"No! It can't be." Milly stared into the cupboard at the spot her favorite mug had been. Not only was it a Starbucks limited edition collector piece and worth hundreds of dollars, it was her biggest mug. After a night of no sleep and not having the energy to roll out of bed until nearly noon, she needed as much coffee as she could get before going to her office to stare at the computer screen and try to get work done.
There was a piece of paper where it had been. She snatched it up and read the typed message, "If you want to see your mug again, go to The Java Hut in Danville at 1:30 p.m. Come alone."
What the hell? Who would take her mug? What could they want? How did they get into her house? Milly stared at the message. Her sons! They must have done this.
Milly stomped up the stairs, cursing with each step. At the top, she look down the hallway. Her sons’ bedroom doors were closed.
She pounded on her eldest son’s door. No answer. Milly threw open the door. “Where did you put --”
Her son wasn’t there. His bed was made, his clothes were in the hamper and the rest of the room was tidy. That never happened. Something was wrong.
Milly sprung across the hall to her other son’s room and threw open the door without knocking. She was met with the same scene. Something was very wrong.
Milly raced around the house looking for any sign of her children or a note suggesting where they might be. There was nothing. She looked at the clock. It was already noon. There wasn’t much time for her to get to Danville.
Confused and in a rapidly growing state of panic, she headed to her bedroom. Milly pulled out the first outfit she found in her dresser, an ugly pink sweatshirt and jeans, then quickly got dressed. She didn’t bother with makeup or her unruly red curls; there wasn’t time.
It was warm for February so Milly didn’t have to worry about clearing frost from her beat-up old BMW. She got inside and put the key in the ignition then turned it. The engine rumbled but didn’t turn over.
Milly turned the key again and held it in the start position until it finally roared to life. She gave it a minute to warm up then flew out of the driveway, narrowly missing the cars parked on the side of the street.
The traffic was nearly non-existent as she sped across the Illinois landscape. Milly looked at the clock as she passed through Paris. There was an hour left and she should have plenty of time. But, to be on the safe side, Milly floored it and was soon going seventy-five miles per hour. If the cops had the nerve to pull her over, she was ready with a story and waterfall of tears.
A sigh of relief rushed past her lips as she crossed the city line into the rundown Danville and the clock showed she had ten minutes to get to the shop. She was going to make it!
Milly pulled into the parking lot and barely remembered to put the car in park as she threw open the car door and stormed towards the building. She stepped into the shop and her nose was assaulted by the smell of a dozen flavors of coffee. It was empty other than two employees, who glanced up when she came in then went back to their cleaning.
“Excuse me,” Milly said to the woman behind the counter, her breathing ragged. “I was told I would find my mug here.”
“Is that it over there?” The woman pointed to a table in the middle of the room.
Milly followed the woman’s finger and saw her mug. She bumped into the other tables as she hurried over to it. Her hands were shaking as she picked the mug up and quickly examined it for damage. There was none. Relieved, she sat down to collect herself and try to figure out where her sons could be.
A few minutes later, the woman came over to her, holding a cupcake with a sign on it.“This is for you.”
Confused, Milly took the plate from her and read the message, “Look behind you.” She spun around.
“Surprise!” a chorus of voices called out. Her sons, ex-wife, and a few friends were gathered just inside the door holding a birthday cake and presents.
Milly was speechless. They knew how she felt about surprises. All the emotions from her sons and the mug being missing and the panicked rush to Danville turned to anger. She forced herself to smile and greet everyone.
They sat down and chatted as they ate the cake then Milly opened her gifts. “Thanks everyone!” she said as her friends headed out.
When they were gone, Milly turned to her sons and ex-wife. Her eyes had a crazed look. “Whose brilliant idea was this?”
“We wanted to give you a party but we needed to be sneaky so you’d come. Mom helped with the plan,” her eldest answered. Her eyes moved to her ex-wife who was smiling, impervious to Milly’s glare.
“Be happy people cared enough to want to give you a party.”
She leaned in close then whispered, “Do anything like this again and I’ll have a new home at the County Prison.”
They laughed uncertainly. “Whatever you say.”
Just over a year later, Milly stood next to her lawyer in a packed court room. The foreman read their decision, “The jury unanimously finds the defendant guilty on all charges.”
“Thank you,” the judge said then turned to Milly. “Your senseless actions leave me no choice but to give you a life sentence with no chance of parole.”
On the way out, Milly told the reporters. “Its not my fault; I told them not to surprise me again.”