Rebecca winked at the small girl at the other end of the aisle. The small girl’s eyes widened in surprise and she quickly ducked around the corner, hiding from view. The momentary bit of levity lifted Rebecca’s spirits as little had lately. The sudden loss of her constant companion left a faint gray film over the entire world.
She sniffled and continued her half-hearted search for store-brand antihistamines.
She opened the double doors and the light flowed in like honey, confused dust motes drifting on the air currents stirred up. She smiled, and the day grew even brighter.
“I think this will do nicely,” she said to the emptiness before her. The realtor behind her breathed a small sigh of relief.
She turned and shook the realtor’s hand. “You can give me the tour, but I’m pretty sure I don’t need it at all.”
The realtor beamed and led the way through the empty rooms and hallways, up and down the stairs, pausing at nearly every nook and cranny. By the time they were back at the front door, the deed was done. She was in love with the house, and nothing was going to stand in her way.
She moved in only a few weeks later and proceeded to decorate in a monochrome style, shades of blacks and whites and grays throughout the house, with a single splash of a single color in each room. A flower here, a chandelier there.
When it was done she hosted a party, but her guests didn’t stay long; none of them could stand the subsonic tones she played on the recently installed sound system. She didn’t care. She liked it, and that’s what really mattered, right?
But she soon grew lonely and tired of only her own company. Finally she figured out that it was the house pushing everyone away; it couldn’t possibly be her personality.
She locked up for the last time and moved to an apartment in the city, where she let her interior decorator have his way with the new place. She hated it, but her parties were always the talk of the town, so she dealt with it.
Claude pressed the door closed behind him, gently, so gently. The silence in his apartment was a heavy blanket that he came home to every night, once warm and comforting, now growing threadbare and itchy. He laid his keys softly in the wooden bowl on the table by the door.
Six steps to the end of the couch and a right turn. two steps and a left into the cubbyhole of a kitchen. A single glass from the cabinet above the dishwasher, a single paper plate from the neighboring cabinet. Claude stared at the paper plate a moment before returning it to the cabinet, his lack of hunger making the decision easy.
Ice from the freezer clattered into the glass, the sound shattering the silence with its knife-sharp assault on Claude’s eardrums. He cringed and weighed the bottle of whisky in his hand before twisting the cap off and filling the glass halfway. The grating of the metal cap on the glass bottle felt like fingernails on a chalkboard, but it was the price he paid to get to sleep at night. He tugged on the refrigerator door at the proper angle to keep the handle from coming off and topped off his glass with Coke.
The first sip was cold and bitter; Claude made the same face he’s made a thousand times before, wincing away from the taste, but compelled to return for more. He placed the glass back on the counter and leaned forward, eyes closed, his hands to either side of the glass, until his forehead touched the coolness of the cabinet door. The posture brought him no comfort, and he stood upright again. He took the glass with him to sit in his recliner.
A right out of the kitchen, three steps to the end table, and one more to his chair, soft and inviting. He sank down into its welcoming embrace and began to drink away the loneliness that threatened to engulf him completely in its darkness. Left foot, then right foot, he hooked his toes into the backs of his shoes and kicked them off, letting them fall to the floor, tumbling to rest against the base of the low coffee table that had never seen a cup of coffee.
And he wept, gently, so gently, fearing more than anything to disturb the blanket of silence under which he had lived for so long.