Copyright © 2012 by Alex Rosaria
This e-book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer‘s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real.
Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Did someone call him? He turned back to the attic landing and looked down the stairs. No one was there. He could only hear the muffled screaming of his kids playing on those damn handheld game consoles he’d bought for their…he couldn’t remember what. Nothing. He could have sworn it was his wife calling, but it must have been the wind whispering through the half-opened attic window.
He looked around. He and his wife, Jessica, had moved their bedroom to the attic so their daughter, Candice, could have a room of her own. She had pestered for her own room for months, demanding some privacy from her younger brother, since she was nearly a teenager and all.
The curtain dampened the bright sunlight, leaving the room half lit, passing enough light that he could see most of the room well enough. The queen bed stood against the furthest wall, taking up quite a bit of the limited space. At each side stood a nightstand, one for Jessica and the other one also for Jessica. The bed was still covered with a pile of her clothes and those of the kids, even though their suitcases were already packed. Jessica had not cleaned up, and he hated that. Half the bed was his, but she didn’t care.
For a few days now he’d been wearing soiled socks. He needed a pair of black ones, but it proved difficult finding a clean pair. Someone, probably one of the children, must have hidden them, or else Jessica had been playing her games again, throwing his hole-ridden or mismatched socks away.
A cold breeze blew through the window, fluttering the curtain up and down. “Roland!”
This time he was sure it was Jessica. He went downstairs into the busy chattering coming from Jimmy’s room. They were quarreling again, for who knows how many times already that day. He paused in front of the door, arm stretched, his fingers hovering above the door handle. No, he thought. Let them be. He had no time for this and preferred to go see what his wife wanted from him again. Soon he would get all the peace he could ever want.
Downstairs in the kitchen Jessica was searching in the cupboards.
“You called me?”
Jessica pulled her head away from the cupboard she was rummaging through and looked questioningly at him with her big, almond-colored eyes under her furrowing brow. “I didn’t call for you.”
“Yes you did. I heard you.”
She walked up to him, tucking a strand of blond hair behind her ear. After two pregnancies she had added a few inches around her waist and butt, but she kept her figure toned in a shape you wouldn’t mind looking at. At thirty-five, she could still sweep up his desire.
“Whoever you heard, it wasn’t me.”
“Must be the kids, then. They’re fighting again.”
“Yeah, it must have been them. Would you mind calling them down? We really need to get going.”
“You’re sure you didn’t—”
“I’m sure. Now go call them.”
She slapped his right butt cheek when he turned to walk away. He had liked this habit of hers the first few years they were married, but not anymore. It only fired him up for nothing and left him dry and wanting. She thought it funny being a tease, but any man could have enough of that eventually.
He arched his way around the suitcases parked in front of the door to the hall, his cheeks flushed red and his nose flared up. All the free space in the living room, and she chose to put them down in the least handy place. She could have put them anywhere else in the four-hundred square-feet living room, with its white painted walls. Anywhere else on the polished hardwood floor. For all he cared she could have put them on the sofa, which was big enough to sleep on, or against the big flat-screen TV he barely used. She could fill the room with suitcases for all he cared, as long she left the path to the door and the upstairs clear.
No answer. Only their quarreling ruckus came down to meet him.
“Kids!” he yelled.
Who was he kidding? Had they ever answered the hundreds, the thousands—no, the millions of times he’d called them down before? Simply put, no, they hadn’t.
Stomping up the stairs, he had the single hope that they at least would snap at attention at his arrival, but instead they stood face to face, pressing their foreheads against each other like two antelope settling an argument with their horns. There they stood oblivious of his presence, grumbling at each other. He relished in the prospect of a week omitted from this daily routine. For a whole week he would have his house for him to enjoy—alone.
“Candice. Jimmy. Listen up, the both of you.” He had to yell to overcome their noise. Silenced for a second, they cast a quick glance his way, then were back at each other’s throat with renewed fervor. They whined on in a way only kids and spoiled college students can manage.
They didn’t even give him a second of silence in return this time.
“You keep on with this nonsense and those game-things of yours will be trashed.”
Two shocked faces snapped at him, wide eyes following his every move, lips trembling too hard to continue their quarrel.
“Finally I got your attention.”
“You can’t take them away, they’re ours!” Candice whined.
“Yeah,” Jimmy added.
He would willingly trash their toys, but he was glad threatening to do so was enough to get them to shut up and listen for a minute.
“Your mother called for you to come downstairs and—”
With bare feet they ran past him down the stairs.
“Wait!” he thundered after them. They froze on the stairs just a few steps from the landing.
“Get back up here immediately and put some socks on.”
They ran back upstairs, each to their own room. Roland stayed on the landing between the rooms to make sure they didn’t start quarreling again. For once, God smiled upon him. Within a minute both kids came out of their rooms wearing their socks. Then they ran downstairs again, laughing and chattering about their trip as though they’d never quarreled before. He sighed and followed them down.
The trip to the airport went wonderfully well; the lights ran straight green, and the assholes usually driving around making the roads unsafe had apparently decided collectively to stay away. God did indeed smile on him that day, blessing him with a week of relaxation with no obligations.
He looked in the rear-view mirror. Candice and Jimmy silently played their hand-held consoles. If they could be like this for the whole day, each day of the year, he wouldn’t be so thrilled at the prospect of being left alone. He looked sideways at Jessica. She was staring at him with a dumb smile plastered on her face, her eyes getting teary.
She shook her head. “Oh nothing…Well, you look so peaceful and…you actually smiled today.”
“Did I?” He guessed he had indeed.
“I’ll miss you so much,” Jessica said.
“I’ll miss you guy too,” he lied.
He pulled up and stopped at the departures curb and pressed the button to open the trunk before stepping out of the car. Could he just drop them off to make their way to the check-in counter?
He took the suitcases out of the trunk and placed them down on the pavement next to the car. He looked at the row of taxis behind. They were surrounded by the hum of airport traffic—the many voices, movement of people, car engines running—yet the roar of the planes above blanketed all the other noises. Families stepped out the many cabs, hugging and kissing each other goodbye.
The cabdriver directly behind him gave him a nasty look. Roland frowned back. The driver pointed to a sign behind Roland; he was parked in a taxi-standing place.
“Honey I’ve got to go. Please hurry.”
“Aren’t you going to help us carry the suitcases to the check-in counter?”
“Sorry, I can’t”
Jessica’s face soured as she cast a worried look at the many suitcases and bags. The kids, predictably, stood a distance away from them, absorbed deeply in their video game consoles, oblivious to all the happenings around them. Roland grabbed a cart, hoisted the suitcases and bags, and threw them on top of each other on the cart. He pushed the cart toward Jessica. “Here you go.”
“Aren’t you going to wave us goodbye?”
He looked past his wife’s supplicating eyes to their children, and up to the sign reading TAXI CABS ONLY. He pointed at it. “Can’t do—I’m in a bad spot. I need to move.”
He kissed Jessica. The sweet taste of her lips made him feel guilty leaving her, a feeling he quickly buried before it could fester. He waved at the kids, who didn’t bother to watch him to wave back. He jumped in his car and drove away, leaving his annoyed wife behind. Freedom at last, he thought.
He parked his car in front of his house. Looking ahead of him, he saw the small, brownish, old car, a make gone bust half a century ago, which belonged to Mrs. Wellington, his neighbor. She always parked her car neatly within the lines, meticulously even. It wasn’t that the 70-year-old was great at parking a car, but that she took her time in doing it correctly, even if it took her an hour. It amazed him that she could drive with her trembling, arthritic hands. Come to think of it, he hasn’t seen her for a while… Best it stay that way if he wanted to keep his calm and tranquility. He didn’t want to be disturbed not even by neat old ladies, no matter how nice or well intended they were.
He sighed in relief; finally he was alone, all alone. The days ahead would be enough to recharge him for years to come. He’ll miss Jessica more than his kids, but not by much. What he wanted from her was a long lost memory. Hopefully the days apart will rekindle her desire for him.
He inhaled deeply, taking in the air of blissful solitude as he entered his home. The silence unimaginable any other day washed over him, making him feel giddy. Regret set in when he thought about work tomorrow. His co-workers had taken the holidays off, leaving him as one of the few who had to stay behind to keep watch over the office and take care of what little work there was left to be done.
He would be just filling his seat. With everybody enjoying their holidays there wasn’t much to be done, and with his supervisor gone even the little tasks that remained could be neglected. It was a blessing in disguise. With the wife and kids gone and free reign at work, he could relax to his heart’s content.
Roland sat down in the living room, nestling comfortably in the cushioned sofa. Nobody to share it with—he had it all for himself. He gazed at the big flat-screen TV and from there to the remote lying on the low glass-top table. He could watch the news, but there was never any good news. Maybe a movie. He played with the remote in his hands, flipping it over from one hand to the other, finally throwing it on the sofa.
He went upstairs to the kids’ rooms. Like a man emerging from the desert after days without water, he gulped down the silence. He walked around their rooms, kicking the many toys strewn on the floor. He couldn’t believe he’d bought so many toys for them, which now lay discarded, carpeting the floor.
Jessica had asked him to tidy up the children’s rooms. He shook his head at the sight of the amount of work she had imposed on him. Sure, the rooms needed cleaning, but not by him. Fuck it; she could do it herself, or make the kids do it.
They were at the age to become more self-reliant and responsible. They could now earn the allowance Jessica gave them behind his back. The kids were great at keeping secrets. He smirked. The last time he scolded them they threw it in his face, saying they didn’t need him and his money because Mom was giving it to them. Jeez, with kids like that he didn’t need enemies. They’d do just fine bringing him down. Not to mention themselves. They could clean their own mess up from now on. He didn’t understand his wife’s leniency with the little rascals, how she could spoil them so much.
He went up to the attic. The desk that held his computer was completely covered with clothes—her clothes, mainly. He’d stopped working upstairs on the computer because he got fed up with having to tidy up around it every damn day. This meant he spent less time upstairs, so Jessica concluded that he didn’t need the computer anymore, and thus went wild, using it as a place to store her recently washed and dried clothes. She put them there in wait to be ironed and stored in the wardrobe (though she never got around to the ironing stage of that plan). He grabbed an armful and threw them down on the carpeted floor. She’ll get upset finding her clothes on the floor. Roland smiled. Serves her right for cluttering his workspace.
He wiped a pile from the desk, freeing his mouse. He grabbed an unwashed g-string from his flat-screen. She must have been in a hurry while changing and thrown it on the clean pile of clothes. He brought the g-string to his nose and breathed in. The sweet scent of his wife’s womanhood filled his nostrils.
It’d been so long since he last tasted her. He looked longingly at her g-string, which had a rose-shaped front flap. He realized their lack of intimacy hurt him deeper than he’d thought. It had gone downhill sharply after the birth of their children. He yearned for it, and sometimes his mind wandered to other women. It was his love for his wife that kept him from acting on his thoughts and urges. It was better accepting these urges existed than burying them deep in denial. But letting them out and thinking about them it made it easier for him not to stray. Their differences aside, he couldn’t hurt her like that, no matter how much he longed for a woman in his arms.
He threw the g-string on the hill of clothes next to his desk. He sat down behind his desk and turned the computer on. Twice he tried his password and both times he got the message back that he had used the wrong username or password. He stared blankly at the login screen, scratching his chin. Damn his wife for not letting him use his computer often. That’s why he forgot the password. He thought a minute. His wife—of course! He typed in her maiden name, looked up hesitatingly, and quickly added the year they married.
It worked. The whole web was waiting for him and with it all the free porn available. Pathetically, that was the closest he would get to any intimacy: naked woman having sex with men who weren’t him. That and strangers on chat channels and messageboards. Is this what his life had come to? At least he’ll be left alone without a bother, and if was interrupted or grew tired of it, he could always log off.
A breeze fluttered the curtains, stirred the clothes hanging up to dry, swaying them about. It went up his legs, crawling on his back, chilling him. He couldn’t remember leaving the window open. He must have forgotten—a sure sign he was getting older. He walked away from HeatherXXX trying to seduce men to spend a butt load of cash to go on private cam with her. He wouldn’t be missed. He pulled the curtains open and was met with his own reflection gaping at him in the closed window.
He swore he had heard the curtains move, and felt the breeze. Since the window was shut, he figured the front door must be open. He flew down the stairs after closing the curtains, arriving at the bottom out of breath. It was closed. He ran to the living room, whirled around, and did the same at the kitchen. The door was closed, and so were all the windows. Everything was as he had left it, undisturbed.
He cocked his right ear, not believing what he’d heard.
Wide-eyed, he looked about and around.
“Jessica?” He called out.
She must have entered the house unbeknownst to him. Her opening the door is what must have caused the draft. He wondered how it was possible he didn’t hear the door or her coming up the stairs. She must now be in their kids’ room. Was her flight canceled? If so, why hadn’t she called to let him know?
“What happened? Shouldn’t you be on the plane?”
He looked up the stairs, there was no movement, no sounds. The house certainly seemed empty, but logic told him that was impossible. So why weren’t the kids making noise?
“Jessica, the kids with you?”
Still no answer. He didn’t like stupid games like this. Would she ever grow up? He stomped his way up the stairs, muttering curses between breaths. He dramatically pushed Candice’s bedroom door open. Empty. He did the same at his son’s door, only with more force. The door smashed against the wall and bounced back, slamming shut. But before it closed, he saw a dark shadow, and it wasn’t his kids or wife. His muscles stiffened and the hair at the nape of his neck stood on end. He bolted back down to the kitchen, opened the cupboard, and took out the biggest knife he could find.
Roland tiptoed toward the living room. He stretched his neck. His hearth thumped a heavy, rapid rhythm as he neared the corner of the kitchen wall and into view of the living room. No one was waiting for him there. He should have kept it simple—a movie and some snacks, and after that, blissful sleep. He deluded himself into thinking that no one would’ve been able to sneak past him if he had stayed in the living room.
He grabbed the phone and dialed 911. His finger hesitated over the one. What would he tell the police? That there was no sign of break-in and a shadow had him running scared? They would lock him up for being a nut job. He pressed the cancel button and placed the phone back on the receiver, ignoring the red light indicating he had voicemail messages waiting.
He took each step upward carefully, trying to be quiet, but the stairs creaked with each one of his steps. He paused to listen, expecting to hear movements of someone or something upstairs, but each time he was greeted by silence. He crept up the stairs. He normally bounded up them in just a few seconds, but this time, it took him minutes to make the ascent. He pushed the door to his son’s room ajar and quickly stuck his head in. No one was there.
The shade of night had already begun to fill the room. He should hurry if he wanted to check Candice’s room without having to use a light source, which could possible alert his presence to an intruder. He snuck to his daughter’s bedroom door and pushed it slowly open. His heart almost stopped at the loud creak it produced. No intruder came bursting out the door to skewer him, and he saw no shadow lurking ominously, waiting for him. Actually he saw very little, because the sun set on the other side of the house, leaving this room dark at this time of day. He flipped on the light switch and jumped up, hitting the back of his head against the doorpost, when he saw the shadow of his daughter’s old porcelain doll.
A bisque doll. This particular doll had been in Jessica’s family since the early 1900s. Bisque dolls like this one had authentic, human-looking faces and finish—creepy little things. Jessica passed it on to Candice, giving it the air of a precious heirloom. Why In God’s name did Candice still play with that thing, with its creepy lifelike eyes that always seemed to follow him around? He couldn’t remember having seen this doll in ages. He grabbed it and threw it on Candice’s bed. He looked at it for a while, then quickly covered it with the bed sheet.
The light was playing tricks on him, casting shadows where they shouldn’t be and making the shadow of a doll scare him enough that he almost called the cops. Add to that the fact that he was alone in an empty house, and it was easy to understand why he might be hearing things that weren’t really there. All that had happened before his scare was a fog, which his brain quickly let him forget.
He looked up at the attic, which was now completely dark. HeatherXXX would have to do without him. Her many suitors will have to keep her company—not as if he would be that a great loss. He went back to the living room and flipped on the light, just to make sure everything was as he had left it. He brought a six-pack back from the kitchen and sat down on the sofa. He downed one and turned the TV on. A police series had just started, part of a marathon running that weekend. There wasn’t much else to do, so he decided to watch the detectives solve many murders in dubious ways he doubted were even legal in most states. As they solved case after case, he drank beer until he started nodding and fell asleep, his head rested awkwardly on the sofa’s armrest. Before sleep claimed him, he heard his name whispered in his ear, but by that time tiredness and the beer had done their job and he couldn’t stop himself from falling into a black sleep.
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