'A House, Not a Home' by Craig Romans
I don't turn the lights on when I go into the apartment at night. Not until I've checked the rooms first for intruders. With nothing but the sound of my own breathing for company, I push open the heavy, teak front door, pocketing the key as I slip inside. Standing there in the darkness, I let my eyes adjust to the murk and gloom of the shadow-riddled hall. I can feel a worrying tightening in my chest as I turn back to face the front door.
There’s a spy hole embedded at eye-level. The number of times I’ve peered out into the stairwell, half expecting to see a crazed, knife-wielding stranger, well it's often, even if it’s never happened so far.
I can see more clearly now, so I make my rounds. To the right, a small, sparsely decorated bedroom stands empty. No one there, check. There’s a small closet in the hall, I even look in that too. No one there, check. The bathroom is silent, but a mix of aftershave and perfume dances up to my nostrils. No one there, check.
The main bedroom is next; the neatly made bed is empty, and there are no wardrobes for anyone to hide in. Outside, the rumble of passing traffic breaks the silence, and the glare of a car’s headlamps scatters the shadows around the room much as a startled flock of birds.
I make my way back through the gloom of the hall, turning left to the lounge, the walls lined with vast swathes of curtains, drawn against the darkness. No one there, check. There’s a deep bay window behind them on the west wall, and my heart gives rampant pause as I stand there, hand poised to pull back the fabric and reveal... nothing other than closed blinds that serve to further deepen the darkness in the room.
There’s only the kitchen left. Tidy, clear of clutter, just how I like it. Empty save for the blinking pulse of the LED clock on the oven, the ever-present sentinel of this apartment.
A shudder of relief seeps through my frame. The place is empty. Safe. Ideal.
Moving back through the lounge, I slip behind the curtains of the bay window, standing there, silent, waiting. My hand reaches into my coat pocket, resting on the comfortable hilt of my blade. My instrument of choice.
It’s then that I hear a key turn in the lock of that heavy, teak door, and I brace myself for the inevitable. Drawing the knife, I wait for my prey. You see, this is not my apartment. Maybe it's yours...