He whispered, slowly clutching his hat. He held the key in his hand, but he couldn’t bring himself to open the door. How long has it been since he came back? It must have been ages. The neighbourhood has changed. While he still remembered some memorable places, the tides of modernism has also hit this sleepy little town. “Maybe a while to dry up might be fine,” He said, and turned the keys.
She had always been a deep sleeper.
So it would be fine if I opened the door a bit carelessly. She wouldn’t wake up.
The door opened when he turned the knob with a surprising lack of sound. “Someone must have greased it,” he murmured, and entered the domain.
Everything sat still, just as he remembered them. On the shelf, there was a picture of the two of them, smiling their toothy smile as two teenagers, barely out of high school, full of dreams. He stopped to look at the picture. “Still,” he said to himself, admiring her details. “I told her not to put such pictures out.” He stopped and looked at her deep blue eyes with a hint of green that always made you felt like you were drowning in them, her grey hair, the stupid black clothes both of us used to wear, the ring.
He unconsciously touched his neck, but nothing was there. “That’s right…” He said, a bit louder than he wanted. “I…” He shook his head and walked on. The floor was, he was sure, getting wet. He was dripping with water even now.
It didn’t require thinking, the act of finding the room he wanted. After all, this was his… home. Yes, if such a thing was still allowed, this was his home.
‘When a being that was supposed to be feared fears those who should be frightful,’ he thought, ‘then the would be feared is driven away.’ He thought much of his place today, where he stood in today’s society, and where he would belong. He could always stay here, he knew, but he did not want to. It would not be right.
‘After all,’ He mused, ‘the natural order of things are…’ He dried himself in the restroom, helping himself to the towel that hung on the rack. It was white and crispy, just the way he liked it. It was probably washed recently or untouched. He quietly hung the towel back and walked a bit further. He would use the back door. Maybe he would help himself to an apple. She was a accountant, but she never kept track of how much of what she had in the kitchen. “Then again,” he said to himself, “no one counts how many apples they have, do they…”
He checked the fridge and found it mostly empty. He supposed that it was because there was only one person to feed, but he found mostly TV dinners. “I always did the cooking, huh…” he said to himself as he gave up on raiding the pantry. He looked at where her room should be and found that the light was on. Was she awake? No, she wouldn’t be. She just slept with the light on again. ‘Still scared of the dark,’ he thought, and almost let out a chuckle.
As he walked on, he found himself reminiscing. It was here that he… no, he forced himself to stop. Beings, no people, like him are better off without attachments. ‘But then why is it,’ he asked himself, ‘that I’m unable to move from this spot?’ His hand was already turning the doorknob to her room, taking care to be as quiet as possible.
He doesn’t remember what he expected to find on her bed. Maybe a pile of books, as usual? Or the old opium pipe? No, then there should be the sickly sweet smell he was so used to in the air. Perhaps, he was afraid to admit it, but did he expect another man? Whatever he expected, he was refreshingly surprised to find a dog. It was lying on the bed next to her, and a couple of kittens accompanied the two. “Hey,” he whispered, holding her hand. There was still a chair next to the bed. She insisted on keeping it there. He sat, as he always used to, and squeezed. “I’m home.”
She didn’t wake up.
It’s not as if he expected her to, but she stayed asleep, mumbling about as usual. “I-I won’t be staying long,” he continued, “but I wanted to see you.” He reached into his coat and produced a pressed flower that he collected during his trip. “Y-you always liked the yellow Primula,” he said. “I’m sorry that I cannot stay any longer.” He leaned forward a bit, and brought the hand next to his forehead. He felt himself crying -or rather, he felt himself allowing himself to cry- as he let her hand go.
He petted the dog and checked its nametag. “That’s a good name,” he whispered. “You keep her warm,” he commanded, rubbing its belly.
“I-I’ll be back soon,” he said, leaving a small envelop on the chair. “I’m sorry that I always leave you like this.” He flicked the light switch off, and closed the door behind him.
As he left, he could have sworn someone say, “It’s alright.”