Mary walked into the room slowly, dropping her belongings as she went, in their respective places. Shoes slipped off by the door, keys into the bowl on the bookcase, purse on the bench. Little by little, putting the stress and the pressure of the day down with each step. The sun was setting, but the apartment was still bathed in enough soft orange light that Mary neglected the light switch as she passed into the kitchen.
“Hi.” Mary screamed, clutching her throat she jumped back against the fridge. Gasping for breath, she looked into the living room beyond the kitchen and felt her skin tingle with relief as she exhaled. “James,” Mary said with a sigh, “what are you doing here?”
“Sorry, Mary. I didn’t mean to cause a fright.” James looked at Mary apologetically, one corner of his mouth tipped up wryly. “I did try to call, you know.” He glanced down at the ground and shuffled his feet a little, his white sneakers stark against the red shag carpet. Mary inhaled slowly. Yes, she did know. He’d been calling for a few days now. She’d chosen to ignore the calls and their subsequent messages. She’d tucked everything away neatly, months ago. Folded prettily into a little box she never had to examine, because she made sure she stayed busy enough to avoid it. To crowd out those whispers in her head that came each night. Mary hadn’t wanted to answer those calls, or hear those messages. So like everything else she didn’t want to face, she just… didn’t.
“Didn’t think that maybe that was a hint, huh?”, Mary finally said, to her stockinged feet on the kitchen tile. Staring at them she heard James clear his throat. “I thought maybe you’d be less able to ignore me in person. Though, you’ve hardly looked at me so maybe I’m wrong on that score.” He shifted, crossing his arms against his chest, thinking better of it and tucking his hands into his pockets. “We should talk, Mary.” His voice was soft, the words spoken gently, as if he was afraid to startle her. As if she might bolt out the door at any higher a decibel. Mary looked up slowly at the man standing across from her. It almost didn’t feel real. She’d spent so much time, put so much effort into not thinking about him. She’d tried to make it like he’d never existed. Yet, there he was. Same black jeans, t-shirt and sneakers. Same short dark hair curled against his temples. Mary looked at James, at the lines of his face and the same rich brown eyes. Everything so at odds with what she’d tried to convince herself of for so many months. He did exist, and it still hurt.