The house was empty, as it had been for years. A thin shingle of light came unbidden through a crack in the blinds into the otherwise dark room. It was a sombre darkness, full of half-shadows and dense with words never spoken, bottled up in this kitchen for years. The light ate its way across the wooden floor, through to the table and the only chair still standing there, all the way to the far side of the room and up the wall, a persistent truth raking along the dusty floor.
There was nothing menacing here, and if there would have been, she never would have cared, for this house could no longer elicit any emotional reaction from her other than indifference. The silence in the room had a dreamlike quality to it, sprouting from the wisteria outside on the stone wall, crawling its way through the cracks and through the hollows, sneaking through the window as a white noise, spouting from her ears and mouth, a silence she’s known for years.
She took the envelope from the table, her fingers hovering just inches above it before she shoved it into her bag. The skin of her fingertips where she’d touched the paper felt burnt. A sudden feeling came over her, as if the room was shrinking. Her eyes ached and her skin felt like it was crawling with ants. Where had all the oxygen gone? She couldn’t breathe.
How funny, should she die here, in the middle of her ruinous childhood, of asphyxia, after having held her breath for so long that she’d forgotten when she’d last truly filled her lungs with air.
She didn’t die.
She walked out of the door slowly and closed it behind her, quietly, quietly, even though there was nothing or no one she could have disturbed – the house was miles away from civilization, as she knew just too well. But noise would have felt out of place in this deserted space, in this vortex of her past.
She didn’t look back as her feet carried her away from the house, and the table, and the crack in the blinds, she only looked forward, up and ahead into a bright blue Indian summer sky, her fingers curling around the envelope in her bag.
One day, when she would be strong enough, she would open it, would give in to the magical pull it exerted on her dreams and hopes and tear it open right through the middle and she would find the proof of her otherness there, the certificate that was to prove that her real life waited for her somewhere else, with a different family that she was yet to come to know.