Exercising the craft—April 14, 2014

By Ekta R. Garg

Prompt: If Walls Could Talk–A family moves into an old house with a checkered history. What do they discover there? How do the stories of past residents reflect the family’s own conflicts? What situations are the same in the past? What has changed?

 

Evelyn watched the locksmith drill into the safe.

“It’s a shame you don’t have the keys, ma’am,” he said over the whine of the machine. “They really don’t build ‘em like this anymore.”

A polite smile automatically crossed her face, but the locksmith didn’t bother looking.

He must be related to Matt. He doesn’t notice me either anymore.

Within a few minutes the locksmith had withdrawn the drill and brushed the shavings from the holes he’d made. He grabbed the handle and gave it a sharp yank to the right. A satisfying click responded, and the locksmith pulled the safe door open just enough to show that he’d completed the job.

“There you go, ma’am. You shouldn’t have any problem getting into it.”

This time Evelyn made sure he saw the polite smile as she left the study, his footsteps echoing behind her on the hardwood. After taking a couple of minutes to write his check, she led him to the front door and gave him one final polite smile. He smiled back and waved as he went toward his van.

Just then Matt pulled into the driveway next to the locksmith’s vehicle. The locksmith waved at Matt too, but Matt didn’t bother responding. Instead he looked hard at Evelyn, and Evelyn barely suppressed a sigh.

That’s right, Matthew, old boy, let’s have it out right now and get it over with.

“Evelyn, I thought we agreed that we’d let Sharon take care of the safe.”

“No, actually, we didn’t agree on anything. You told me what you thought, and I disagreed.”

She turned and walked into the kitchen, not bothering to see whether Matt would follow. The slam of the front door told her he had. She felt smug.

“Come on, Evelyn, you should have waited until the previous owners could come and empty it out.”

She rolled her eyes and turned around. “We closed last week, Matt. The house is ours. That includes everything in it.”

Matt put his hands on his hips and shook his head. Evelyn knew she had to relent. A little.

“I left Sharon a message to let her know I was calling a locksmith and that I would put anything we found in a box for her to pick up.”

“You’re such a softie, Evelyn.”

“You don’t have to be sarcastic, Matt.”

“Just shut it, Evelyn.”

Evelyn felt a familiar burn in her chest. Anger. It came to her so easily now, and when Matt turned and left the kitchen the burning spread.

“You don’t have to be so dismissive, Matt,” she called to his back as he headed to the study. “I’m not the coldhearted witch you’d like to believe I am.”

He didn’t respond. Evelyn followed and almost ran into him when he stopped just inside the door. She saw him out of her peripheral vision the opposite wall.

“It’s completely useless now!” he exclaimed. “What are we supposed to do, use it as a novelty piece? ‘Hey, guys, wanna come see the safe that anyone can crack? Well, no problem, my wife arranged the whole thing!’”

“Jerk,” Evelyn muttered. She strode to the safe and touched the door. After a few moments, she pulled it open. Inside she saw a fat manila envelope. Lifting the envelope, she saw a notebook of some kind. When she touched it, the brown leather cover felt smooth. Obviously someone had spent considerable time holding it.

“What’d you find?”

“I thought you didn’t want to know.”

“I just don’t want you messing up whatever’s in there.”

After so many years of marriage, Evelyn could read Adam’s moods and body language like she knew her own thoughts. His curiosity radiated toward her. She could feel his desire to know what she held, not for posterity or respect but out of sheer normal human curiosity.

So, the big shot does care about stuff outside of the courtroom.

She pulled out the journal and began flipping pages. Someone had filled it only about halfway. The last entry had been written six months earlier.

Evelyn flipped back to the middle of the written pages and stopped at random.

“Why doesn’t Jonas understand that I love him?” she read aloud. “I would never do anything to jeopardize our relationship. But he just keeps holding back. Sometimes it’s really hard to remember what he was like when we first got married. I know it wasn’t like this.”

Evelyn looked at Matt.

“Oh, great, now I have to listen to nagging from two wives.”

She inhaled deeply and fought the urge—hard—to make a snarky comment. Thumbing through some pages, she stopped at another entry and read aloud again.

“Something is really wrong. Jonas stays so late at the office these days. Why doesn’t he come home? Are we really that far gone?”

Evelyn flipped a couple of more pages. “How can he do this to me? I’ve given him everything. My whole life. My whole heart. What gives him the right to treat me this way? When we got married, he respected me so much. And now he barely even looks at me. I know I’ve got issues too, but what could be so bad that we can’t even talk anymore?”

She stopped and looked at Matt. Something had changed in his demeanor. Evelyn could she him fighting something, could see it in his face. And she felt it—that resonance. That confirmation that, for the first time in who knew how long, they felt the same exact thing.

The phone rang, and Matt left the room to answer it. Evelyn glanced at the cordless she’d pulled out of a box earlier in the day. The box sat under the phone jack, and the phone sat on top. Tracking down a locksmith had taken precedence earlier in the day.

She flipped to the last entry. “He’s gone. Jonas is gone, and I think it’s going to kill me. Why couldn’t he be honest with me? Now I’ll never know. He didn’t even sign the divorce papers. He’s just gone.”

Matt came back, and his expression had changed completely. Evelyn’s heart beat faster.

“Matt? What is it?”

“That was Sharon,” he said quietly. “She said the previous owners—Suzanne and Jonas—they, um…”

“They broke up, I know. That’s probably why they sold the house.”

“No,” he said, and his voice began to shake slightly. “They, um—I mean, Jonas died in a car accident six months ago.”

Evelyn’s heart pounded in her ears, and Suzanne’s words kept rolling through her mind. The journal slipped from her hand, and both hands went to her mouth.

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