From the outside Sally’s house looked almost identical to how she remembered seeing it. The grass was a little unkempt, and it was strange to not see a car in the driveway, but it all looked normal. Someone had been in the house almost every day while she was in hospital, tidying letters or throwing away expired food, but she couldn’t tell from the outside.
As Satish pulled the car onto the driveway, Sally could feel her heart getting faster and faster.
“Do you want me to come in with you,” Laila asked.
“No, thank you. I’ll go by myself. Thank you for everything though.”
With each step, Sally was sure she was going to fall on her way to the house. With slow deep breaths, she took one step at a time. The warmth from the sun beating down on her, the sound of birds echoing through the trees, and the house stretched out into the distance. The path grew longer and windier with each step. The sounds of the outside world dwindled as she got closer to the house. It loomed over her, blocking out the sun. Her hand was shaking as she raised the key to the door.
The house was cold and dark inside. None of the curtains had been opened. Sally thought everything was just too still. She walked into the living room and opened the large curtains to look through the window that looked out to the front of the house. She could see Satish and Laila sitting in their car close to the driveway, talking to each other. Probably discussing whether she’d be alright or not, Sally thought. She knew it came from a place of love, but it still annoyed her that they were babying her. She turned around and noticed a stack of mail on the coffee table, that other people had collected for her. Straight away the fishing magazine that Chris subscribed to stood out. She went over and picked it up, the pile of letters falling to the side as she did. He would never see this issue, she thought and collapsed backwards into the seat. If it wasn’t there, she probably still would have fallen. She held it tightly, the wrapping noisily twisting as she did.
Even though the house was empty, she could feel Chris everywhere. His face was smiling from the pictures on the wall. He looked smart in his wedding suit, and silly in a Halloween costume. His jacket was hanging over the back of the kitchen chair, and not on a hook even though she would ask him to put it on the hook every time and she couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t just do it. Instinctively she went to move the jacket from the chair, but the thought of never finding it there again stopped her and she left it. His half-finished book was left on the table next to the sofa, complete with a bookmark that wouldn’t progress further into the sci-fi novel that Sally couldn’t care about. She could see the pages darkened where he had held it while eating crisps.
As she walked upstairs each creak of the stair was familiar, and she could hear the echo of him following her up them. The bathroom was scattered with half finished bottles of shampoo, soap, and shaving gel that would never get used up. She pushed them into the corner, not wanting to see them close to her toiletries. The bed hadn’t been made from the last morning they’d gotten up in a hurry to go to a farmer’s market, the quilt rough and thrown about. His socks from the day before still balled up at the end of the bed. She picked them up and threw them into the hamper, wishing he’d done it just that once.
Sally had expected to spend most of the day crying and in bed, but after walking around the house, she just didn’t have the tears left. She sat on the edge of the bed and looked around the room. It felt like a different room, like she’d never been there before, even though she was the one who had painted it with Chris. They’d done it the first day after moving into the house, painted it a light blue colour and had a laugh while doing it. If she moved the chair in the corner, then the stained carpet where she’d knocked over a paint can would still be there. Like if she lifted one of the pictures hanging on the wall there would be the hole that was in slightly the wrong place, so they had to drill again so all the pictures were lined up perfectly. She could imagine every nook and cranny of the room, but it still felt strange and unwelcoming. The idea of lying down didn’t last long and she stood up to go and start on something else.
That tickle at the back of her throat turned into a coughing fit and she doubled over in pain, tears forcing their way out of her eyes as she coughed and coughed. She was sure her bruised sides were about to burst, but she couldn’t stop. Once it passed, she looked up and caught the mirror in the corner of the room on top of her dresser and saw him there. Chris, standing right behind her and smiling at her. She turned, and wasn’t surprised that he wasn’t there, but when she returned her eyes to the mirror he was still there, but he wasn’t smiling anymore. She’d seen that look in his eyes before. He was angry.
“Oh, God,” she said, falling to her knees. “What’s wrong?”
Her head hung low and when she looked up Chris wasn’t there anymore. In the mirror it was just her, alone in the bedroom.
To be continued…
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