Alistair got off the elevator on the ninth floor. He turned down the left hallway, with its plaster walls, worn carpet and bare florescent lighting. Someone nearby was cooking an Indian dish, if the strong scent of curry was any indication. Alistair’s stomach grumbled. He wondered what, if anything, would be ready for his own evening meal. Thoughts of food quickened his steps.
As he neared apartment 910 he could hear shouts coming from inside. He couldn’t make out the words, but the tone was harsh and angry. Something crashed against the door as he passed. The noise must have startled the baby in 912, who began to wail. Foreign voices soothed the crying infant. His own apartment was silent as he reached the door and pulled out his key.
The door opened with a groan, but no wife met him on the other side with a hug, kiss, and a “welcome home.” She hadn’t been there for a week now, not that he was intentionally counting. Alistair locked the door, and reached down to untie his shoes. One look at the tan carpet changed his mind. He sighed. The vacuum cleaner they had received for their wedding, six weeks ago, still stood in the corner, as yet unused. He would have to do something about that tonight.
“Sweetheart, I’m home.” Alistair called hopefully, but no response greeted him.
He glanced into the kitchen; nothing simmered on the stove. Last night’s dirty dishes still filled the small sink. Alistair rubbed a hand over his face. He would have to wash them before dinner could be made. Disheartened, he walked into the living area. Breakfast dishes still stood on the table, where they had been when he left this morning. The curtains were still closed, cutting off any sunlight from entering. His wife was not there.
Alastair found her in the bedroom, sitting in the chair, staring at a photo album. He frowned at the miniature rose bush that sat next to her on the dresser. The poor plant, though beautifully in full bloom when he purchased it, was now dry and wilted, needing sunlight, water and air. Much like his wife.
He walked to her, and knelt in front of her. “I’m home,” he said.
“I didn’t hear you come in.” She looked at him with sad eyes. Alastair took the picture from her lap. Her family smiled at him from the glossy page. A panoramic view of the woods on her parent’s farm provided the perfect backdrop for the picture.
“You’re missing them.”
She nodded. Alastair put the photo album next to the dying rose bush, and took her hands in his.
“I got some news today,” he said. “I’m getting transferred.”
“Where?” she asked.
“Out of the city.” His coworkers had warned him that asking for this transfer would mean career suicide, but for Alastair it was a chance to see his wife bloom again.
He looked around the colorless walls of the bedroom. His wife needed more than this. She was suffocating here. “I think we both could use a little country air.”
When he looked back at her, he was surprised to see her lips curved into a small smile.
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