Thursday, October 11, 2012

Coming Home

Truck paused at the base of the stairs to look up into the shadows. The light was out at the top. Dory wasn't expecting him.
That shouldn't have hurt, but it did.
The smell of boiled cabbage and fatty meat hung in the air, oppressive as poverty. His fault. If he'd stopped for that light--
Truck stood the Mulick kid's bike up against the wall, and started up. The wooden stairs were sticky. They creaked underfoot. By the time he was halfway home, he was clutching the railing, his heart pounding, the darkness blurry before him.
"Stay another night," Dr. Simkins had urged him. "Just for observation." But Truck had been in a coma for seven months, and another night was a lifetime.
Nine more stairs ahead, each darker than the last. He could hear music ahead, a slow sweet country tune that he and Dory had danced to at their wedding. It wasn't their official wedding song, but it was pretty and she'd clung to him like ivy as they swayed. It wasn't until then--not when he'd proposed, not at the ceremony or even at the first dance--that he'd known it was going to be forever.
Coming home to it was like the accident had never happened.
Truck clung to the railing, willing his breathing to lighten. He wanted to surprise her, not scare the shit out of her. There was time. Their song was playing, and he had all the time in the world.
He moved a step up, then another. Tried to tell himself that the pounding in his chest was just the unexpected exertion.
But behind the brown door at the head of the stairs, someone was singing along with the song. A male voice, not as deep as Truck's own but not the voice of a girlfriend over for a late-night drink and a singalong, either.
Truck's breath caught. It had only been seven months.
But it had been seven months.
When Truck reached the landing, the man was moaning the line about true love and forever, the one that had made Truck's heart melt with Dory's clinging.
He looked at the door, at the 3 hanging askew as always. The paint was the same brown. Underfoot, the carpet was the same battered gold and green it had always been.
But behind the door, a man was singing along with the radio.
The doorknob didn't turn, and Truck fumbled his keys from his pocket. He dropped them, bent to one knee to pick them up. To Ms. McGrady down the hall, if she was still in the habit of looking out through her peephole, he probably looked like a drunk finding his way home.
But, stranger or no in his living room, he was damned if he was going to knock on his own door.
The key didn't fit, and as he tried to figure out why he dropped the ring again. Inside, footsteps approached.
The man who opened the door was fat beneath his white tank top, black hair sprouting through the neck and out the armholes. There was a beer in his hand, and anger on his face. Truck tried to stand up, ended up on his ass, looking up.
"The fuck are you?"
For a crazy moment, Truck was angrier with Dory for her taste than for anything else. He wanted to say something smart, but the world was spinning around him. "Dory," he said instead.
The man looked down at him like something he'd found on the bottom of his shoe. "The fuck is Dory?"
Only seven months, it had been. Only seven months.
Red and white lights flickered up the stairs, casting lunatic shadows, only a moment and then the hall was in darkness again. An ambulance, passing on the street outside. (An ambulance.)
Dory's arm. Her hand, splayed open through the shattered windshield, as if to show off the blood on her engagement ring.
Truck, in that moment, remembered. 


 This one comes from a prompt over at the /r/artprompt subreddit. I'd posted a couple of stories there for others to use for images, and figured I should probably write something too.

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