I backed up and stepped on the threshold again. It creaked. I took little baby steps along the width of the entry. The old hardwood yielded slightly underneath my weight and creaked slightly every so often along the boards.
I walked back to where I had stood at the window and looked at the threshold. Was there something amiss with the lines of the house? Maybe what I had imagined was actually a bulge here and there. It was an old house, an old neglected house. I willed the spot I had peered at earlier to bulge. It didn’t.
I let out a deep breath. I wasn’t the kind to be spooked. I was probably just tired. It had been a long, empty week for so many reasons. The relationship that had prompted my escape from what was familiar as an adult to what had been slightly familiar as a child was without a doubt behind it. I had done everything I could, hadn’t I? Tried to change myself, him, and past arguments to no avail. Tried to make him see things my way, myself to see things his way. Tried. Tried. Then tried to just forget it all and found instead mice nests and cobwebs and dust enough to make another galaxy in making this house inhabitable again.
I always said I believed in possibility more than probability, but maybe that wasn’t exactly true. Maybe what I believed was that if I managed something enough – problems, relationships, dreams – I could move them from one column to the other. Anyone who didn’t believe Henley when he said, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul, was a fool. I filled the teapot, then jumped and nearly dropped it as I placed it on the stove. Whoever designed the jangle of the old phone here should be arrested! Who in the world would be calling since no one in the world knew I was here?
“Oh yes! I had been trying to change it when the power went out.”
“Proof of . . . oh. I will come in person then. Thank you.”
I replaced the receiver with slightly more force than necessary. Really? Proof of my existence? Maybe their so-called policy should be put in a time capsule along with the old black phone. I stared at the old phone, my mouth going suddenly dry. My eyes darted to the cell next to it, the one I had placed there when I’d lost contact. I slowly picked up the receiver and listened. There was no dial tone. I clicked the little knobs up and down. How in the world . . .? I picked up my cell and tried turning it on, but it remained black. It probably needed recharging. I plugged it into the outlet and laid it on the kitchen counter.
The house still held my dead uncle’s furnishings, a good thing since my few possessions fit into the back of my pick-up truck. I eased into his soft, dusty armchair, sipped my tea and stared out the window. I found myself wondering where they had found him – my uncle who’d been dead a week before anyone knew it.
I must’ve dozed, for when I opened my eyes, my cold tea pooled on the floor and the slightly cracked cup lay beside it. The storm had died and left behind a damp stillness. I felt a slight, cold breeze filter from the direction of the kitchen and shivered. The day’s light had truly been stolen by the storm and by this time the trees blended into the starless night.
I grabbed an old quilt and wrapped it around my shoulders while I went to start the water boiling for a cup of tea I hoped this time to finish. As I waited, I scanned the bookshelf replete with my uncle’s old books, selected one, and took it with me and my now hot tea to the armchair. The story was benign, really. It was of a silly girl whose efforts in controlling everything and everyone around her irritated me. I was beginning to tire of it, when the pace picked up slightly. She finally encountered a situation that resisted her efforts and wandered away into the night. Two weeks later the few who cared enough to search were on the brink of finding her. I turned the page. The next chapter would finally give some satisfaction! She would get her comeuppance or learn the error of her ways, though I doubted the latter. The page was blank. What? I examined the book. Nothing appeared to be torn out. I turned the next page and the next, suddenly frantic to know what happened. There was nothing. What cruel trick was this?
I turned toward the sound of a sudden creak and felt a slight, cold breeze on my cheek. Then the lights went out.