Rocked by HimBy: Lucy Lambert
The red LED number on the elevator stopped at 4 and the door opened. I got out and went over to my apartment. It was unit 404, the first one to the left on the right-hand side of the hall.
The building wasn't much on the outside, or in these halls. Pretty basic, really. An old carpet, apparently once red, now faded to orange, under my feet. The doors an unassuming cream color with plain black numbers set in each just over the glass lens of the peephole.
Right then, it smelled of a half dozen different lunches. Soups, burgers, pizza. It made my stomach growl and saliva squirt into my mouth.
I fished my keys out of my small, black clutch. I pushed it into the lock and turned, only to find my door unlocked.
That was weird. Jerry was out at work. When we got up this morning, he told me he'd probably be out late, too. I'd been gone maybe an hour and a half, just out exploring Manhattan.
I gripped the key in the palm of my hand, warming the metal even as its little teeth bit at my flesh.
Were we being robbed? I imagined throwing the door open to find some masked thief emptying the contents of my jewelry box into a bag.
Wait... I didn't have a jewelry box. Who said your imagination has to make sense?
I looked up and down my hall at all those closed doors. Should I knock on one, ask for help?
My cell phone, an iPhone 5 (hey, my parents wanted to give me a nice graduation present) was nestled in its little pocket in my clutch. I could call the cops.
Then a phone rang in my apartment. Even with it muffled through the door, I could make out the tone. It was Stayin' Alive, or at least the chorus of it, over and over. An annoying song, to say the least.
And also Jerry's ringtone. He hated the song, too. He'd chosen it, saying it would make him answer the phone faster.
What the hell was he doing home? And why didn't he text or call to tell me?
I straightened out my navy jacket, and settled my matching skirt back over one knee. Confident I looked okay, I pushed the door open.
Our apartment had an entrance hall, the walls painted mother of pearl. To the right was the bathroom, the left the kitchen, and dead ahead the bedroom. Normally, I kicked my shoes off on the black mat to the right of the door. Today, I just walked in not caring about the polished floor.
"Yeah, I'll be down in just a minute. There are a few more things I need to grab," Jerry said from our bedroom.
I heard him pull a drawer open, then softer sounds as he apparently rifled through it, throwing most of the contents to the floor.
Something was wrong. Very wrong. A queasy feeling welled up from my stomach, trying to crawl up my throat as I walked over to our bedroom door.
The bedroom door was mostly shut. I paused as I reached out to shove it open. Did I really want to do this? I already knew something bad was going on. If I didn't open it, would it just go away?
That was childish thinking, though. I tried scolding myself. Just because you ignore something doesn't mean it isn't happening, or will stop.
No, I was an adult now. I started my new job in a little over an hour! A job that paid me enough to rent an apartment in Manhattan! I wasn't a kid anymore.
"I'll pay the parking ticket. Just wait a few more minutes..." Jerry said.
Taking a breath, my heart in my throat, I pushed the door open.
The first things i saw were the two big suitcases lying open on our bed. They had all of Jerry's clothes in them, as well as the clock radio and, for some reason, the Kitchenaid blender his mom gave us last Christmas.
The bed was unmade. Neither of us really liked to make it first thing. It made everything look so messy at that moment, all tangled and confused.
The next thing I saw was Jerry, or, more specifically, his face. He had a long face with a well-defined chin, with a sprinkling of freckles. Today, he had his black hair parted to the side.
One hand still had his cell pressed against his ear. The other hand was in the top drawer of the dresser, where he kept his socks and underwear.
His mouth opened, his eyes widening so that I could see the whites.
"Jennifer?" he said.
Of course. Who else would be here? He knew it was me; he just didn't know why I was there. But I remembered that neither of us was supposed to be there at that moment.
"What's going on?" I said, motioning at the suitcases.
A tinny voice said something unintelligible, emanating from his phone. Who was he talking to?
"No. She's here. Look, I'll call you back in a few minutes, K?" Jerry said, locking his phone and shoving it into the front pocket of his navy Levis.
"Who were you talking to?"
He started shifting the contents of the drawer into an open suitcase, glancing at me every few moments as though I might attack him.
"Are... are you leaving? Are you breaking up with me?" I said, hearing my voice crack.