The click of the retracting lock echoes in silence as the front door slides open into blackness. The dead-bolt slides back into position with a clack, breaking the stillness.
Posted as part of a weekly exercise I've entitled, The Idea, to write a series of short stories that can act as standalone material, but are ultimately connected.
From his point of view the house is a black hole, his eyes are still adjusting from the moonlight. Darkness encases him except for the hellfire glow from a Emerson clock that alerts him that it’s midnight. The maroon light of the dial illuminates his features as the small mirror reflects his razor sharp jaw line and stoic grin.
His narrowed eyes attempt to pierce the darkness, leaving only two slits that seem to be examining the house with X-ray vision. He only makes out a few outlines as he scans the room: a small table with some figurines, a large reclining chair and part of a leather sofa. He looks to his left and sees a small key rack with two sets of keys dangling from the bottom two hooks.
One has a Spongebob Squarepants photo dangling from it. The other has the a miniature North Carolina license plate that reads Noah & Sarah.
The figure slinks further into the home. Only his starched white shirt is visible. He removes his black leather driving gloves revealing his dry, cracked hands. Light seems to fear him as he walks. Shadows steal any image of his face. He's a specter moving unknown, through the home.
He bumps into a small table near the wall outside the foyer. The table screeches as it scrapes across the bamboo wood floor. A basket full of paperclips, rubber bands, pencils, and pens jerk. A small porcelain angel teeters on the edge and gravity gains the advantage. The man tries to catch the falling angel, but it and the silence shatters. The man’s breath catches in his throat.
He freezes. Unable to move on or retreat, seconds pass like molasses through a colander without sounds from any of the rooms. Once he’s confident the serenity of the rooms’ occupants are intact he continues.
A small night light in the center of the wall illuminates the hallway. The faint light reflects off the brushed nickel doorknobs on each of the four doors. He edges down the hall until he hears a voice emanating from the bedroom at the end. He stops and listens. There’s a familiarity to the male voice behind the black door and he decides to find out what is happening. He wants to ensure her slumber continues.
His footfalls hit the floor with the impact of a bowling ball on a memory foam mattress. There is no sound. There is no ripple in the air as though he doesn’t exist in this dimension. He stops just before he reaches the door when the voice on the other side ceases.
Another voice speaks up. “I’ve got great news.” A second voice responds, “Am I getting out of here?” To which the first man responds, “No, I just saved a ton of money on my car insurance.”
A breath escapes the man’s chapped lips, “just the t.v.,” he whispers. He pauses to make sure the boy is asleep. The door brushes against the carpet as he closes it.
He continues making his way towards the second room on his right, her room.
The floorboards creak in protest, attempting to reveal his presence. Reaching the porcelain white door he takes a deep breath and reaches with a weather-cracked hand to grip the brushed nickel doorknob. He opens the door a hair, like a kid peaking down the stairs on Christmas morning.
The violet curtains hang over the window like a Salvador Dalí painting. A small sliver of silver moonlight slices through a crack in the curtains, sluicing the purple-black haze with a path that reaches the bed. The alarm clock casts a soft aqua glow on her sleeping face, highlighting her soft cheeks and supple lips. Bundled into her hunter-green comforter, and sleeping on one side of the queen size bed she resembles a swaddled child. She sleeps with her right arm groping the void next to her, searching for someone or something. Her shallow breathing is the only sound.
He pushes the door and it whooshes against the carpet and allows the diffused light from the hallway to slip into the serene gloom of the bedroom. His yellow-green eyes pierce the darkness, and fixate on her. His lips peal back to reveal his Cheshire Cat-like grin.
He’s alert for movement that indicates awareness of his presence. Gazing into the room, images and thoughts crash into his mind like Nascars at a speedway. He pauses to allow his eyes to adjust to the darkness.
A door slams down the hallway. His head snaps towards the sound. The whir of an exhaust fan begins, the bathroom light flicks on, and he hears the unmistakable sound of urine meeting water. Moments pass and the toilet flushes.
“Did he see me?” he wonders. As the child turns on the sink to wash his hands the man opens the bedroom door further, slides into the room, and closes the door behind him. Outside, in the hallway the exhaust fan ceases and the boy returns to his room.
He’s amazed how sleep augments her beauty. How her hair falls across her face, allowing him a view of her full lips and her rounded cheekbones. Her left arm, lying on top of the blanket, reveals her bare shoulders, inspiring thoughts of her naked body and exciting his loins.
He moves from the door to the foot of the bed, into the purple shadows, and stands in front of the mirrored doors that conceals the closet. He unbuttons his shirt, letting it slide off his broad shoulders. He folds it and places it on a small bench beside the closet. He removes his worn Cole Haan Oxfords and lays them beside the bench. He is removing his pants when she stirs.
He stands motionless in the moonlight, waiting for a sign that she is awake. Satisfied, he removes his khakis. He folds and lays them on top of his shirt. He takes off his socks and places them on top of his pile of folded clothes. Moving so he won’t wake her, he creeps to the empty side of the bed and steals back the covers.
The green satin sheets are cool against his bare skin. He positions his body under the covers to face her, where he lies silent for ten minutes, memorizing every inch of her soft skin. Every blemish that makeup is not covering, noticing each little item that makes her unique. The way the tip of her nose moves as she breathes, how she makes tiny noises as if she’s holding a conversation in her dream, the way her breasts sway as her chest rises and falls. With each second he falls more in love. The warmth of her body feels welcoming like an invitation from home. She makes no motion as he sidles closer to her.
He reaches his hand to brush a strand of hair off her face. Centimeters away, her eyes flutter open.
Surprise rushes to her face and eyes as she attempts to process the figure laying beside her. She feels his cold naked body lying next to her naked skin. His erection is hard against her leg. Two emerald eyes stare back and seem to freeze her like a tractor beam. Her heart hammers. Sweat materializes on her forehead. Her skin turns to ice as her voice catches in her throat like a rat caught in a trap.
Thoughts careen through her mind while sleep scurries into the background.
“Fuck! Why didn’t Noah come home tonight? Shit! Of all days to be on a business trip. Fuck! What do I do? Why can’t I scream?”
Possible scenarios play out in her mind like subliminal messages and none of them are good. She smells his moist onion breath on her face as he lies beside her, continuing to stare. The hand that she saw when she awoke begins its search anew for her body when, suddenly the figure speaks in an ominous whisper.
“It’s okay. It’s me,” Noah says. “I took the red eye home. I couldn’t wait to see you so I rented a car and drove home. Sorry if I scared you. I was trying not to wake you.”
“Noah? You scared the ever-loving shit out of me. You should’ve called. I would have picked you up. At the very least you should have said something, instead of crawling in here like a fucking stalker. My heart’s beating a thousand miles a minute. What time did you get home?”
“About half an hour ago. You looked so peaceful lying here. I didn’t want to wake you up. I thought it’d be a nice surprise to wake up and have me laying here beside you.”
“A surprise would have been flowers or breakfast in bed. This was fear inducing. I’m not going to sleep for hours.”
“I’m really sorry,” Noah says. “I didn’t want to scare you.”
“So, how long have you been watching me sleep this time?”
“The usual,” he replies. “One of these days I’m going to take a picture so you can see what I see. You get this look on your face like you’re planning a bank heist that will leave people wondering for years. I don’t think your dimples get more pronounced than they do when you sleep. I lay here wondering what you dream about.”
“You better never take a picture of me sleeping. Just to be sure I’m going to break your camera” she says with a smile.
“That’s what you took away from that sentence?” he says. “Oh, speaking of breaking, I bumped into that table again and broke the angel I bought you.”
“I’m going to move it into the back yard if you don’t learn to move around it – klutz. You can make it up to me by making me breakfast in the morning.”
“I can do that,” he says with a smile. “How can I say no to that face, and those dimples.”
“You’re a sweetheart, but you already know that,” she says. “Okay. I’m glad you’re home, it makes me feel safe, but you woke me up from this great dream I was having.”
“Oh yeah? What was it about?”
“Speaking of dreams and sleeping. We’ve got to do something about Rhett falling asleep with Letterman on.”
“In the morning dear. It’s time for bed. Welcome home. Now that you had your fun it’s time for mine.”
As she rolls over the last words she utters before falling asleep in his firm arms are, “Cuddle me.”
(Leave your thoughts in the comments below)
Was the story believable? What was or wasn't?
Would you surprise your significant other in a similar fashion?
Would you let your child watch Letterman on a school night?