Word Count: 592
Story: The Second Door on the Left
Up the stairs, down the hall, the second door on the left.
That door has been closed for three years.
She walks past it, like she does every day. But today, the things that lie behind the door call to her.
It has happened before, and she has tried to ignore the curious yearning, an almost insatiable longing to find out what she already knows, that stirs up inside of her. She has learned to shun, push down, and lock away the urge that is welling up inside her like one resists the allure of just one more cigarette.
The girl steps forward, resting a thoughtful hand on the painted brass handle, almost daring to lean her weight against the cool, solid, whitewashed wood. She inhales slowly, and a whisper of a familiar scent teases her.
It was nothing. Only a frustratingly evanescent memory, come back to haunt her.
She lets the breath out.
She turns away, not wanting to tempt herself. But her hand still rests on the doorknob.
She takes a deep breath one more time.
In her mind’s eye, she sees the picture of her family, which sits, all but forgotten, atop the mantle this moment.
Before a wispy willow tree stands a family of four. They smile in the real picture, but not in her mind. There is a mother, and a father. There are two children. The girl recognizes a younger version of herself. And the boy beside her, only two years older than herself, and bearing a striking resemblance to her. They share their father’s thoughtful, caring eyes, and their mother’s proud, strong nose. The eyes of the boy in her mind blink, and find hers. Not the little girl beside him, but her, as if he knows he’s being spied upon. He mouths her name.
The girl breathes out and opens her eyes, the image of the boy still fresh in her mind.
And suddenly, she can stand it no longer.
She twists the door handle almost desperately, and stumbles into the room.
In three years, nothing has changed. If it hadn't been for the layers of dust, it was almost as though the room had been prepared just yesterday for the brother's return. Scuffed up white walls with lyrics painted over them, a simply designed ceiling fan with a solemn collectoin of dust on the blades, a rather large bookshelf against one wall, a tall mirror next to an empty laundry hamper, and a worn out bean bag chair next to a barely used work desk.
The last thing her eyes find is the lonely, undisturbed bed. The blue and white patterned bedspread looks abandoned, uninviting, and lifeless.
Even so, it is all the girl can do to make it over to the forgotten bed before the memories flooding through her cause her eyes to swim and shimmer like the scales of a fish through water.
As she collapses onto the bed, and as dust is stirred up and gradually begins to resettle, the image of the boy from the picture flashes through her mind again.
Again, he blinks, but this time, she with him.
And as she does, she lets the tears overflow.
After holding herself together for three years, it was good to cry. It was okay to lie there, vulnerable and raw. It was relieving to come to terms with her loss. And it was freedom to allow herself to finally wonder about the war that had taken her brother to a distant land, and when he could be coming home.