The silence swirled its way around her as she stood in front of the house. Its high walls and thick wooden door seemed intimidating now in a way they never had before.
It was freezing and her hands had gone numb long ago, but she couldn’t make herself walk up the stone steps onto the large, dark porch. She couldn’t go inside. Everything was different now – the magic was gone.
‘Jenny,’ Miriam’s voice came from behind. ‘It’s okay not to want to go in.’ Her soft and comforting touch on her lower back reminded Jenny there were still reasons to keep going. ‘You are allowed to pause.’
‘I can’t write this one away…’ Jenny’s voice sounded distant. ‘I can’t fix it with silly one-liners and happy endings.’
She felt reduced from woman to little girl as she looked at the house, flawless and pristine. The lights were off, but it wasn’t unwelcoming. It was still home.
‘I’ve lost the keys,’ Jenny said tonelessly. ‘I can’t get in.’
In the windows, they could see faint silhouettes of past stories. One story twisted around Jenny like a never-ending nightmare. It gave no forewarning of its arrival. It dotted beautiful memories in seemingly unrelated things. It hollowed her smile.
She felt her phone go off in her hands, but she was lost in thought and in physicality. She wandered through the familiar space in her memory, cosy and warm in the hoodie she’d bought not ten days earlier.
Everything was so colourful then – she couldn’t really believe she was here now. Her phone vibrated again. She answered the call.
‘Jenny, I’m so sorry.’
She blinked and the memory went silent. Had she made it up? She was always making up silly stories. This one was the silliest of all.
She looked at her hand to find a key, not her phone.
‘Can we go inside?’ she asked, finally.
Miriam didn’t say anything. But the hand resting on Jenny’s back pushed her forward softly until they were at the door. Miriam gave a comforting smile as the keys clicked in the lock.
Jenny took a deep breath. She switched on the lights in the kitchen, turned on the heating, put the kettle on. She placed steaming cups of tea neatly on the familiar table they had sat around, and giggled over nothing. A big table full of inside jokes that had no origins but came free with fried noodles.
She could write endless tales and rewrite them when they didn’t read the way she had intended, but she couldn’t rewrite this one.
‘I miss him,’ she said, and realised she’d made three cups of tea for two people.