December 29, 2014

Hi guys,

This is the last one, the tale end to last week’s story. In case you missed the first and second parts of the story, they are located here:

Part One:

Part Two:

And finally, Part Three:

He signed his name with minimal flourish, although Simon isn’t really a flourish-y kind of name. Not like Michelangelo or Armand or Vincent. No. Simon was just Simon. And generally speaking, he was ok with that, even if his name did look a bit small on the page.

With another heavy sigh, he folded up the piece of paper and tucked it into an envelope, even sealing the envelope for good measure.

There, he thought. That’s done.

Now came the hard part. Now he had to deliver it.

Simon took a deep breath and with a great effort, he heaved himself out of his chair. Slowly, he shuffled toward the door. He slipped on his shoes and just stood there.

He closed his eyes and rested his hand on the door knob. The letter felt like it was burning up in the palm of his other hand. Funny, he thought, how something so small and seemingly simple could feel so significant. It was, after all, just paper.

He looked down at his hand, which was gripping the door knob tightly, as though it never wanted to let go.

Could he do this? Could he just walk down the hall and slip a letter under someone’s door? Like it was totally normal?

Was it totally normal?

Simon wasn’t sure. He wasn’t exactly an expert on normal.

It didn’t matter if it was normal, he decided. He had to do it either way. So he wouldn’t waste his time worrying about normal.

Simon forced his hand to shift, twisting the knob and opening the door.

He walked slowly down the hallway, setting each foot quietly in front of the other. He stared at the carpeting as he walked, keeping his gaze on it as though he was suspicious – as if at any moment, the carpet might rear up from beneath his feet and bite him.

You can never really trust carpet, you know.

It used to be his hallway, he thought. The hallway he walked down every single day, to and from work, and when he went to take out the garbage. And on the rare few occasions when he went out to dinner. It was always his hall – whether he was walking in it or not.

Now it was no longer his hall – or at least not completely his. Because now it was hers too. And it wasn’t that other people hadn’t walked along that hall before – a dozen other people lived on this floor, down this hallway. But he had never really felt them – or thought about them.

But now the hall felt different. He remembered the cadence of her quiet footsteps, and the precise jingle of her keys. There was some lingering, faint scent of perfume in the air that made the hall not quite his anymore.

And on some level, he knew it would never really be his again.

It wasn’t very far between his apartment and hers – maybe twenty feet or so between the doors. But it felt like crossing an ocean.

Finally, he reached her front door. Deep breath. Almost there. Simon knelt down. He’d managed to slide the letter halfway under the door when suddenly the door wasn’t there anymore. And the hallway was flooded with light.

He found himself looking at a pair of slipper-clad feet. Fuzzy blue slippers. They actually looked quite comfortable. Perhaps he should invest in pair. Why hadn’t he thought of fuzzy slippers before? Maybe he just wasn’t a fuzzy slipper kind of person.

Simon was smart enough to know when his mind was babbling at him and was also smart enough to be grateful that his mouth wasn’t spewing out all of his random thoughts at a million miles a minute.

His eyes followed the slippered feet up to pajama-ed legs and he began to turn bright red when he finally met her eyes.

“Hello there,” she said. “I thought I heard something out here…. I’m glad I decided to check it out.”

She was glad? That was good, wasn’t it? Simon wasn’t sure.

“Hi,” he said. “I – I’m your neighbor.”

Her smile widened.

“I’m glad to meet you,” she said. “You know, for the longest time, I thought that place was empty? You’re so quiet. But I kept seeing light under the door, so I knew there must be someone there. And now you’ve solved the mystery for me. I’m pleased to meet you.”

She stuck out her hand to shake. Gingerly, he took it.

“I’m Christina,” she said.

“I’m ….. Simon,” he said.

For a few seconds there, he could swear he’d forgotten his own name.

“Whatcha got there?” she asked, nodding at the envelope in his hand.

He looked down, too, almost surprised to find the letter there. It felt like he’d written ages ago. He half expected that he would open up the envelope to find the paper crumbled into the dust.

“This,” he said. “This is – I just – you see…”

She just smiled, waiting for his words to fall out of his mouth in the right order.

“I hadn’t wanted to disturb you,” he said, finally. “So I thought I’d just write you a letter and slip it under your door.”

“You don’t have to do that,” she said. “I love meeting my neighbors – you’re welcome to come over any time. Well, as long as I’m here, of course.”

He felt as though a weight had dropped off of his shoulders.

“Now let’s see what you’ve got here,” she said, snatching the envelope out of his hand.

Reaction time was not exactly Simon’s strong suit. He did, however, manage to clench his hand tightly just the instant after she grabbed the envelope. Not that it helped in the least in the present situation. But he would have done fabulously well in a grip test, had one been present just then.

She opened it and read it in an instant. He steeled himself against her reaction.

“My music bothers you?” she asked.

He nodded meekly. And he was surprised when her smile returned in full force.

“You should’ve just said something,” she said. “I didn’t mean to disturb anybody.”

She shook her head.

“Poor thing,” she said. “I’ve been keeping you up nights and I didn’t even know it. I’ll find some way to make it up to you.”

Simon wasn’t expecting it when she grabbed his hand and pulled him into her apartment. Then again, Simon didn’t expect a lot of things. And at least this one was pleasant.

Within the course of a few minutes, Simon found himself seated at her kitchen table, nursing a mug of hot tea with an accompanying cookie. She’d made the cookies herself. This was not terribly surprising. She did, after all, seem like the kind of girl who would bake her own cookies.

Simon wasn’t expecting it when she grabbed his hand and pulled him into her apartment. Then again, Simon didn’t expect a lot of things. And at least this one was pleasant.

Within the course of a few minutes, Simon found himself seated at her kitchen table, nursing a mug of hot tea with an accompanying cookie. She’d made the cookies herself. This was not terribly surprising. She did, after all, seem like the kind of girl who would bake her own cookies.

What surprised Simon was not the cookies, or the tea, or her cheerful lemon-and-white kitchen. No, what surprised him was how at home he felt in a place that was not his home, with someone he’d never met before.

Simon was not fond of change. In fact, he hated it. No. He more than hated it. He was scared of it.

Change had never been kind to him. Like when his favorite laundry detergent had changed its scent. And now it reminded him of the scent of frozen peas. He’d had to switch, permanently, to his second favorite laundry detergent, which wasn’t half bad, but not nearly as good as the first. Or when his library had changed their policy – now allowing only four books out at a time instead of six. He’d had to change his schedule completely because of that – now he went once a week, instead of once every two.

He looked at her as she buzzed around the kitchen.

Sugar for his tea?

No thanks.

More cookies?

No, he was good, thanks.

She was definitely change. And she was not small change. She was not laundry detergent or library books. She was not toll booth fees or the sweetener in his latte. No – she was big change. Flesh-and-blood change, alive and buzzing and singing only a few feet from him.

And for the first time in his life, change felt good. Being in her presence – it felt right. He was not one to quibble over terminology, but for whatever reason, being around Christina… Oh all right, he would admit it.

It felt like coming home.

And suddenly he didn’t mind the music anymore.

Home wasn’t the apartment next door, with the meticulously made bed and the bowls arranged in the cabinets, stacked neatly by size and color. Not the neatly stacked alphabetized book cases, or the remotes sitting neatly in a row on the clean, dust-free coffee table.

Suddenly that place felt almost foreign – and completely devoid. Of air. Of life. Of color. Of sunshine. Of chaos.

He must’ve had an odd look on his face.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

“I’m just fine,” he said, smiling up at her. “How was your day?”

Simon had always prided himself on a well-ordered life. Now he felt pieces of his neat, well-ordered life crumbling away.

And he had the feeling that it was going to be wonderful.


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