The Door – Part III

(If you haven’t read Part I and Part II, you should do so first, so this makes sense.)

As Malcolm held open the door, Olivia once again stepped inside the house. It delivered the same sense as when she walked through a few moments earlier. Wrong. It was her house, the bones of it were familiar, but everything else was wrong. The colors, the sounds, the scents, it was as though someone had overlaid a different house over her brain’s knowledge. Everything felt familiar and strange, all at once.

The step forward brought her foot down on the paper bag. The mess. She glanced down and then flushed with something, shame, embarrassment, guilt, anger, it was hard to tell. Her emotions were all jumbled from the bizarre circumstances, but her inherent manners wouldn’t allow her to let it pass.

“I’m sorry-” she began, still looking at the mess, rather than at his face.

Before she could formulate the words to complete the apology, and offer to clean up, he cut in.

“Don’t be. Something is happening, I can’t explain. If you feel as odd about this as I do, well, let’s just agree to call it strange. The mess is the least of our concerns at the moment.” His forehead wrinkled as though he was trying hard to determine something. For just a moment, Olivia felt a tug of familiarity, again, as though she’d seen that expression on him before. The urge was there, slight though it was, to comfort or assist him in some way. It bothered her, more than the overt strangeness of her surroundings, these people, the supposed time jump. It bothered her that inside, in the place where she trusted herself most, she felt as though she knew him. There was no doubt in her mind she’d never met him before, but somehow, she knew him.

Silently, they stepped over the mess on the floor and turned toward the stairs. Olivia took a deep breath. She wanted to see what else was different about her home, the home she worked so hard to create and build, by herself, but she was also apprehensive. These next moments seemed staggeringly frightening, for what amounted to a walk up a flight of stairs. Squaring her shoulders, she took the next step.

She could feel him at her back, his presence, his size. It no longer intimidated her; realizing that, she wondered at what point she stopped being afraid of him. The situation was deeply unsettling, and strange did not begin to encompass what was happening here, but at that moment, she wasn’t afraid. It was hard to be afraid when you were, by any reasonable standards, in your own home.

Accompanied by the chatter of small children, Olivia made her way up the stairs. Ascending to the top, she paused, trying hard to take it all in. The walls were the color of sand, decorated with large framed photos of people. She caught sight of the little boy, Oliver, in several and presumed that they were family portraits gracing the walls. The arrangement came across as haphazard, but a keen eye showed they were gracefully and systematically placed to look that jumbled. The sofa was a sectional in navy blue, large and overstuffed. A flat screen tv was hung over the mantel, tuned to the evening news. There were toys on the floor and a large toy bin in the corner. A stack of books was slightly off-kilter on the corner of the coffee table, next to an oversized red mug that demanded Cheers!.

It was clearly a well-used, and much-loved home. A family home. Seeing it, taking it all in, gave Olivia a pang of nostalgia. This was how it was meant to look. Overrun with the detritus of daily life, and ready to be used, to be lived in, to embrace the users in the sights and scents of home. Breathing slowly through her nose, fighting to maintain her outward display of calm, Olivia tipped back her head. She caught sight of the crack on the vaulted ceiling. It was larger than ever before, but in the exact same spot she knew. To the left, she searched for the missing chunk of sheetrock, an accident born of moving furniture by ones self, but it was gone, probably patched before someone painted over her beloved purple stripes.

Malcolm gently cleared his throat and Olivia became aware of how long she’d been standing still at the top of the stairs, just taking it all in. Stuttering back into motion, she moved forward into the living area, refusing to glance into the kitchen where the sounds and smells indicated the woman was making dinner, as she’d said. In that moment, the changes were just too much. Seeing more might have tipped the scales from unafraid to—well, Olivia was very much afraid that ‘heap on the floor’ might be her next destination.

Unsure of what should be happening, she reached the center of the room and did a one eighty, ending up face-to-face with Malcolm.

Neither spoke.

For a long moment, they just stood there, staring at one another. She took in his height, his dark hair, oddly similar in color and texture to her own, and his overly familiar green eyes. He was handsome, this stranger, with a kindness to his face that she would bet induced strangers to strike up a conversation with him. He looked…friendly. He did not, in fact, look like a lunatic. *mental snort* As if they had a specific look. In her experience, lunatics tended to look like everyone else, that was what made them so dangerous, but they did not look like this man.

Malcolm was staring at this woman in his home. He couldn’t understand what was happening, but there wasn’t a single doubt in his mind he was talking to his long dead mother. Her always slightly-disheveled hair, was worn down, long and curly, as he remembered it. Her eyes had the same slight crinkles at the corners that gave her the appearance that she was always on the verge of laughter. In his memory, she always was on the verge of laughter, so it was fitting. As he watched her, silently, he noted her fingers worrying the hem of her sweater and his heart skipped at the familiar motion. His mom was always playing with something, as though her fingers were incapable of stillness. He remembered in a flash of montages in his mind, her tapping, picking, petting, plucking in any given situation.

This was his mom. His mom.

He cleared his throat again and decided that no matter how strange, this was his home and his family and it was up to him to speak.

“Olivia, would you like to sit down?” he managed, proud of himself for broadcasting normalcy.

She shook her head, still saying nothing, just looking at him.

A deep breath, and he spoke again, “look, I know this situation is…difficult, but I think we need to have a conversation, to maybe try and figure out what is happening here.” Mac paused. “So, um, won’t you please have a seat?”

Olivia stared at him. It was exceedingly uncomfortable to be offered a seat in your own home, compounded further by the fact that this was not her furniture and she didn’t really know where to sit. Rooms have a hierarchy, a geography, to them. Certain people will sit in certain places, the couch is more casual, do you take the armchair or the recliner? There are unwritten rules to someone else’s home, and since she was standing in her own living room, the rules were about as clear as mud. She didn’t know what to do, but he was right. She couldn’t just continue standing there, in the center of the room. She canted her head to the left, seeking the nearest chair when her eyes caught the next door.

It was the french doors leading to the four-season porch.

The left door was slightly ajar and from her angle, Olivia could just barely see inside. Something, something caught her eye. Without a word, without a glance, she moved toward that just-opened door and reached for the handle.

“Where are you going?” She was dimly aware of Malcolm calling after her as she moved toward that door, but she could not stop. Her eyes had alit upon something of hers. A piece of her life. Something that proved that this was, in fact, her home, no matter the situation. Her fingers closed around the handle and she started to open that door.

The doorbell rang.

Olivia jumped and whirled around, forgetting for a moment, what lay beyond that door.

Downstairs, outside, someone was standing at her door. Her eyes collided with Malcolm’s and frustration was stamped on his features. Once again, she felt that pang that she should comfort him in some way, and once again, it unsettled her.

A heartbeat of time as they stared at each other, then Malcolm broke first.

“I’ll get the door” he said as he started to turn.

She wanted to protest, to run to the door and answer it, to see one of her neighbors or a friend or even a salesperson who was looking for her. Anything to prove it was her house…

and then she remembered. Just on the other side of the door behind her lay that very proof.

And in that moment, Olivia and Malcolm walked in opposite directions, both headed for a new door.

***To Be Continued…***

 

(And that, my fine friends, is the end of the third installment. I never intended this to be an ongoing story, but it has turned out to be more fun than I anticipated. But mostly, I keep writing it, every November, because Kelly really likes it and it is a wonderful way to give her an annual gift. I have to take a moment and wonder how old she’ll be when I finally finish this story….)

Happy Birthday, Kelly! Hope you liked this year’s chapter.

The Door

(I came across a creative writing challenge on a different blog, and I decided to try and participate. I’m linking to the first challenge here, go and check it out. This challenge is a story about what would happen if you walked in your door, the same door you walk in every day, and the house is still there, but you are in a different time…enjoy!)

Turning onto her street, she idly smoothed the wheel to the left to avoid the pothole, as she always did. A dull, throbbing pain the back of her skull was forcing her to squint, which aggravated the headache, a vicious cycle. Her mind was swirling with a frighteningly long list of items to accomplish. The more she achieved tonight, even in the waning hours of another long workday, the less she’d have to do when the weekend finally hit.

She was pretty sure he’d call her tomorrow and the prospect of seeing him, of having a dinner with him, well it was almost enough to obliterate the shitty day and the annoying-but not yet debilitating-headache. Force of habit propelled her hand toward the roof of the car, every day at the exact moment when the driver’s side mirror passes the front edge of the mailbox, she hits the button. Most days, the garage door chuggishly lurches its way upward, creating that opening for her to slip inside. Other days, bad days, the door catches, it rises only a  few inches and then jerks to a full stop. She then has to pull into the driveway and wait, depressing the button again to lower and once again to start that ascent. It frustrates that such a simple thing doesn’t always go smoothly.

Today, of course, is one of those days. The door catches and she sighs in expected frustration. Waiting, she lets her eyes drift to the moonroof and she suddenly notices a light out of place. Craning her neck, exacerbating the pain with the movement, she notices light streaming from the upstairs window. Frowning, she rubs her neck. It is rare she forgets to turn off the light. In fact, she rarely turns it on in the mornings, preferring to use the brighter glow from the bathroom to churn through her ritual. Noticing the door has finally risen, she noses the car inside and hits the button to reverse the process. Purse, cell phone, remnants of an unforgettable lunch, bag of groceries, library book, and extra sweater; juggling, she manages them all at once, without giving a thought as to how she’ll manage the door. A balancing act worthy of a tightrope walker, some creative use of cleavage, a few swear words and, voila!, she is in the door.

Wrong.

Wrong.

Wrong.

Something is wrong.

Everything is wrong.

Shock seems to settle into her very bones, overtaking her muscles and common sense as the items in her arms drift to the floor; she is dimly aware of the sounds, the thud of the book, the crack of her lunch pail, the crinkle of the paper bag, but she is having too much trouble processing the scene to pay much attention to something as mundane as broken eggs.

The walls are the same, but someone painted over her bold navy/yellow combination with…she leaned in closer, her left hand automatically shooting out to find the light switch,…is that drab? Oh god, how can someone have painted her house since this morning? She takes a sniff, certain it will smell of fresh paint, the smell is different. She sniffs again, deeper this time, trying to place it. It seems familiar, but it does not smell like her house, like home.

For a horrifying moment she thinks she walked into someone else house by mistake, then dropped her eggs on their floor. But, if that were true, how did she get in by the garage? Unless there was some freak wiring problem and she accidentally controlled someone else’s door? Maybe that is why it took so long, why it stuttered and hesitated? Pivoting on one heel, she went back into the garage and punched the wall opener, the door started to slide up as she made her way outside. Ducking under the molasses-slow door, she quick glanced to her right and saw…955.

955.

That is her address.

What the hell?

Her shock was starting to melt away leaving anger in its place. Anger, confusion, and not a little bit of fear. Slowly, hesitantly, she turned back toward the door.

***

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“I don’t know” she replied, “who could possibly be opening our garage door?”

“The only person with access, other than us, is Gray” came his response, “but he’s out of town.” Exchanging a look with his wife, Mac got up and headed downstairs to see who was at the house. He reached the lower level and stopped short. Whoever it was just went outside again, but left a pile of items in the hallway, including a spilled grocery bag and – broken eggs? It definitely wasn’t Gray, a more fastidious person Mac had never known. His brother would never leave a mess, for that matter, he wasn’t the type to come by without calling, either, even if he did have a key.

Mac turned toward the sound of his wife’s footsteps coming down the stairs. He glanced at her over his left shoulder before saying “something’s going on, maybe you should wait upstairs.” Julia snorted in response and then gasped as she caught sight of the mess in the hallway. Her gaze turned frantic as she whirled toward the playroom door, just off the hallway. It was still shut, she could hear the sounds of the kids playing in the room, but she still scooted around Mac and opened the door, her intent to see them, just to be assured that they were okay.

Watching them, she felt Mac come up behind her, his solid presence, his warmth, a comfort after that spurt of fear. He placed his hand on her arm, just above the elbow and gave a squeeze. She pulled the door shut and then leaned back for a moment, lightly resting against his chest. For just a second, she wanted to rest in a moment where everything is okay. She wanted to forget what is happening to them and just be. Gathering a deep breath, she turned to face him and said, “this is the wrong time for this to be happening. Let’s go see who did this” she slanted a sideways look a the mess around them.

Without another word, Mac turned toward the garage door and turned the handle.

***

She came to an abrupt stop. A tall man stepped out of the door and was staring at her car. She didn’t recognize him and couldn’t think of any reason why he would be in her house. Her heart started pounding and she was frantically trying to recall where she left her cell phone. Just then, the door opened again and a pretty, petite, brunette stepped out. Her breath eased slightly. Maniacal serial killers don’t usually bring dates. She hiccoughed a laugh, then shook her head at her own absurdity. Whatever was happening here could very well be because she cracked.

“You are an adult you are an adult you are an adult” she whispered to herself. Steeling her gut, squaring her shoulders, she took a step toward her car, ready to confront these strangers in her home.

Mac caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. His head snapped up, eyes sliding away from the inspection of the car that seemed familiar that was parked in his garage. They flew to a pretty young woman standing at the edge of the garage. She was about his age, early 30s, he would guess. She had thick, long, dark, curly hair and she looked quite determined. The back of his mind considered that to be an odd reaction for a trespasser, but he’d never trespassed anywhere, so what did he know? He glanced quickly to his right, taking his eyes off the woman, to look at Julia. Even now, it was painful to look at her and his heart squeezed tightly in his chest. She, too, was staring at the woman, but Julia’s look was puzzled, curious, even. Mac cocked his head as Julia met his eyes.

They both turned back toward the woman who chose that moment to speak.

“What are you doing in my house? She thought her voice sounded calm.

Mac thought she sounded like she was strangling a cat. “Your house?”

He looked at Julia again. “I’ve lived here every day of my life. This is my house. And who are you?”

“Who are YOU? This is my house, I bought it three years ago. What kind of game are you playing?” she was starting to feel outraged now, the longer this game went on.

The woman seemed to be getting upset, which made no sense, but it was making Mac more calm. His mother always said he had a contrary nature and he seemed to be proving her right, yet again.

“I’m Malcolm and this is my wife Julia. As I told you, this is my house. I was born here, as was my brother. Our mother raised us in this house and after she passed away, the house became mine, I’ve lived here ever since. Perhaps you’re confused? These developments look a lot alike, maybe you just turned onto the wrong street?”

Feeling frustrated that he was being an ass, a condescending ass at that, she stepped forward to make her point. “Look here, Mal-” She stopped because his face went deathly pale and he suddenly looked as though he were going to pass out. She quickly looked at the woman and she didn’t appear any better. Her face was frozen, mouth hanging open, as they both stared at her. Before she could formulate a thought, the man stepped forward and spoke one single word.

“Mom?” His voice was hoarse, as if he’d been screaming, instead of standing there conversing with his dead mother. When she stepped forward, she moved out of the twilight shadows and into the light of the garage, and Mac saw her face for the first time. Except, it wasn’t the first time. Every photo, every memory, every instant of his childhood was born in that face, the face of the first woman he ever loved. It was getting harder to breathe. Suddenly, he felt Julia slip her hand into his and he was able to gulp in a deep breath, still staring at the woman who was, unmistakably, his mother. His mother, who had died almost twenty years ago, when he was only sixteen.

“Mom?” she echoed. “Look, buddy, I don’t know what’s going on here, but I’m not your mother. I don’t have any children, and since you appear to be older than me, I’m quite certain there is no way I could be YOUR mother.”

What was going on here, Mac wondered. Still, whatever it was, he was certain that this was his mother.

“Olivia” he said, “that’s your name.

She jumped. How did he know her name? Mail. Yes, mail, he was in her house, so he must have seen mail with her name on it. She said so.

He smiled.

“Okay then, your favorite color is purple. When I was a kid, the living room wall was painted four different colors of purple, in a stripe pattern that you designed. The kitchen was red. There were dozens of photographs all over the house and the camera sat on the kitchen counter so it was always at the ready if you needed it. You read more than anyone I’ve even known. The basement was our play area, but also your library. We were allowed to READ the books, but never play with them. One of the only times Gray ever got in trouble was when he pulled all the books off the shelves to build us a book fort. He was maybe eight at the time. You are a librarian, which is fitting given your love of books. And the reason your car looked so familiar to me is because it is the car you drove when I was first born. I don’t remember it, not really, because it died before my second birthday, but there are many photos of us in that car.” His voice trailed off. “Gus! The car is called Gus.”

She stared at him, shaken. The brunette hadn’t said a word, just staring, a half smile on her face as she listened to him recite these stories. How could he know so much about her? And why was he speaking in the past tense? And who was Gray? And he better not have painted over her stripe wall!

“Okaaaay” she said, speaking slowly, “clearly I’m not who you think you are. I’m only 34 years old, I can’t possibly be the mother of a grown man with a wife.”

“And kids.” He looked at her strangely, but there was sadness in his voice. “We have two children. A son, six years old, named Oliver. We named him after you. And our daughter is Rosalind, Rosie, she’s four. I was born in this house in 2016, two years after my older brother Gray. Our mother-”

“Wait!” She interrupted, still not sure how she felt about his words. “You cannot have been born in 2016, it is only 2013 right now. Whatever is going on, I will try to find someone to help you, but–”

A look came across his face, she didn’t fully understand it, but it was enough to shut her up. They stood there for a moment, staring at each other. She noticed he was very handsome and the woman was very pretty. Wherever these children were, if they existed at all, she was sure they were beautiful. She didn’t understand what was happening, didn’t know what to say next, she just knew that whatever this was, it felt like a chance. It felt like a moment that only comes once, a moment you have to grasp, to experience fully, so you don’t ever forget.

He stared at her, eyes a little brighter, glistening with the hint of unshed tears. He didn’t know what to say to her. Didn’t know how this could be happening or what was going to happen next. It was a moment he could not forget and one that he was afraid was not going to last. He knew the words he had to speak, but he was afraid that telling her would somehow change everything, destroy this bubble they were in, this chance they had been given. He knew what he had to say, but that didn’t erase his longing to just talk to her. To tell her what life was like without her, to describe his kids, to ask her about his problems with Julia, to just have his mom back, even for a little while.

Another deep breath and he stared at her, memorizing her features, hoping she can feel his love for her, remembering her love for him.

“Mom, it’s 2050.”

Open Door Policy

My front door came complete with an adhesive that says, “No Soliciting” (or maybe No Solicitors?-I don’t look at it much).

I’ve promised Justin that he can still solicit at my house, if he wants to, and I’ve explained what the sign meant to six-year-old Clayton. It’s been a source of interest.

What it has NOT been, is effective.

I’ve come home many a night to find notes, flyers, and whatnot stuck to the door. I don’t know for sure that this counts as soliciting, but I would guess so.

Here’s the kicker: I don’t mind soliciting. I understand that there’s a job to do and some people still think face-to-face is the most effective. And, really, it isn’t like people are bombarded with door-to-door salesmen and the like.

But, the sign is affixed and there you have it.

Until Tuesday.

I was “cooking” in my kitchen and just puttering around. I had already realized that I was NOT getting 28 Hour stew for dinner, so I was making something else.

**Knock at the door**

I jumped. It was so unexpected. No one ever just drops by (I’m fine with it, but no one does).

I raced (literally leaped the last couple stairs) down the steps to go and answer the door. I had no idea who it could be. I opened my Melrose Place-window and peeked out. There was a handsome boy on my stoop, he smiled and waved. (Yes, waved.)

I opened the door and he introduced himself as Zach, from Qwest.

I reciprocated and we shook hands.

He was there to pitch the new services from Qwest. I invited him to step inside (it was too cold to leave the door propped open, plus, this poor boy forced to go door-to-door on one of the coldest nights of the year?) and I politely listened to his pitch. His job, apparently, is to convince people to leave Comcast. Qwest has, supposedly, been out digging in my neighborhood, laying fiber-optic cable (I’m not sure why, but Zach said it like it was a big deal), though I’ve never actually seen them.

When Zach asked about my current plan, I proudly stated I had none.

Who does your phone? I use a cell phone.

Who does your internet? I don’t use it at home…or I use my cell phone.

Who does your tv? I use an antenna.

Zach seemed stymied by my responses. I guess, when you’re 19 (tops, I swear) and grew up with a never ending stream of technology, my relatively low-tech home seems bizarre. But, come on, I can’t be the only one. I just can’t be.

We chatted a few more minutes, during which, Zach received about 12 text messages, by my count. I then asked for his card, because he was a nice kid and very well-mannered and seemed genuinely interested when he found out I was a librarian. If I were getting service, I’d call him. However, Zach looked puzzled when I asked for his card and said, “I’m a sales rep, we don’t do cards.”

Translation: I’m 19 and cards are from the fuddy-duddy era. (I am weak on my teen speak, but I think I translated that pretty accurately.)

I said, “well, okay, then how would I get hold of you?”

He said, (and really, you can’t make this up) “just give a shout, I’ll hear you.”

I don’t know what that means.

Does he really expect me to open my front door and shout? People will think I’m crazy.

Maybe Zach plans to wander up and down my street for years on end, hoping someone will shout his name?

At least we ended with a smile. I told him to keep warm as it was below zero outside and he had no hat and no gloves as he went door-to-door. He said he forgot his warm clothes, but “whatever, it’s cool”.

Yes, Zach, it is certainly cool. As, obviously, are you.

Then, I locked up and headed up to my kitchen to resume foraging for food.

When I hit the top of the stairs, I was looking into the kitchen and saw this:

 

photo

Apparently, I was so excited for the knock at the door, I couldn’t even take one second to close the damn fridge. I truly had an open-door policy that night!