I was sixteen when I first realized the aching in my heart that I had for him. He was an enigma to me, a mysterious figure. I was never able to get him alone until that one night - the rest was history.
It had been three months since I had last been home; he was all I could think about. Memories of him kept me awake at night, kept me daydreaming during classes. In the bars, I watched my friends slink their way up to men, their eyes glimmering - but I could not bear to even look at another man. It was him - and only him - on my mind.
Driving along my old street made my heart beat faster, knowing I was getting closer and closer to that yellow house next to mine. I imagined sitting up in my bed late at night, watching his shadow behind a sheer white curtain through my window.
My family embraced me warmly, and I gave them all pearly smiles before carrying my bags upstairs. Once entering my bedroom, I immediately shut the door and ran to the window. Separating the blinds with my fingers, I peered into the house next door. My heart dropped a little when all I saw was the ghastly fluttering of a curtain.
That curtain - I knew that curtain so well. In his bed, I’d lie next to him staring up at it, occasionally letting the thin material run through my fingers. Though sometimes in my own room at night, I would see two figures behind it, and I had to look away.
Mrs. Holiday was beautiful - but in a tightly-wound way. Her lips were always pursed, her cheekbones always defined, her hair always slicked back in some sort of hair-sprayed up-do. She wore cardigan sweaters a lot, the buttons at the top always undone. I knew he still saw something in her, no matter how deeply he looked into my eyes.
It was too late to visit him; she would have already gotten home from work. I imagined the two of them sitting reclined on their sofa, sharing a bottle of wine. Her head was probably leaned into his chest, his hands on her arms, running his fingers along her skin. I did not envy her - Mrs. Holiday. I could never envy her. I suppose I might have pitied her, in a way; someone as beautiful as her still could not suffice him.
That night, I sat with my family around the television. They never talked about the Holidays; they never noticed how during years prior I would disappear in the afternoons. I felt powerful with my secret. Sometimes a slight smirk would blossom on my face whenever I thought about him around them, and then I would blush and cover my face with my sleeve. He was my precious secret, too precious to share.
I woke up early the next morning. I took my time getting ready, glossing my lips and applying the perfect scent. I crept downstairs quietly, going through the backdoor to avoid any eyes. The dewy grass tickled my ankles, and I was suddenly reminded of the first night we had met.
“You’re Mary’s kid, right? I guess we haven’t officially met.”
I looked up at the man in front of me. It was as if someone lit fireworks in my chest. I was only sixteen, too inexperienced to flirt, to subtly let him know I was interested, but somehow he still saw something in me, and we talked the entire night. I should have felt ashamed - I know I should have, but the exploding in my chest never ceased, even after I left that backyard party. That was the night I realized that my bedroom window looked directly into his.
I approached his door slowly, lingering for a minute at the welcome mat. I saw his doorbell, and I ran my fingers over the brass plate that enclosed the shiny button. There was a fluttering in my stomach as I pressed it. I heard it ring inside, and then I heard slow footsteps get louder and louder. I took the few seconds to smooth down my hair, to tuck a piece behind my ear - just the way he liked it.
My heart sunk when a woman answered the door, and panic spread through me when I realized it was not Mrs. Holiday. I had never seen this woman before. Her eyes were gray, her face almost too pale.
Neither of us spoke at first until I managed to sputter out a few words, “Is Sam here?”
“Sam?” she asked softly.
My hands began to shake. “Sam Holiday, he lives here.”
The woman’s eyebrows raised, and her lips formed a sympathetic frown. “The Holidays haven’t lived here in over a decade.” She paused, “ You live next door, don’t you? I knew I recognized you.”
I shook my head, my mind frazzled. “No, Sam Holiday lives here. He lives here with his wife.”
“Oh dear,” she began, “Beatrice moved after Sam passed. Don’t you remember?”
“Sam lives here; you’re lying.” She was lying - I knew it. I felt him. He was not dead. He was more alive than ever.
“I think you should go.” I began to argue, but she closed the door in my face.
My mind was racing - where was he? My feet took me away from the door and back inside my house. I did not bother to keep quiet as I raced into the kitchen and found my mother’s address book. I flipped the pages until I found the H’s. I smiled when I saw his surname etched in black pen; I frowned when I saw the address scribbled out in marker. Underneath was a new one - with only her name on it.
I still did not believe it. I had to find him - he was in trouble. I ran back up to my room and opened my laptop. A search of his name led me to his obituary. It was just like the woman said - ten years had passed. I could not comprehend it; I could not understand.
She had to leave at some point, I thought to myself. I stared out my window for hours until a car pulled out of the garage. Suddenly, I found myself once again in front of his door, staring at that doorbell. I rang it, expecting him to see his face appear, to see him smile at me, to laugh as I wrapped my arms around his neck. But he did not appear - no one appeared. I tried the handle, but it was locked. I walked around the side of the house, my hands tugging at every window. Finally, I got to the back porch. The screen door easily opened, and I found myself on his patio. I smiled when I saw the unlocked sliding door, and smiled even more when I stepped inside, the memories of the house filling up my mind.
I found his bedroom; I felt a sense of relief when I smelled his scent. How was I smelling it? He had to be here. His bed was right where I remembered it, and I let myself sink into the soft mattress. The sheets looked a bit different to me, and I could have sworn that he had a beige comforter, not the red one that was beneath me. The bed also seemed smaller - it was definitely smaller than I remembered, but then again, so much time had passed, so I dismissed the oddities. I leaned back against his pillow and shut my eyes.
I did not even flinch when he walked in the door.
“I missed you,” I said to him.
“And I missed you, love.” He always called me love.
He did not waste time coming over to me, falling onto me, kissing me gently. I smiled when he pulled away and stared into my eyes.
“She said you were gone. I didn’t believe her.”
“Who said I was gone?” He rolled over on his side next to me, a concerned look spread across his face.
“The woman that lives here,” I said.
“Why would my wife say that?”
I shook my head. “No, it was not your wife.”
He was silent. So was I.
“Sam,” I said after some time had passed, “why do you have an obituary?”
His eyes were piercing in that moment. I almost felt afraid - almost. I loved him too much.
“Nothing is real,” he whispered.
He spoke a bit louder: “Nothing is real!”
“Stop talking like that, Sam! Stop!” I yelled.
Even when the pillow came down on my face, I still had no fear. Even when his screams became louder, I still had no fear. Even when the gray-eyed pale woman came into the room and began yelling, I still had no fear. Fear could not touch love.
There were too many shouts to comprehend anything, so I buried myself deeper into his sheets. When the sirens started, and the room became blue and red, I became one with the bed, clinging onto a memory.
As they carried me out, I saw Sam standing outside on the curb. No one saw him, no one talked to him, no one paid any attention to my love.
“Sam!” I called out.
He looked away.