I stood in the doorway and listened. My keys were held tightly in my hand, still attached to the lock of the door. The light from the kitchen spilled into the long hallway and I could see long shadows cast onto the floor moving around from inside the room.
It was the rustling noise that emitted from the room that stopped me as I opened the door. It should have been quiet when I got home, but this noise was an intrusion to my expectation. I had informed my wife that I was going to dinner at work, and after her clearly annoyed objection to my having another late night at the office, she told me she was going to go out to dinner with some of her girlfriends.
I heard the noise from the kitchen increase, and I could make out the sound of heavy breathing, almost panting. A metal object scraped across tile. I tensed up in the doorway and gripped the doorknob tighter. I quickly looked around for an object to grab as my mind wandered to what could be in there. I saw the umbrella holder and thought about reaching for one, but my hand wouldn’t let go of the knob.
Silverware clanged to the floor and I could imagine a burglar going through our kitchen looking for valuables. Then sense knocked into me and I almost snickered out loud at the absurdity of a masked man running around robbing kitchens. What would he be looking for, that really expensive blender I bought my wife for our anniversary? I shook my head at silliness of it.
I took a small step into the house, my dismissal of a burglar apparently giving me bravado enough to stay a moment longer to see if the intruder would emerge. I could see the shadow cast into the hall a bit better, but the dull light source didn’t give any clarity to it, leaving it a formless blur on the tile.
The panting got louder and I could hear a faint banging noise as if something were repeatedly bumping into the cabinet. My mind tried hard to wrap itself around what I was hearing as I leaned in toward the noise to see if I could get more distinction. My imagination started to beg questions of me I don’t think I was ready to answer.
What if my wife didn’t go out? What if she was in the kitchen? With someone? Another man? That would explain the noises? Would she do that to me? I mean, I had been busy the last few months at work, neck deep in a project with numerous late nights like tonight. But, hadn’t I made sure to pay attention to her? We had that weekend away just last month! How could she be in there with another man?
My anger fueled with these thoughts. I took a belligerent step toward the umbrella stand and gripped the closest one. My other hand let go of the doorknob, and no with the keys free, they dangled and clanged in the night air. My heart stopped as I heard the noise from the kitchen quiet down in that instant.
No, I must stay the course. I will confront her. I took a step toward the hallway and stopped as I heard a low grunting noise followed by more of the rhythmic banging on the cabinet. I took another step, only ten feet from the entrance to the kitchen, I was going to storm in there and catch her, and then I would be justified in my anger. I can’t believe she would do this to us. After 19 years of marriage!
A plate crashed on the floor, and I could imagine it being pushed aside to make room for…
I couldn’t think about that. It hurt too much. Not her. Not her. The thoughts gripped at my heart and it hurt. I hadn’t been the best husband, sure, but this? No, not this. Not this way. I leaned against the wall, the anger that was just a moment ago fueling my rage turning into pain. Swallowing me whole where I stood.
I saw her face on the day we wed, her tenderness and love for me. I could feel her hand in mine as we sat and listened to the doctor tell us that our dream of a big family would never happen. The nights we held each other in bed together, quietly breathing her in.
The tears threatened to overwhelm me. I looked at the kitchen, where the shadows and noise danced in mock of my pain. I tilted my head toward the door to the outside and saw the moment of escape I desperately wanted. Ten feet in either direction.
Confrontation or Cowardice.
Rage or Regret.
Fight or Forgiveness.
I slumped my head, the pain in my chest subsiding a bit as the rage fought to take control again.
No. I’m better then this.
I turned toward the door with one last look down that hall at the last 19 years of my life and stepped.
I reached the door, grabbed my keys and dropped the umbrella on the floor, my mind reeling with the decision to deal with this in love, letting my heart have the victory. I grabbed the doorknob to close the door, my head hung low and started to pull it closed, thinking about how in doing so, I was acting out how this chapter of our lives was going to be forever closed.
I took a small breath fighting back the pain in my chest that was causing the tears to well up on the sides of my eyes.
“Frank?” I heard her voice call me. I looked up, trying to see where it was coming from. There, walking up the driveway, I saw my wife walking up toward me. “Frank? Are you ok? Where are you going?” My hand fell from the doorknob, leaving it ajar. My mouth failed me. Words escaped my ability to speak.
“I.. er.. I.. uh.. Sam?” I finally put together.
She walked up to me, put her arms around me and placed a simple kiss on my cheek, then looked me in the eyes. “Are you ok?” concern crossing her gaze.
“If… you… ” I looked back at the house, “If you’re out here, who’s in there?”