The foyer was dim. It was clear that this was not a home so much as a cluster of apartments.
It smelled stale and musty, so much so, in fact, that it could be tasted as I opened my mouth to breathe to prevent the odor from permeating my nostrils.
I pounded on the worn door of a downstairs apartment only to have it opened by a scowling, stooped old woman who looked at me suspiciously.
“What?” she demanded.
“I am looking for Nathaniel Brierly.”
“Up there. Top floor.” She cocked her head, using her chin to indicate the direction.
“Thank you. Thank you very much.”
She nodded curtly, staring at me for a few moments before closing her door with a slam that made me jump.
Every step I mounted creaked in protest from the weight. A different tone or pitch rose from each as I climbed to the third floor flat.
Would it be locked? Should I knock? Or just enter?
I reached the landing and stopped at the door. I put my hand on the rough wood. What future lay on the other side? Happiness? I wanted happiness. Happiness and love and rest.
I am so tired of fighting.
I tried the door tentatively. It cracked open. Unlocked. No knocking, I decided. I would just enter.
Pushing the door open further, I crossed the threshold. It took a few moments for my eyes to adjust further to the darkness. Small slivers of light beamed through cracks at the edges of the heavy drapes, a shard here and a shard there, trapping dust in its light.
I shivered. Was it cold?
Walking to the far window, my eyes explored the room. It appeared empty. I pushed the drapes open with a flourish letting light flood in. I moved to the next window, doing the same. I squinted in the light as it assaulted my eyes. Lifting the veil and removing the bonnet, I paused for a moment letting the warm sun hit my face.
Before I could turn around a snarl came from behind me. “Close them, you fool! Close them or they will see you.”
I turned to see a man standing framed in the doorway, shielding his face from the light with an arm. There was a bottle in one hand. He lurched forward, spilling liquor on his clothes and upon the bare floor. A bloated belly made it appear as if he were with child. The exposed skin of his hands glowed a sickly yellow.
“I said close the drapery!” Another snarl.
He lowered the arm and took another menacing step then stopped.
Should I run? Who was this monster?
“Evelyn?” he gasped softly.