The entrance hall was obscure and quiet. Jill walked in slowly and looked around. Judging by the smell of the house and by the state of its walls, it must have been abandoned for a while now. This came as a surprise to her as, from the outside, it had appeared to be in such a good state. She passed in this street everyday; how could the inside of this house have been left to such decay?
On her right, a little door opened onto a flight of stairs that probably led down to a cellar. “It’s the logical way to go to find him,” she thought. She took two steps down when a strong smell of dampness reached her from below; it felt just like stepping into a freezing tomb. She stopped. There was no way she was going down there! What was she doing? She had a meeting…the meeting! She was not going to have time to prepare for the meeting. She looked at her watch…she might even be late for it if she kept on with this. She turned around at once, heading for the door, when a strange sound came from below. Pausing in her tracks, she listened. She could not make it out at first but then it came to her; it was a song she’d listened to over and over when she was a teenager. She recognized the slow beat of it, and the haunting melancholic melody.
A shrill shot up her spine. Mixed up voices of girls could also be heard in the background now. Amongst them, one came out clearer than the others: “He’s sooooo cute, have you seen his eyes? He came over last night with a rose!” Her blood went cold. That was Patty Anderson’s high-perched voice; she could have recognised it in a million. Intrigued, she turned around and started down the staircase again. With each step, the darkness became thicker as well as the sound of the tune and of the voices. “Curiosity killed the cat,” she thought as an intangible force pushed her forward into the dark descent. The staircase was narrow and the air got colder and damper with every step. Her legs felt unsteady, trembling… She reached into her bag for the plant remedy pills she usually used to calm herself before giving presentations at work. As she pulled out the box, the lid came off and all the pills fell on the staircase at her feet. Unnerved, she sighed heavily “I’ll have to do this on my own” she thought.
As she reached the bottom of the staircase, her heart was beating so strongly she could feel it hammering in her throat. The cold she’d felt only a few seconds ago now gave way to a suffocating heat. She was outside on a summer’s day, cigarette in hand as she loosened her schoolgirl’s uniform tie. Her three best high school girlfriends were standing in front of her, talking all at once, excitedly. In the distance a group of boys was slowly coming towards them. She remembered this moment instantly. The boombox on the ground playing that track on repeat… She looked back but the staircase was gone. She was 15 all over again and she knew what was coming… She held her breath as James reached their group and slipped his arm around Patti’s waist. She smiled again; just like before, pretended once more that it didn’t hurt and went through the motions, a silent witness of her own pain, unable to do anything but go through the rejection once again, watching him as he made his choice “loud and clear”…Then it all went black.
The heat became more bearable as a familiar smell reached her nose. Garlic and parsley, with a pinch of paprika…her mother’s chicken recipe. She heard the distant sound of her stepfather’s car drive up the driveway and felt the usual knot in her stomach. As the details of her childhood home appeared out of thin air around her, she recognised the familiar feeling of fear as she anticipated him entering the house. He burst into the kitchen, his eyes cold and emotionless. Passing by her mother without even acknowledging her, he cornered Jill.
– “College” he hissed, towering over her disdainfully “what do you mean by “college” with your squeaky voice? I’ve seen your grades Mousy and they are pathetic. Do you really think I have any more money to spend on you? ”
“Mousy”, that’s how he used to call her… She remembered the fear and the shame again, and the injustice of her mother’s silence…her shifty eyes. She went through it again, shaking as he poured his hate all over her, breaking the fragile glass that made her soul.
Darkness descended upon her again as she heard herself sighing: “you are so demanding”. Tom was standing in front of her in their apartment in Brussels. He looked tired … and so sad: “I don’t know how to make myself real to you anymore Jill” he whispered.
– “Well you’ve managed this time haven’t you…bringing this slut in our home, in our bed!” she exploded.
– “Do you even care?” he said, looking at her in dismay. “I do not love her, you know that. I’m dying in our relationship Jill. She has given me more in three months than you have given me in three years…”
– “My God Tom, what more can I give you!?! I’m here every night aren’t I? We are already in the same relationship, does that mean we always have to be in the same room too?”
The walls shifted and she was back in her same apartment, sitting on the same burgundy couch but the place was now lacking furniture in some places. Outside, the rain was pouring over a cold November evening. This was one year ago, she could recall it. Her first night alone in the apartment; the first of many more to follow. Staring at the TV as she swallowed ready-made food absent-mindedly. Tom had left and she was now free to be alone in every single room if she wanted. She felt the choking loneliness, the agony of every hour…void of meaning. Alone with herself. « What’s happening to me? » she whispered in a muffled cry, not sure if she was in the cellar or still in her apartment.
« Walls don’t answer do they? » said the creature now standing in front of her.