BEYOND A CROOKED DOOR • by Stephan Meijerhof

Five doors, crooked with age. Each morning, full bladder and all, I curse them during my tiptoe walk from our street-facing bedroom to the bathroom hiding in the shadows at the back. It is an old place, this new home of ours. Musty, dark-timbered, illogical in its archaic layout. The house is the oldest in town. I joke that the place sags under its own forgotten memories. She doesn’t smile. It has been a while since she did.

True, we wanted a thing with years. Something to work on, something with potential. A hop, step and jump into a bright, responsible future. Our dream, our own casa in the blue hills. Didn’t we agree upon this? Not the doors, though, left there to suffocate us. I always find them more often closed than not, confining white-washed spaces that don’t make sense anymore.

Five ancient gatekeepers. The dining room one slides open and has panes of frosted yellow glass etched with flowers and peacocks. They rattle their crystal bones whenever I open the two halves, as if they don’t want to give up the secrets they have harbored for so long. But I live here now, I’d shout. You can moan and refuse to budge, but I will push and you will open.

I have to be careful. If not, I get scolded by her. You scratch the tiles, she says. Or, you let in the chill. I always make too much noise. Her sharp words leave marks like doors do on the floor.

Five of them. The bathroom door is first, with the long splinters of wood missing from its frame — an untold past made real. The office comes next, stacked with unopened boxes. Step through to the hallway, with the dark square at the end that opens to the living room. There, broken in half, the partition with its mournful slide. 

I feel a chill as I pause in front of the fifth door. I picture the warm bedroom beyond, the shape of her growing belly under the sheets. We promised ourselves a fresh start, a thing to work on, didn’t we? We promised ourselves many things: she will change, he will stop. A home for life.

After our steep walk uphill, we stumbled through the rough-hewed front door, and found only bare bricks and deserted rooms. This rotten house has consumed us, with crooked doors that slam shut more often than they creak open. Instead of keeping our love together, like a persistent draught, they allowed it to slip away.

Five doors, one for each year together. I stand in front of the last one. She is peaceful when she sleeps. That’s when I miss her the most. Maybe, if I open this one real quiet, I can catch a glimpse of her before she wakes. I push the handle down, add the slight nudge of my shoulder, bit more pressure, but it’s no good. The cold has warped the wood, and the crooked thing won’t budge.

Stephan Meijerhof is Dutch, and after many international travels, now resides on the beautiful island of Mallorca, Spain. Having studied in South Africa, and with a background in journalism, he works as a freelance PR consultant in the video game industry. With two creative writing courses under his belt, including Oxford University, he is hard at work to get his short stories and flash fiction published. Stephan can be found on Twitter as @smeijerhof121.

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