I had nothing but the rustle of the strong winds and the crunch of the dried leaves under my feet as company for the night. The long way home was desolate and silent, lined with flickering lamp posts. The occasional noise from whatever creature was lurking around in the gutters gave haste to every step I took. I didn’t stop, didn’t turn to notice the sounds and sights around me. There was no time for that. Tightly grasping my coat around me to stay warm, I pushed on through the windy streets with one singular notion. I hadn’t been home in a week and I was determined to get there as quickly as possible.
As I stopped at an intersection before crossing the road, I spotted a young couple. They looked so normal, laughing and flirting with one another. I sometimes wondered what it was like to not have a care in the world, to only worry about the small things: bills, taxes, and what to eat for dinner. These trivial vices were nothing compared to what I went through every day. I couldn’t complain though; I loved my job.
After several blocks, I finally arrived home to my beautiful six-bedroom house in the suburbs. This wasn’t just any house; this was my home. Tried and true. But, besides this fact, instead of walking through the front door, I went around the side and climbed onto the patio roof. Scaling the side of the building, I crouched as I approached the third story window. There, sitting at his desk working, was Dave. I stretched out my hand and tapped the glass.
Startled, he swung around in his chair and saw me. Catching his breath, he stood from his chair and unlatched the window. “I told you to stop sneaking up on me, Ava,” he told me as I hunkered down with him at eye level. I gave him a sheepish smile before climbing over the window ledge and entering the room.
Dave took me in when my mother died. I was only six years old. He was an older gentleman with salt and pepper hair and a smile that was the visual equivalent to a warm cup of coffee in the middle of winter. Selfishly, he raised me as his own and I loved him for it. Like a real man, Dave always dressed in suits, unless he was out golfing with his buddies.
As I stood by his desk in the room, Dave reached out with one hand towards the gash above my eyebrow. I cringed slightly at the sensation of his touch. Sensing my reluctance, he then turned his attention to the upper right drawer of his desk. In one brisk motion, he pulled out a handkerchief and applied it to my wound. “No more blood on the carpet. I just got it cleaned.”
I flashed a quick smile as I placed my hand over his to hold the cloth to my head. Feeling pampered, I stepped into the adjacent bathroom and got undressed. The hot water from the showerhead felt wonderful as it beat down on my naked body. Tonight had been rough, and the stream of warmth instantly relaxed my muscles significantly. Once soaped and rinsed, I stepped out of the shower stall and turned to the mirror. Beads of moisture still clinging to my wet skin, I wiped the fog from the glass and stared at my reflection. My dark hair was wavy and dripping wet, clumping together in a thick tangle on the bank of my neck and shoulders. The fresh gash on my eyebrow still looked red and raw, but had fortunately stopped bleeding. Reaching into the bathroom cabinet for the first-aid kit, I removed a bandage from the box and placed over it over the pinkish gash. As I stood there looking at my reflection, I thought regretfully, What am I doing? Why do I do this?
Once done prepping, I walked back into Dave’s office. When I looked up to his ruggedly good-looking face, I noticed he was smiling at me.
When I see him smile, it’s all worth it.