This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.

It’s early Sunday morning and I can see the twilight from the small window of my room. The sky is yellow with red and orange colours at the edge of purple clouds, bleeding. 

It’s dark, still.

I couldn’t sleep last night. 

I lit a candle, I don’t remember why.  Maybe out of boredom or maybe I felt I needed the light. Or, maybe because I was mourning.

 It burns, slowly, luringly, shadows move against the white wall. The part of the wall where the paint is peeling, the moving shadows get bigger and then fade. 

It hits me. A deja vu. I feel I have lived it once before, lit a candle, saw the twilight, sat here and wept. 

The smell of dust in the room mixes with the scent of melting wax. I stand up from the chair and peel off the paint from the wall. It feels brittle.


When Mom died, the sky was clear blue with no trace of a single cloud. 

We were teenagers, Rose and I. Dad was at his clinic. When we came home from school one hot summer day, one of those days when the air smells like swimming pools, we saw Mama on the kitchen floor, unconscious. 

I felt a pit at the bottom of my stomach that got bigger and bigger, larger and larger until it was so big my back got bent from its weight. 

Rose couldn’t stop crying. 

It hurt to see her cry. I couldn’t console her or tell her it gets better somehow, this shall pass, or you’ll forget. No, no I could not make myself say those same words others had said. I couldn’t expect things to get better, or for her to get better and stop crying like people expected. All I did was to tell her to shut up so I could pretend to sleep. 

The sky is clear blue today like the day Mom died. I’m expecting Rose, her fiancé David, Dad and her wife. 


There are dandelion fluffs dancing in the wind outside. Some of them are trapped by the spider webs on the balcony. I can see people walking by, standing in front of the traffic stop, cars rushing past. I see a plastic bag drifting through the wind, time seems to slow down with its movements, and then it stops and drops on the street. 

The weather is hot and the air conditioner makes an awful loud noise. 

They knock. I open the door. Dad and his wife Liz walk in. They brought gifts too, purple orchids and expensive wine. 

Liz has aged. There is a layer of dust on her once bright youthful face. Dad has his circular sunglasses on with the roasted walnut frame and a dark-blue summer suit. He takes off his glasses and hands them to his wife who takes them and puts them in her purse. 

He looks at me with his blue eyes that match his suit. The same small, sharp, godforsaken blue eyes that shine in the sunlight, glaring. 

We then hug. 

He has gotten so small, almost shrunk. 

"Now, tell me what’s this? He holds my shoulders with his strong hands and smiles."

I look at Liz who seems to try to locate a smell in the apartment. 

"What do you mean?"

"The apartment, in this neighborhood? You can always call us when you need help Lee." He says.

"Don’t start." I say.

Liz scans through the room with a feeling of disgust which turns into a fake polite smile when her eyes meet mine. 

"Please sit down, you don’t want to stand there the whole day, do you?" I say.

She throws another fake smile. Slowly moves toward the sofa I bought from a thrift store, dusts it off with a tissue from her purse and sits down, crossing her legs.

"Did you have breakfast?" I ask Dad.

"It’s a bit late for breakfast, it’s almost lunch time, yes we had breakfast. Your Mom and I—"

"Would you like tea or coffee?"

"Tea is fine."

"And you? I say to Liz, without looking at her." 

"Just a glass of water."

I go to the kitchen to make tea and grab water. I open the expensive wine and pour it down the drain. It gurgles and swirls like a purple sinkhole.  

"These windows would make an archaeologist interested." Dad says. 

I can hear them laugh. 

"I didn’t hear you." I say. 

"I said windows are old." He says. "Does it keep out noise?"

"Don’t worry about it." I say. "Just to warn you it’s from the tap." I give her the water and put down the tea on the table. She wrinkles her nose at the sight of the water. 

Dad looks outside from the window. I hear rhythmic knockings on the door. It’s Rose and David. Rose always does this rhythmic knocking on doors, it’s her habit. Dum, dum, da, dum. I open the door and greet them. She smells like Mama used to smell and has a beautiful pink dress on. She hands me a small wooden box with a rusty lock. 

"What’s this?" I say.

"A surprise! Don’t open it till we leave." Rose says. 

"Thank you!It's just what I wanted. You know I hate surprises. You should have brought food instead." 

"Maybe you should stop thinking so much about food." She looks at my belly.

"Oh, shut up, you’re fatter than me by a mile."

She sees dad and runs to hug him. She also hugs Liz. They start talking about something I find boring or don’t care about. Instead, I talk to David.

"So, Dave, how is your Research going? Any good experiments?"

"Yeah, It’s going downhill from here. He laughs. The other day I accidentally switched the positives and negatives on the Western blot." He makes a face.

  I chuckle. David always makes me laugh. 

"What are you two laughing at?"

"Yeah, you won’t understand it Rose, it’s research related. Dave says." We laugh again. 

"Ok, smartasses. Did you hear the news?"

"What news?"I say

I have been hearing things. They come and go. At first, I was scared, thinking I must be mad. I’m not scared anymore, just accepting, surrendering. Not like a defeated person, no, but like someone who wants to sleep. I’m trying to tune them out, slowly, over time, by ignoring them or their existence. 

There are bulges on the wall adjacent to my bedroom. There seems to be water damage from the unit above, must be their bathroom. I have painted over them with pink and purple Acrylic paint like purple orchids and pink dresses. 

The walls move sometimes. They make noises, like the bricks or woods moving inside. The apartment breathes, sighs, like a living thing. 

The carpet has pink bleach stains—they must have accidentally used bleach one day to clean the carpet. Must have been the tenant before me, or the one before, no one knows. People don’t record these things. 

I wish I knew who lived here before. I share so much with them; at least I share this apartment. I want to know their stories, to hear their fights, celebrations, laughs and cries. I want to ask them if they also felt the apartment was alive. 

 I see myself sitting on the only chair in the room with a coffee cup in my hands. My hands are beautiful, I think. Slender fingers and clean cut fingernails. You can see the green veins shine behind the skin under the sunlight. There is a mole on the back of my right hand, my grandmother had the exact same mole. 

I see my belly. There is something in me, growing, consuming me, getting larger and larger everyday, making my belly bulge. 

I’m pregnant. 

I wonder if my baby is going to have the same mole on her hand. 


We are sitting around the table. Dad, Liz and Rose on the sofa, David and I on chairs in front of them. The sun is going down. 

"So, what do you think, Lee?" Rose says.

"Think about what?" I say. 

They laugh. There is a ringing noise in my ear. The doors open and shut. There is a noise coming from the floor above. Dum, dam, du, dum. Dum, dam, du, dum. No one lives on the floor above. 

"Think about what Rose?" I say.

"Oh, you’re serious." She says. "Dad's retiring." 

"How come?" I say.

"What do you mean how come?" Rose says. 

Dad motions Rose to stop with the wave of his hand. His hands are wrinkled and the purple veins are visible, like the bulges on the wall. He still has Mama’s ring on his pinky finger. 

"Didn’t you always say you won’t ever retire? Like you would rather die at your job. "I say. 

"I’m tired of it. We are going to see the world, travel, enjoy our lives."

They grab each other’s hands. Dad kisses Liz’s hand and smiles. His glasses reflect the dying red sun. I feel nauseous. 

"You can always cut back the hours, why not?" I say.

"It’s different."

"What’s it dad?" Tell me.

"There is nothing Lee, would you for once stop being so cynical and negative?"

"Why are you shouting?" I say. 

"If you excuse me, I have to go to the bathroom." David says.

"Your dad is just tired, he needs a break." Liz says. 

"Yeah Lee, Dad just needs a break." Rose says. 


When I was twelve years old, the same age as Rose when Mom died, our grandmother gave us a wooden box and a metal lock. She told us to grab all the things that brought us joy and put them in the box and lock it. I put some coins from around the world, some stamps and scented erasers. Rose collected some of Mom’s finger nails and put them in the box. 

There are voices in my head. Sometimes they shout, sometimes they laugh. 

I’m pregnant with the apartment’s child. 

" Why are you crying? "Rose says. 

"I feel like the same time when he lied to us. When I asked him if he cheated on Mama and he said no. Even though I saw him in the car with Liz. I could not stop crying." I say. 

Everyone is silent. The room is silent except the chanting air conditioner with its awful loud noise and my whimpers. We sit in silence and look at each other until it’s too dark. 

"Can someone turn on the lights?" Dad says. 

"No, there is no electricity." I say.

"Why?I mean how on earth don’t you have electricity?" Rose says. 

"Bring a candle at least." Liz says. 

"Yeah, hey everyone, why is it so dark?" David asks.

"Where were you?"

"I was in the bathroom, by the way there was no hot water and the tap was broken. I think there is a leak."

"You were in the bathroom the entire time?"

"Yeah, constipation."

Everyone laughs. 

"It’s not funny, I have this serious condition." Dave says. 

I lit a candle and put it on the table. The light makes strange shadows on our faces and the walls. I see my shadow on the wall, I can trace the outline of my body, my hair and my hands. The smell of dust is mixed with the scent of burning wax.

"I killed a child." Dad says.

"What?" I say.

"They are suspending my license for malpractice, I’m not retiring."

"What do you mean? What happened?"

"We had a girl, twelve years old, and the surgery went wrong."


"She flatlined, I couldn't bring her back. It was my fault Lee, I killed her." 

"Shut up." 

There is something in my belly growing, consuming me, getting bigger and bigger. I must stop it. I must take it out. Why does it have to be me?

I go to the bathroom with a coat hanger I found in the closet no one uses. There are dust balls and hairs tangled up and twisted on the floor of the bathroom. Dave was right. There is no water. I see black mold everywhere I look. 

I come out of the bathroom, blood is dripping from my hands on the pink stained carpet. I can almost hear it drop. The mole on my right hand is covered with blood.  

"What was her name Dad?" I say. 

"Who?" He says.

"The girl you killed." 

"Rose, her name was Rose, Lee." 

I stand there alone. My sister is dead. Small tears drop from my cheeks. My hands feel cold and I can feel the dried up blood on my skin. The moon and candle light shine on my face. There is blood on my forehead, I must have accidentally touched it with my hand. 


When my sister and Dave left, I was alone with Dad and Liz. The candle light was dancing in the air coming from the ventilator and it made dancing shadows on the walls too. 

I broke the lock and opened the wooden box.

Liz went to the bathroom, she could barely walk, I think she needed a walker or a cane. Dad sat in front of me. I could still see the blue in his eyes. 

"When did you stop dying your hair?" I say. 

"Why? Do I look old?" He says.

"You are old."

"You’ll get old too, Lee."

"Yes, but not like you." 

"Are you keeping the baby?" He says. 

"I might as well." 

"Who's the father?" 

I see myself banging my head against the wall of my bedroom. Dum, dam, du, dum. Dum, dam, du, dum. Dum, dam, du, dum. The voices in my head won’t stop. They won’t shut up. I think I am a hostage of this room, of these walls, of this apartment. 

"You are doing it, right?" I ask Dad. 

"Doing what?" He says.

"Cheating on her." I say.

"Cheating on who?"

"On Liz."



"What do you mean?" He says. 

"Why do you cheat on her?"

"I don’t love her anymore. It’s boring." He says

"Poor woman." 

"Not really." 


"She does it too, with other men." 

"Why stay married then?" I say.

"It’s a formality. You wouldn’t understand."

His skin grows older and older until it peels off, layer by layer, making his skull visible.

The apartment makes heavy breathing sounds as if it knows.  

I move to the wall with the water damage. There is a bulge I have not painted yet. With my index finger I smear the blood over the bulge until it's covered with red smudge. It will turn brown by tomorrow night. 

November 20, 2022 06:19

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Wendy Kaminski
17:50 Nov 26, 2022

This wound around like a strange dream. I liked it.


Arvin Tavakkoli
03:29 Nov 27, 2022

Thank you for reading my story and leaving a comment. I appreciate it!


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