I wrote this for one of the Rattles flash fiction anthologies I put together back in February of 2012. Enjoy!
Her fingers shaking, the girl worked at the back door lock until it finally gave. Pushing the door open, she carefully peered around the corner, listening for any signs of life. Hearing nothing save the occasional whistle as the wind howled through tiny fissures, she crossed the threshold and closed the door, relieved to be out of the elements.
The kitchen looked strangely like any normal kitchen, a table and chairs that should have been stolen long ago still standing sentry, waiting for the family to return. She took a chair and braced it under the door knob then checked the cupboards, relieved to find some expired canned goods. Better those than some of the leftovers she’d eaten from dumpsters – probably safer too. Finding a can opener in a drawer, she made a meal of cold soup concentrate and put the spam in her bag for later.
There was still plenty of time before dark so she gave herself a tour. As if the family had just disappeared into thin air, the furnishings were still largely intact and she fought a growing sense of unease as she moved through the rooms. The house had been vacant a long time, according to the barely readable foreclosure note on the front window – why hadn’t it been looted like all the others?
The staircase leading to the upper level continued higher, and after she’d inspected all of the rooms she followed it up, the door at the top opening with a loud creak. In stark contrast to the rest of the house, the attic was empty save an old rotting sofa against the far wall. Clearly from a different era entirely, it spoke to her. Called to her, really, and as she moved closer, images of elegant ball gowns and long, silky gloves flashed through her mind. Two women sitting with drinks in hand and ice around their necks, gossiping with heads bent close together. A couple, her hand held reverently in his as he asked her a very important question. Two neatly pressed children sitting on either side of their nanny as she reads them a story.
Running a hand over the antique fabric, she wondered what it would have been like. Would she have made the same decisions? Angered the same type of man? Given up her life for the freedom to continue breathing?
Dropping her bag on the floor, she sunk onto the now-lumpy seat and watched out the lone window as the sun went down, taking the light with it. Yawning, she pulled her coats tighter around her shoulders and lay down, her back curving perfectly into the sofa’s embrace as she drifted off to sleep.
She woke to warmth on her face and birds chattering merrily outside the window. Unwilling to open her eyes just yet, she rubbed her cheek on the soft, slippery fabric and marveled at how lovely it still felt even in poor condition. Then she heard voices approaching – human voices – and her eyes flew open. Someone was in the house. And she was not supposed to be. Sitting up and reaching for her bag, she was across the room before the realization hit her.
This wasn’t the same house. Either that, or she’d been delirious the night before.
Glancing back over her shoulder, she took in the old sofa, no longer old, but beautifully restored as if someone had only just acquired it. Dark walnut bookshelves lined the walls, filled with what appeared to be expensive hardbound volumes. Looking forward, she was faced with an imposing desk made of thick wood that matched the shelves.
The door opened and she held her breath, inwardly cringing at the thought of going to jail – or worse. The man who peered around the door frame was tall and although not exactly classically handsome, attractive enough to catch her attention. She waited for the yelling to begin, but he only studied her with concern.
“We’ve been looking for you, darling. Is everything okay?”
Confused, she hesitated. Darling? She looked closer at his face, worried that there was no spark of recognition firing.
“I…I fell asleep,” she said, lowering her eyes.
That’s when she noticed her shoes. Not the warm, thick and decidedly unattractive boots she’d stolen from an ex-military hobo, but delicate flats that hugged her feet gently without adding any weight. Holding her arms out, she felt faint as she took in the full skirt and light cotton shirt that had somehow replaced her torn jeans and the layers above it.
“You look pale, my dear. Perhaps you should go lie down for awhile. I can see our guests out.”
Lifting her head, she stared at him, wondering if he’d done this to her while she slept. He’d given her a way to escape, but she felt an overwhelming urge to stay by his side. He would take care of her. She wasn’t sure how she knew, but she did. Shaking her head, she forced a smile.
“No, that’s all right. I can come with you.”
He smiled, nodded, took her hand. She followed him into another room, where beautiful women and sharp men danced and laughed and danced some more, just like she’d envisioned earlier. The attic seemed far away, and every second she spent twirling in his arms was bliss. Never had she been so happy.
That night, she lay beside him, tucked against his body after he’d given her more pleasure than she’d known in a long time. As she drifted off, she thought about that poor homeless girl who fell asleep on her couch. It must have all been a horrible dream.
Voices were murmuring above her head, and she shivered, the cold burrowing deep into her bones.
“Will she make it?”
“There’s nothing we can do.”
The voices faded away, and she smiled, snuggling into the warm darkness as he pulled her closer.
The Old Sofa is available in digital formats from these online retailers: