An Empty Room

by Codi Darnell
British Columbia, Canada
genre: General

“What am I doing here?” Theresa said out loud to herself as she stared at the faded green front door just ahead of her. She pushed her hands deeper into her pockets, rocked back on her heels and looked down towards her feet. The door mat said Welcome in bold capital letters to which Theresa scoffed and thought Not anymore. In fact, she couldn’t remember the last time she felt welcomed here.
          The wind that day came in bursts, disturbing the warmth of the early fall sunshine. But when Theresa shivered and moved closer to the door, she wasn’t sure if it was the weather or if something, or someone, was pushing her forward. She knocked three times, stepped back, and waited.
          Dot was in the kitchen, washing up her plate from lunch. She had a dishwasher but didn’t see the point in using it when all she ever had to clean was one plate, one set of cutlery, one glass, one mug. “A waste” she would mumble to herself whenever she thought about opening it up, instead turning on the tap and taking out the soap from under the sink.
          At the sound of the three brisk knocks, Dot’s eyebrows shot up and her hands went still. Who the hell is that she wondered just as Midge, her aging Siamese, rubbed against her leg and looked up at her expectantly.
          “If they need me, they can wait until I’m good and ready to answer the door.” She said with a curt nod before turning back to the task at hand. After the plate was rinsed, dried and stacked neatly in the cupboard, Dot made her way to the staircase leading down to the front door hoping that, whoever it was, had already left. She opened the door just wide enough to poke her head out and saw Theresa standing on her porch.
          “Hi Dot.” Theresa said, an edge to her usually soft voice. Dot rolled her eyes.
          “What do you want?” She opened the door further and stood in a wide stance with her arms crossed over her chest—a guard at the palace gate.
          “I was hoping I could come in.”
          “No? Just…no?” Theresa shook her head and resisted the urge to rub her temples. She forced a small smile that did little to hide her contempt. “I thought we could talk. I’ve been trying to call but couldn’t get through.” They both knew Dot hadn’t been answering Theresa’s calls except for the odd time when she’d promptly hang up without uttering a word.
          “I have nothing to say to you that I didn’t say to the lawyer.”
          “Well, I have some things to say to you. And I want to take a look around.”
          “I already told you and your sister. I can’t find the watch.”
          “I just want to see his room. Touch his things.” 
          Dot narrowed her eyes and tried to shut the door, but Theresa got a leg in first. Neither woman was tall, but Theresa straightened and looked down her nose ever so slightly, taking advantage of the inch and a half of height she had over Dot. Theresa wasn’t accustomed to this feeling of dominance and her blood rushed wildly in her ears as she stood her ground.
          “This is my dad’s house.” Her hands were shaking but her voice was steady. “And I would like to come in."
          “You stupid woman.” Dot spat the words into the air between them. “You can have five minutes.” She turned and marched up the stairs, stomping like an angry teenager.
          Upstairs, Theresa went straight down the hall into her father’s bedroom. Dot followed closely behind. Instantly Theresa noticed the things that weren’t there: The guitar was gone from the wall as was his typewriter from the small desk. His leather jacket and cowboy boots weren’t in the closet and the small box he kept his wedding ring, gold chain, and watch inside of, sat empty on the dresser. 
          “Where did you put it all?” Tears stung the back of Theresa’s eyes and she swallowed hard. She would not let Dot see her cry.
          “It doesn’t matter. There is nothing for you here.”
          “Unbelievable.” Theresa threw her hands up and exhaled an irritated laugh. Dot just glared, her jowls sagging underneath the weight of her frown. Theresa began to pace, leaving footprints in the high-pile carpet.
          “You don’t even want any of it. You just don’t want us to have it. All you want is this empty old house and whatever money he managed to keep away from you while he was alive. You don’t give a shit about the things that were special to him. You never did.”
          “I give a shit about the things that are owed to me.” Theresa stopped and held Dot’s gaze. Even Midge, who had been walking between the two women, sat and stared.
          “What you’re owed? Owed?”
          “Don’t act like you’re any better than me?” Dot pointed a finger at Theresa, almost touching it to her chest. “What are you here for if not to take your piece of the pie?”
          Theresa flinched as the sharp words deflated her nerve. She exhaled and held her eyes closed for a moment. Quietly she said, “The difference is Dot, you want money. I just want him.”
At that, Theresa walked through to the hallway and back down the stairs. Dot followed her but stood stoically at the top landing. “Theresa”
With one hand on the door, she turned and looked up towards Dot whose lips had turned up into a smug smile.
“When it’s settled, what you want should still be here.”
            Theresa nodded slowly, the word should burning in her throat like whiskey as she swallowed it down. “You know, you could have had a family here Dot. For 30 years we tried. For him. At least now nobody has to pretend.”
            “Finally we agree on something.”
            Theresa rolled her eyes and left, slamming the door behind her as Dot turned and walked back into her home. Midge stood at the bottom of the stairs, meowing at the closed front door.

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