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General

The house he grew up in was a beautifully designed manor, but when he moved out, he had done so without any intention of returning. Despite that, he was here now. An indescribable emotion clawed at his heart as he walked up to the house.

“Eric,” his boyfriend said. When he received no response, he reached over and tugged Eric’s Yankees cap down over his eyes. Eric let out a noise of protest, and his boyfriend continued, “I need to take this call. I’ll come in after I’m done, okay? You go ahead.”

Eric nodded, readjusting his cap. As his boyfriend raised the phone to his ear and began questioning the caller, Eric made his way to the front door.

The view through the first floor windows were obscured by tightly drawn curtains. Lacey and meticulously sewn, they stirred recollections of the long days he had spent in a shadowed corner to make them. Eric recalled his vision blurring as the delicate designs seemed to merge into an endless spiral of exhaustion, his fingers worn and aching from the elaborate needlework.

As he reached for the doorknob, a memory made its way into his mind. It was one of the rare times when both his parents had been out and he was left without supervision. He was supposed to be cleaning the house, but he had wanted to sneak out to play instead, and had noticed the door hinges were squeaky. In a moment of sudden resolution, he had dragged his father’s heavy toolbox out of the garage and oiled the hinges. His white cotton clothes had been permanently soiled in the process.

A sad chuckle escaped Eric’s lips. He had received such a harsh berating from his parents when they arrived home that day.

He entered the house. It was almost exactly as he remembered. He still walked on the same golden-brown wooden floors, and the furniture stood as they had all those years ago. He ran his hand over the top of a big, squashy armchair as he walked, just like he had done when he was younger. Now, though, a fine layer of dust clung to his palm. He absentmindedly rubbed it against his jeans.

He tried not to notice the framed photographs that hung on the walls. They mostly depicted a young girl, with carefully curled, honey brown hair, and eyes like pools of milk chocolate. She wore a forced, empty smile, and her beautiful eyes gazed soullessly at him. It sent a shiver down his spine.

He turned away from the photos and walked up the stairs. The first door led to the bedchambers of his late parents. The room was as neat as he remembered. The thick, velvet covers were drawn up to the matching pillows, and a large, ornately decorated photograph from their wedding day hung above the headboard. 

Walking down the hall, he hesitated, his hand on a familiar doorknob. Before he could chicken out, he quickly turned the knob and opened the door of the last bedroom in the hall, pressing a palm over the nameplate “Erica”.

Leafy tendrils of ivy crawled over the windows. The little sunlight that streamed through the curtains painted the room a beautiful dappled yellow. The black plastic eyes of the numerous stuffed animals on the bed stared at him as he walked towards the closet. He counted to three before opening the doors in one swift motion.

Beautiful dresses of every style and color hung orderly inside. Pushing them aside, he stared at the closet wall. He remembered the days when there used to be a cardboard box hidden behind the dresses. It had been filled with piles of carefully folded basketball shorts and sports jerseys, and on the very top had been the prized baseball cap that now sat on his head. Eric rubbed the worn visor between his index and thumb; the years had treated it well. He had taken the box with him the day he moved out. 

Shutting the closet doors, he turned around and, almost like moths to a flame, his eyes fell on the photograph that stood alone on the nightstand. It showed yet another picture of the girl just like the ones downstairs, with a fake smile and fingers wadding up her dress behind her back. 

Carefully, Eric pried apart the frame. It wasn’t hard to do so, since it had already been taken apart and put back together years ago. Behind the picture was another photograph. It depicted the same girl, but with a genuine grin that showed off pearly white teeth. Her eyes were wild and cheerful, with a fire that was absent from every other picture of her, even while shadowed by the visor of the Yankees baseball cap. She was dressed in an over-sized men’s shirt, one hand holding a grass-stained baseball and the other punching the air, with her long hair messily tied in a ponytail.

“You look so excited!” Mimi hugged her best friend, a wide smile splitting her face. Erica matched the smile with a blinding grin. “And don’t worry. If your parents ask, you stayed here the entire weekend.” 

Mimi’s older brother, Chester, knocked on the living room wall to catch their attention, raising an eyebrow at them. “Erica, we have to go now if we want to make it to the hotel tonight.” He paused. “Mimi, you’re really sure about this? This ticket was for you.”

“I’m sure,” Mimi shrugged. “Erica knows tons more about baseball than I do. And anyway, Erica’s family won’t ever let her go to something like this, so she’ll make way better use of that ticket than I would.”

Erica almost teared up, engulfing Mimi in another hug.

Chester chuckled. “Come on, then, let’s go.”

Erica pulled away from Mimi. “Okay, Chester. Bye, Mimi! Thank you so, so much⁠—”

“Just go,” Mimi snickered, “or you’ll end up missing the game.”

Chester had been planning on taking Mimi with him to a baseball game where his favorite team, the Yankees, were going to play. His younger sister had taken one look at the ticket before she gave him a mischievous, scheming grin. With a phone call and some rapid-fire questions directed at him, Mimi eventually tasked him with taking along Erica, Mimi’s prim and proper best friend.

Or so he thought. Erica appeared ladylike, with carefully ironed dresses and delicately curled hair that poured down her back, but within an hour of being at their home, the girl had swapped her dress out for an over-sized shirt that Chester swore Mimi stole out of his room and had tied her hair into a messy ponytail. Then Mimi told her the plans, and Erica had screamed with joy.

During the game itself, Chester realized that the girl next to him was anything but ladylike.

Erica screamed alongside the fans until her throat was sore, and then continued screaming anyway. She laughed and giggled, lighting her face up in a way Chester had never seen before whenever she visited. And when she suddenly climbed on her chair and jumped to successfully catch a baseball that soared over their heads, Chester almost had a heart attack in fear that she would injure herself, but he understood why Mimi had been insistent on giving the ticket to Erica.

When the game was over, Erica stared sadly at the many fans that were purchasing memorabilia of the game, clutching her caught baseball. Chester pursed his lips before resting a hand on her shoulder, guiding her to one of the lines. Purchasing a baseball cap, with the Yankees logo white against a background of navy blue, Chester pulled it down on Erica’s head. She let out a muffled noise of confusion.

“Consider it a gift from me,” Chester said, and before Erica could question him, he added, “How about we take a picture to remember this? Stand over there.”

Erica beamed as the camera light flashed.

Fondly, Eric tucked the photograph into his back pocket. Giving the room one final look-over, from its cream colored walls to the pink and white bedding, he left the room behind him, walking down the hall.

Eric paused at the bathroom doorway. Even though dust coated the bathroom mirror, Eric could see his reflection ⁠— honey brown hair styled in a fluffy quiff, and a relaxed quality to his face that most definitely was not there when he was a child. He remembered where he had hidden a pair of scissors under the sink in the bathroom. It had taken a few weeks of self persuasion before they were put to use, held in his younger, shaky hands as he had stared at the mirror. His mother had screamed bloody murder when he emerged with his once waist length hair choppily cut to chin length.

Walking down the back stairs, he entered the kitchen. He remembered the years where he was unquestioningly expected to help his mother prepare meals. Eric could almost see a ghost of an outline of the younger him sitting at the table, wearing a tight-lipped smile at the thoughtless praises guests had showered him in. He remembered the suffocating expectations that had been piled on his plate with every meal.

“Eric?” His boyfriend’s voice echoed slightly. “Where are you?”

“Kitchen, just across the front door.”

“There you are, Eric!” His boyfriend gave him a quick kiss, beaming. “Sorry my call took so long. This is where you lived?”

Eric nodded, chocolate brown eyes softening at the sight of his lover.

“Seems like a nice place. Are you really going to just sell it?”

“Yeah,” Eric murmured, “I am.”

After all, the house was nothing but a reminder of memories. It was the home of a struggling child named Erica.

Eric had already moved on.


July 22, 2020 17:51

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4 comments

Deborah Angevin
10:01 Aug 17, 2020

Oooh, the twist at the last sentence... I didn't see that coming! I enjoyed this! P.S: would you mind checking my recent story out, "Grey Clouds"? Thank you :D

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Cece Lin
18:41 Aug 17, 2020

Thank you. :) I just did. You're an excellent writer.

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Conan Helsley
06:18 Jul 29, 2020

The only problem I have with this story is your use of boyfriend. I think that you could show their relationship through their actions, rather than constantly using boyfriend. It feels forced the way you used it, like the boyfriend has no real purpose except to tell us that Eric is gay. If you show us the two men behaving as lovers would, the reader will understand completely. But overall a good story, the way you revealed Eric and Erica being one and the same was nicely done.

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Cece Lin
10:54 Jul 29, 2020

I wanted the boyfriend to be an anchor of reality for Eric without taking away from his reminiscing thoughts. I see what you mean, I probably downplayed it too much. Thank you for the advice. :)

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