By: Tijan

It hit me then: I wanted to live here—not just as a fantasy, but for real. I wanted to be tucked away and safe in this building, but still so much in the center of everything. Even with the little I’d seen of the space, I already knew everything was top of the line.

I scouted around a little more. Hardwood floors that went everywhere. Four bedrooms. A master bathroom with a deep hot tub. Two living rooms, one sunken like something out of a hotel lobby. A white brick fireplace nestled between two couches. Dorian said the fireplace was just for show, but it still looked beautiful. A state-of-the-art kitchen with granite countertops and professional-grade appliances. Three chandeliers accented the spaces. The place came unfurnished, but Dorian said the chandeliers could remain.

Dorian stepped into the elevator to give us some time to talk, and he told me the code I’d need to call the elevator when we were ready to go.

As the doors closed behind him, Sia turned to me. “Okay, before you say anything, he said it’s only $25,000 a month. I know you can afford this place. I totally think you should apply.”

I had been ready to say yes, but suddenly I couldn’t. “Liam loved our home.” I felt him now. He was with me, looking at the place, and I could feel his hurt. I was going to leave his dream home for this?

Sia rolled her eyes. “I’m not trying to be mean, but he’d want you to move on.”

It’s only been a year…echoed in my head.

“I don’t know, Si.”

“I do.” She stepped close, her voice softening. She touched my arm. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime place. It’s going to be snapped up, and whoever moves in here won’t be moving out. I can tell you love it, and you won’t get this chance again. I guarantee. I know. I’ve been watching this place for two years, and I’ve never heard of an opening here. Get in while you can. Plus, you’ll be so much closer to me! I know you hate the long cab rides, and I know you don’t like riding the train alone. Do it. Take this place.”

I let out a ragged breath. “That’s if they’ll even accept me. I’m sure they have a ton of people wanting to get in here.”

“They’d be lucky to have you as a resident.” She squeezed my arm. “Take it. Please? Or, at least try. For me. I’m begging you.”

“I…” I did want it. I really did, but Liam. I’d be leaving him. “I need to think about it.”

I could see the disappointment in her eyes, but she didn’t say anything. She gave me a smile and pulled me close, her cheek next to mine. “Okay. You take your time.” She hugged me, and in that moment—with my heart wanting one thing, but loving another—I needed that comfort.

I went home feeling like I was crazy. How could I leave Liam’s home, my home with him? I walked into the house, hung my coat on the rack beside the door, and went to the kitchen. It was dark and empty.

There’d been life here before. Liam’s baseball caps. The pile where he’d dumped his gym clothes. It stunk up the entire first floor. He always promised to move them, and he never did. I did, and I was always irritated. He was always clueless how they got back into his drawers.

So many memories, but half of them were packed away.

I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of everything. The pictures had stayed up, but not the ones from the wedding. Those I sent to my parents, along with Frankie. After the accident, I ceased eating, bathing, living for a while. I couldn’t take care of myself, much less our dog, so I sent him to run happily around on the farm. Or that was what I told myself. I hoped he was happy. Liam hadn’t been a hunter, but my dad was. Frankie was a bird dog, so maybe everything worked out for the best…for Frankie.

I gazed over the empty table, the empty counters. Then I opened the refrigerator and found it empty except for a head of lettuce, ranch dressing, and two slices of cheese. And wine. I pulled out an open bottle from the door. It was half gone, but I didn’t remember opening it.

Sia had been here every day for the first full month after I lost Liam. Then it became every other day in the second month, every third in the next. It was the sixth month when she couldn’t take it anymore. I think it depressed her too much. She never said so, and I never knew if it was the house or just me, but I realized she didn’t want to be here.