crush for a time, some men longer than others. But crushes don’t have the flaws that men do.

Audrey grew bored in the marriage. She had an affair with the Schwan’s man. The affair was disappointing. Not worth the guilt. Why was she always hungry for more? Why the constant fantasizing? It was a habit that had only paid off once, and now she had ruined that.

What to do?

She could tell Clayton. He might forgive her. But she would despise him if he did. What a weak move that would be. To take her back after what she did. Audrey decided that Clayton probably would forgive her. And that would be unacceptable. She’d never forgiven herself for anything. Why let someone else do what she was never able to do? What a sickly gracious man Clayton was. She had grown tired of his graciousness. It was part of what bored her. He never wanted revenge.

She would get her revenge. Against his consistency. Against his descent from charming bachelor to mundane husband.

He was sleeping. Where was that knife? The knife that started this.

Audrey took the knife and slit the neck that she used to dream of kissing.

She didn’t care if she got caught. She couldn’t live a life devoid of spectacle. It wasn’t until she saw his blood pour onto their sheets that she admitted it to herself. She had fantasized about this moment too.