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Romance Fiction Urban Fantasy

My head hangs low as I walk up the crumbling steps to the abandoned house. I shove the door open—though “door” is a charitable world. It’s an old and rotted slab of wood, long removed from its frame. I strain until it budges enough to slip inside.

I remember when I first stumbled—quite literally—across the house. I was on another bender—barely coherent—just a few weeks after they let me out of the hospital. It was late, but I couldn’t face Amy, not like that. And so I took refuge in the sad little home. It wasn’t much, but I could smoke cigarettes in peace. It was all I needed.

The interior is just as I found it that first night. The commotion of my entrance sends plumes of dust skyward. Remnants of long-neglected furniture are strewn across the floor, and tattered wallpaper lines the walls. Grime covers every surface, save for a single set of footprints leading deeper into the house. I carefully walk along them, my feet fitting perfectly in the imprints. 

The stairs creak as I make my way up to the attic. 

I could barely make the climb that first night. The booze and pills didn’t help the effort. But it was the grief that made everything so hard back then. It sat in my gut, pressing against my insides, holding me down like an anchor. It didn't take much—a sympathetic look, the wrong song, a stray memory—to send me plummeting into the void.

I open the door—a real, proper one—at the top of the stairs. It's the only thing in the house that moves without groaning. The attic is cramped, and—like an oasis among the chaos—it is pristine.

It wasn't always this way. After that first night, I came back armed with soap and water. When I left, the attic was my refuge within the refuge. The wooden floors gleamed, even if they were rotted through. The walls bore a fresh coat of paint, even if they still smelled of mildew.  The only part of the room I dared not touch was the window. 

It sits in the dead center of the back wall. Octagonal and framed by smooth wooden paneling, I assume it is an artifact of the 70’s. The glass is rose-tinted, the pink hue an aggressive riposte to the gray house. The window should look out onto the street—a quiet suburban road—but it doesn’t.

That first night I peered through it, I thought I was hallucinating. Grief, drugs, sleep deprivation—it wasn’t like my grasp on reality was particularly strong at the time. But it was the same the next night. And the night after that. And every night since for the last year and half. 

I pull a cigarette from my jacket and fight the urge to look through the rose-tinted glass. Craving one last hit of nicotine, I flick my lighter, casting an orange glow over the room. I pull hard, and the tobacco crackles. I immediately feel better, more alert.

I glance at the inscription scribbled on the wall next to the window. To my love, so that you may always remember our happiest moment. I don’t know who wrote it, but given the state of the house, the author is probably long dead. But perhaps not. Perhaps someone capable of creating this window isn’t bound by little things like life and death. 

When I first found this place—before I knew what it was—I felt like I was at the bottom of a cold, dark pit. It was just after the accident. My life—my perfect life—had just been snatched from me. Screeching tires, a ball of flame, worried nurses, a long slumber—a single night that defined all the the years before and after. 

When I woke up, I knew it was bad. It wasn’t the pain or the chirping machines. It was the doctors’ refusal to let me look in the mirror. 

Amy was there. She always was. But I knew what she was thinking. Her big, sad eyes dripped with sympathy. I was disfigured and broken, a husk of the man she once loved. I knew she wouldn’t stay long after I “recovered”—a word the doctors threw around often but left intentionally vague.

Back then—before I found the window—I had another obsession. Hope. A foolish hope that things could go back to the way they were before. But deep down, I knew they wouldn’t. Despite Amy's promises that she loved me, that she didn’t care about the injuries, I knew the truth. It was only a matter of time until it would end. She would be there until I was back to some sense or normalcy—that much I assumed—but she would eventually find someone else. Someone beautiful like her. Someone that could make her happy.

I snuff out my cigarette, ready to resign myself to the magnetic pull of the window. 

I peer through the rose-tinted glass, and, at once, the rose multiples into the full spectrum of colors. Bright shapeless masses swirl around for an impossibly long moment before coalescing into a crystal clear image.

Through the glass, I watch Amy and I walk up the big hill in Passé Park. The sun is bright, and there is not a cloud in the sky. I see the baguette and the bottle of champagne protruding from our gaudy basket. I see us singing and holding hands. I see us lay down the picnic blanket. I see smiles give way to laughs—so heavy our guts hurt—as the champagne bottle begins to empty. I see Amy stroke my smooth face. It is the happiest moment of my life.

The image begins to disassemble into a million fragmented colors. They swirl violently until order prevails over chaos, and, through the glass, I watch Amy and I walk up the big hill in Passé Park. 

#

I hear a scraping noise, but it's easy to ignore. 

I don’t know how long I have watched Amy and I picnic in Passé Park, but I know it has been a long time. More than cigarettes and painkillers, the rose-tinted window is my greatest addiction. I am unable to peel my eyes away. Eventually, I will fall asleep here. The lack of bed is no obstacle.

The scraping subsides but is quickly replaced by a series of loud thuds. 

I will need to seek nourishment—food, water, and nicotine—at some point so that I may return and watch in peace and comfort. But I need not yet confront such worldly concerns. For now, I am content to spend my time in Passé Park.

The thuds subside, and an eerie silence returns to the attic. It is quickly broken.

“Jonas?”

I struggle to pull my eyes away from the window, but the voice is one I can’t ignore. I am confronted with big brown eyes and a grimace that is somehow still beautiful. 

“Amy,” I say, my mind racing. “What- what are you doing here?”

“I'm worried about you, Jonas,” she says. “I just wanted to see you.”

“But,” I say, struggling to find the words, suddenly short of breath. “Why?”

Her eyebrows are now arched, her surprise apparent. “Because I care about you,” she says, like the answer is obvious.

“Then why did you leave me?” I say, louder than I intend.

Her face softens, dominated by a familiar sympathy. “Jonas,” she says, her voice like a warm embrace, “You wouldn’t talk to me. You were always angry, you were never home. What was I supposed to do?”

“Oh, like you were planning to stay with me after this?” I say, gesturing to my face. It's a jumble of scar tissue and skin grafts—the perfect opposite to Amy’s unblemished beauty.

“Yes,” she says, pursing her lips in a poor attempt to conceal rapidly congealing tears.

I remain silent. It's a familiar argument. She could never be happy with me. She deserves someone perfect, not a broken junkie.  

After a long pause, she points to the rose-tinted window. “It’s so beautiful,” she says.

I nod. “Our picnic in Passé Park,” I say.

“No,” she says. "It's the hospital."

I feel my face go red. “The hospital?” I repeat back to her.

“It’s the morning after your accident,” she says. “Right after you woke up. I see the doctor telling me-” She puts her hand over her mouth, but only for a moment. “It’s when he told me you were going to live.” Despite her tears, she laughs. “It’s the happiest moment of my life.”

My chest feels tight. I try to steady myself as my whole body begins to shake.

Amy walks over to me slowly, like she is approaching a cornered animal. Carefully, deliberately, she wraps her arms around me. I stand paralyzed for a long moment. My mind is empty, incapable of giving my body commands.

“I love you,” Amy whispers, her breath warm against my ear.

Finally, my arms heed my will, and they return Amy's embrace. I believe her.

“What do you see?” she asks, nodding to the window.

I look into the rose-tinted glass. I see myself gazing out the window of a pristine attic, Amy's arms wrapped around me. 

“I see the happiest moment of my life too.”

June 12, 2021 03:35

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6 comments

K. Antonio
11:34 Jun 18, 2021

Really beautifully written! Looking forward to seeing what else you put out!

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Tybor Tigadoro
13:49 Jun 18, 2021

Thanks, K; that's so kind!

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Mary Sheehan
09:29 Jun 18, 2021

This is beautiful. I love an unreliable narrator.

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Tybor Tigadoro
13:49 Jun 18, 2021

Thanks so much, Mary!

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Amanda Fox
18:44 Jun 16, 2021

This is so beautiful!

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Tybor Tigadoro
00:43 Jun 17, 2021

Thanks so much, Fawn!

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