Key twisting in the lock, she opened the door to the apartment they shared and flipped on the overhead light. The intense white blast turned the room into a washed-out, stark dwelling. She shivered in the cold and closed the front door, heading for the thermostat to turn it up a few degrees. He was always so much warmer than she was, and their temperature-of-the-heater battles were legendary.
It had been a long day at the restaurant, and her legs were killing her. Business was slow, and all of the standing around made her knees and feet ache so much more than a busy day spent briskly walking. Her tips were equally painful, and all she wanted to do was to put on her comfortable clothes, grab a beer, and settle down with him in front of the television.
She wondered why he was not yet home. She was certain he got off work earlier than she did today. They’d even discussed it that morning as they showered and got ready to go earn the money that paid the rent on their place.
She got undressed, blissfully removing the bra that bit relentlessly into her chest, and changing into the loose cotton yoga pants she tended to wear around the house with a T-shirt. She sauntered into the living room and sat down on the couch. As she reached for the remote control to turn on the television, she noticed a photo tucked underneath it, obviously intended to be found.
Studying the image of ice-covered trees in a snowy landscape, she thought about the peaceful world inside the picture. She wondered what it would be like to live in a house alone there, all by herself, with nobody else around to argue about bills, and ridiculous little pointless things like turning the thermostat up too high in the wintertime.
She flipped the photograph over to find writing on the back. It was a note from him, ballpoint pen-inked in his messy handwriting.
“In your silence, I hear the vitriol you’d like to shout.
In your absence, I learn everything you’re not about.
I thought you gave me something whole and real and true.
But everything you are is wrong and broken.
And you thought you told me something new, but you were wrong.
Sometimes the loudest words are unspoken.”
She gasped and dropped the picture on the coffee table. Standing, shaking, she walked quickly into the bedroom and pulled open all of the dresser drawers. His clothes were gone. She ran to the bathroom to find his toothbrush and toiletries missing as well.
He was gone. She walked around the apartment in a daze, bereft and frightened. She didn’t know how she was going to pay the rent. She didn’t know how she was going to sleep that night. She didn’t know how she was going to go to work in the morning.
She walked to the refrigerator for a beer.