It is his job.
He is hired to get close to people, to win their trust, put them at ease. But it hurts. Hurts to witness. The casual touch – his hand brushing her shoulder, placed at the small of her back; his smile – a brightening of the eye, a flush of skin – returned.
Turn away. Let them dine on candlelight and wine. Let soft light travel over turned silverware, along the rims of glasses raised and tipped; down her long neck, the sweep of her collar bones. He does not love her. But it hurts.
Turn away. Leave them. Steal off, down the length of hall. Recede into shadow, into self. Reach the door, that worn and featureless divide. Twist the well-burnished knob. Enter. Lean against the closed door, spine to wood. Survey the room, unseeing.
A Spartan space. Bare wood floors. Neatly made bed, spread with white needlepoint cover. Aged, wooden dresser. One square curtainless window, set too high in the wall opposite the door. Unrestricted moonlight paints the floor – four squares of parted light.
Push off the door. Cross to the room’s center. Drop to knees. Insert fingers along the floorboards’ seams, and peel. Peel them up and away, layer after layer. Narrow planks curl backward upon themselves, until they reveal their secret – the space below; the neat cardboard box within.
Grip the floor’s edges. Place one foot down, inside, then the other. Lower knees, hips, ribs, shoulders. Slip into that square hollow. Curl up in the dark, knees to chin, and pull the floorboards closed, back into place.
Later – later – hear the doorknob rattle, the squeak and scrape of hinges. Hear him call. The pain in his voice — the quavering upswing. His heels pace circles against the floorboards above. Back and forth. Round and round. Calling.
— C.Birde, 10/17