Chapter no 9

The Locked Door

When I get home, the house somehow seems even more empty than usual. I step out of the garage and into the foyer, flicking on the lights.

“Honey, I’m home!” I call out.

My voice echoes through the first floor. I’m grateful I didn’t buy one of those giant houses on the market, even if I could (just barely) afford it. Anything larger than this would be frightening at night. Not that I’m easily scared.

As I stand in the hallway, I wonder if the paramedics made it out to Henry Callahan yet. I wonder if he survived the crash.

I feel a sudden flash of guilt. Yes, it was his fault for following me, and I wasn’t the one who made him crash. But I knew what was going to happen at the turn. I could’ve at least gone back to see if he needed medical attention.

But I didn’t.

I should have stopped. I’m a doctor—if he was in distress, I could’ve helped him. And I chose not to. It’s the sort of thing my father would have done. Not me. I’ve chosen to live my life differently.

But then I push away the guilt. He was the one following me. The bastard had it coming.

Anyway, I’m not going to think about it anymore.

This morning, I stuck a load of laundry in the dryer before I left the house, and I figure I’ll go grab it before I eat dinner. I hate it when there’s a load of laundry sitting in the dryer. It’s like I can sense the laundry in there, taunting me. Put me away, Nora.

That’s not strange, is it? Doesn’t everyone’s laundry talk to them?

I open the door to the basement and I flick on the lights. My house is relatively old, and the basement came unfinished. I considered fixing it up, but I’ve got plenty of space on the first two floors of my house. What do I need a finished basement for?

But on the occasion I made the mistake of inviting Philip over, he was emphatic that I should get the basement fixed up. It looks like a dungeon down here, Nora.

As I step down the concrete stairs to the basement, I recognize the truth in his words. The walls of the basement are made of brick, and the dull gray paint covering the ceiling is cracking. The only light in the room is a single lightbulb hanging from the ceiling, which flickers slightly as I walk across the room.

This basement looks exactly like a dungeon.

You don’t want your house to look like a dungeon, do you? Philip had said. But as I look around the room now, I wonder if perhaps that’s exactly what I wanted when I chose this house. After all, my father built a dungeon in our basement. But I was savvy enough to buy a house with one already supplied. It looks, in fact, a lot like the basement back in my childhood home. There’s even a lock on the basement door, even though I usually keep it unlocked.

I take a deep breath, and for a moment, I detect a hint of lavender.

I shake my head to clear it, and I sprint over to the laundry machine. As quickly as I can, I stuff piles of clean scrubs into my laundry basket. Then I race back up to the first floor and slam the door to the basement behind me.

I lean my forehead against the door to the basement, breathing hardI swallow a lump that has lodged itself in my throat. I don’t know why it smelled like lavender down there. I don’t use any cleaning supplies that have lavender in them. I must’ve been imagining it. Anyway, it doesn’t look that much like my father’s basement.

Does it?

From the back door, I can hear the familiar sound of that cat bashing her head against the door. I swallow down the lump in my throat and drop the basket of laundry on the ground. I’ll feed the cat, then I’ll put away the laundry. Then I’ve got to eat something. About half of my panic attack in the basement was probably due to hypoglycemia.

I grab a can of cat food from the cabinet. Pork this time. I open up the back door and the cat is looking up at me. I’ve never taken care of a living thing before—not even a plant—and I don’t dislike it. I’m glad I’m making the cat happy.

I empty the can of cat food into the bowl, and the cat laps at the food happily. I hesitate for a moment, then I run my hand along her back. Her fur

is so soft. She pauses in the middle of eating and lifts her head to nuzzle against my hand.

It’s cold out tonight. Maybe I should let the cat stay in my house. It would be nice not to be alone in here, just for one night…

No. No. God, what am I thinking? I can’t have a cat. Hasn’t the past taught me anything?

I yank my hand away from her fur. The cat gives me a hard look—or at least, as much as possible—but then she goes right back to eating. I quickly close the back door, lock it, and go make dinner.

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