I remember when I was eight, I found my sister, Karen, whose two years older than me, talking with a strange man. I couldn’t tell how old the man was, but he was nearly twice Karen’s height, who had to have been almost four feet at the time.
I remember watching the man touch my sister’s face with his long nails. I wanted to run to her; to protect her; but I couldn’t. I was too scared. This man that was with Karen wasn’t normal. The long, dark-gray trench coat he wore covered most of his body, and the matching fedora hid most of his face. The only color on the outfit was a single, blood-red carnation attached to the fedora. Not even the man’s hair had color. It was black, so unnaturally black.
I don’t remember what words passed between the man and Karen’s mouths; I just remember hoping so desperately that she wouldn’t be hurt by the stranger. I was so terrified by the situation that it blew my mind when I saw a half-smirk appear on my sister’s face. Was she enjoying the company of this man that paralyzed me with fear?
The memory wanes after that part. I’ve tried to forget that terrifying event, but some things make such a big impact, they’re impossible to not remember. And even if I was able to temporarily forget the memory, it would have just come right back, because that was only the beginning of the man with the red carnation.
After that day, there always seemed to be a red carnation in Karen’s room. It just stood there, in a beautiful crystal vase on her windowsill. Week after week there would be a new one. I always loved Carnations; but, these ones scared me beyond rational belief. I knew where these blood-red carnations came from, even though I never said anything. I never told anyone about what I knew, not even my father. He would always ask where the carnations were coming from. Karen always gave the same answer; she said they came from the school’s floriculture room. The excuse was believable enough, and my father never assumed other wise. I wanted to tell him the truth so many times. I came close a few times, but all it took was to think about Karen for me to stop. Back when Karen first met the strange man, I tried talking to her about him. She made me promise to not say anything. She said everything was alright, that he was a friend. She told me that if anything ever happened to him, she would be heart broken.
And so I stayed quiet. I’ve never told a living soul about Karen and the man with the blood-red Carnation.