The porch light flickered as your car pulled up, pulling me from a timeless doze. I’d lost count of the years I’d been alone, but when the click of your door echoed around the cul-de-sac and your leg snaked out the door, I knew you were the one I’d been waiting for.
There had been others, sure. I hadn’t been entirely alone, but they always seemed to pass through, gone as quick as they arrived, leaving only the ghostly echoes of their lives. A frayed sweater in the wardrobe. A three-wheeled toy car under the stairs. The forgotten box of tea in the pantry. Comforting treasures in my moments of solitude.
But then there was you. With a hand on the door, you pulled yourself up, and the admiration I saw on your face sent a warm glow radiating through my ancient veins.
You didn’t stay, but I could tell by the way you caressed the wood panelling and admired my clawfoot tub that you’d be back. Even so, when you pulled up the second time in a pickup loaded with boxes and your parents flanking you on either side, my joints softened and I settled into the hope I’d been holding at bay. I glowed with pride when you introduced me to your parents.
“Isn’t it wonderful?” you gushed to them, leading them up the narrow staircase as you hefted the boxes to your room.
When she thought I wasn’t listening, your mother lowered her voice and said, “I don’t know about you being here all alone. Are you sure you’ll be okay?”
“I’m not really alone, Mum,” you’d replied, and I indulged in a secret smile. The trill of your cat pierced the air as you pulled it into your lap, and the fresh smile soured. Well, it couldn’t all be perfect.
We started our days together. In the morning you’d pad down the stairs in your fluffy dressing gown and bed socks, sleep still in your eyes. The nutty smell of coffee followed you around as you scrolled through your phone. In the mornings, you barely noticed me, but I noticed you.
Even though you worked long hours, we bonded quickly. I was always there for you when you arrived, waiting, ready to envelop you in the soft comforts of home. The wine was ice cold, and despite their age, the couches were perfect for sinking into as you kicked off your heels and propped your feet on the coffee table. I didn’t have a TV, and you didn’t bring one, but we never missed it.
We slipped into a comfortable routine. Your gait as you walked up the path told me what our evenings would hold: a night of companionable silence, or loud music and an empty bottle.
At night, you shed the last of the façade you kept up all day, and as you climbed into bed, the pain you kept locked away found its release. I longed to hold you in these moments — to comfort you — but despite our closeness, you were far away in your own world. I could only watch and listen as your wracked sobs poured into the pillow, and wait as the erratic heft of grief steadied out, your body finding its rhythm and your moans deepening until you finally found solace in yourself and the blackness of sleep. A pair of green eyes pierced the darkness as I stood guard over you, my love.
My tentative hope blossomed into full-blown confidence, and then teetered on collapse when one night you arrived late — with company. You laughed as he led you up the path, a wiry arm around your waist. He walked to the door — my door! — and leaned in for a kiss. I was trembling with rage but stifled a giggle as you dodged his face, allowing him a quick hug before escaping through the door to be with me again. I helped you unwind from the terrible evening, and your pleasure at being back with me was enough to extinguish my wrath.
It didn’t stop, though.
A veritable parade of men began marching you to the front door, expecting to be graced with a brush of your lips. It was infuriating that you couldn’t see what was right in front of you: you already held the key to happiness, if only you’d use it.
Although it irked me that you spent so much of your time away, I found a kind of solace in your faithful return.
But then he arrived.
There was something different in the way you walked — leaned into him — and when your footfalls stilled on the porch, I allowed myself to peek out. You were pinned against the door, this stranger’s hands on either side of your face as he kissed your lips, your neck, your — I threw the door open. Together, you tumbled inside and an apology mixed with your giggles and the yowl of the cat as he helped you up. You didn’t even acknowledge me before leading him upstairs. I shook in fury as you tore clothes from each other, but you didn’t notice the trembling as you rocked the iron bed over and over into my wall.
Mist still clung to the grass as your friend clicked the door closed behind him the next morning — as though I wouldn’t hear. You didn’t notice the sullen atmosphere, though, as you hummed a tune I didn’t know and your eyes clouded with what I hoped was the steam from your coffee.
You continued to taunt me with this uninvited guest. Our nights alone became scattered and unfocused. When you were there, it was impossible to reach you through the fog of your screen, and when you sunk into your pillow, sleep cloaked you as quickly and peacefully as your floral duvet.
But often, we were not alone. I felt the loss as keenly as if you’d taken an axe to me.
He was no longer just a nuisance; violence throbbed through me at the very sight of him.
The first time, I caught his fingers. Carelessly resting on the frame as he called out his goodbye, I flicked the door shut, and it bounded back with a satisfying crack. Next time I saw him, he avoided touching you with the dark, swollen joints and I knew it had been the right thing to do.
When I heard him stumbling about in the pre-dawn light, I loosened a cord from the carpet at the top of the stairs. The moment stretched as I waited for his tangled feet to send him tumbling and knocking down the narrow staircase, but instead he slid feet first down the threadbare steps. He laughed as he showed you the carpet burn that roared up his back.
I was losing my patience.
He was making himself at home.
One morning he stepped into the shower, and I saw my chance in the dangling corner of shower curtain that poked out of the tub. Soapy water streamed onto the floor, and he didn’t notice as I shifted the mat just out of reach. The hollow thunk of his head on the enamel rim didn’t make it out of the bathroom, heat and steam soaking up the sound. His body sprawled, unmoving, and I trembled on the precipice of madness as the cat’s claws raked down the door.
And yet he came back.
The kitchen was bathed in the warm glow of a rising sun, light fracturing through the grease on the window above the stove. We were all there — you chopped mushrooms while he took over your sacred job of coffee preparation, the ever-present feline sprawled along the windowsill. The familiar smells tainted the air and our memories with bitterness as you continued to ignore me. The machine buzzed, and he turned to wrap his arms around your waist, nuzzle into the hollow between your shoulder and neck — a space I’d longed to make mine since the moment I saw you.
“I’ve been thinking,” he said, his voice muffled by your skin. “Why don’t you move in with me? I’m not having much luck here.” He laughed it off absurdly.
Your hand stilled over the mushrooms, and you turned to face him. “Are you serious?” you asked, a tingle of hope running through me.
“Deadly,” he answered.
Rage rushed through me and the sun glinted off the knife still clasped in your hand. I punched the drawer out behind you and with a clatter of cutlery the blade tore through his flimsy shirt and pierced the warm flesh beneath it. Your face widened in shock, then creased in horror as you looked at the knife, only a sliver of the handle visible between his shirt and your hand. You yanked it back and he dropped to the floor, a crimson stain blooming across his shirt and pooling on the floor. Dark, syrupy strands dangled from your hands as you alternated between the wound and his face.
It would be okay, my love.
It was for the best.
Blood rushed from his body, life rushed from his eyes, and our future rushed back into focus.
Red and blue lights took over the golden glow of the kitchen, and paramedics had to peel you off his sodden body. I brushed the tingle of jealousy away; I wouldn’t be beaten by a memory.
You followed the bag as it was wheeled out to the curb, the waiting ambulance flanked by two police cars. The doors closed behind him and an officer slapped handcuffs on your wrists, pushing your head into the back of the car. Your blank face was the last thing I saw before the cars roared away.
“No!” I tried to call out. “Don’t take her! She didn’t do anything!”
But they couldn’t hear me.
No one could.
They drove away, leaving me where I’d been for the past hundred years. My bones of wood, veins of steel, dressed in carpet and bricks.