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Apartment Living

“Why the hell did I ever let you talk me into this. Now I’m wet and crying!”

She quickly got up and ran to her bedroom window. Looking down, she saw a soaking wet overweight girl in tight shorts. The bean-pole of a boy she was with took a drag from his cigarette. He looked uninterested in what she was saying.

She walked back over to the couch and sat down. Someone was banging on the neighbor’s door downstairs. Then silence. Bang, bang, bang. Silence. Bang, bang, bang. Silence. Footsteps coming up the stairs. She figured it was the upstairs neighbors, but something about the drag of the feet on the steps made her stare at the front door. It wasn’t locked. Her heart raced a little as she stared at the door. She thought about getting up, but she was paralyzed. The footsteps stopped. Her heart raced harder.

In the back of her mind she recognized that the wind was picking up and the rain was getting louder. She remembered reading the weather. Severe thunderstorms most of the night. It had been a miserably hot day for May. About 92 degrees with 89% humidity. She hated Minnesota.

She couldn’t see light from the hallway through the keyhole anymore. Something was blocking it. She thought about the times she had easily broken into her apartment with a credit card because she had locked her keys inside. But somehow none of her friends could ever figure out how to do it. They told her it was impossible because the doorframe blocked the latch. She told them they had to wiggle the card, but they said wiggling won’t make the card go through solid wood. She had always meant to show them how she did it.

She was even more conscious of the rain now. It sounded like the kitchen window by the back door was open. She figured rain was getting in, but what really worried her was that her plant might be uprooted from the wind. A crack of lightning flashed out of the corner of her eye. Then a loud roar of thunder.

She realized the sound had distracted her. She could see light through the keyhole again. She got up and walked the fifteen feet to the kitchen to shut the window. Sure enough, there was water on the floor. She checked the plant, then realized it was completely down pouring now.

Just as she turned to walk back to the living room, she noticed the back door was slightly cracked open. Well not open—it was ever so slight. Most people wouldn’t have even noticed, but in the year she lived there she had left the door locked with the chain on and never opened it once. The whole apartment was old— floors slanted and soft in some places. Nothing lined up. The door frames were uneven to the ceiling so people always thought her pictures were crooked. She could never tell what way was straight. The doors still had antique handles. The latches had clearly been added more recently. They were simple latches, just above the handle. A small gold knob controlled the mechanism, which just barely caught on the other side. She had always thought if a person pulled hard enough they could either force the latch open or simply break the door enough to get in. A chain sat just above the latch though, and that gave her some sense of relief for some reason. Her building was on a heavily traveled road in town, so she never really worried for her safety. Looking back at the latch, she could see it was not sitting in the hole of the piece on the other side— instead it was pushed up on the edge of the metal. Now just a slight push would open it.

She took a quiet step back and bent down to look through the keyhole. Light. She gently reached for the latch and turned it to push it back in place. She looked up and saw that the chain was still impossible to open. For a moment she had forgotten. Whoever installed the chain had attached it incorrectly, so the chain could never be taken off because it did not reach. When she first moved in she thought about asking the landlord to replace it for fear that she wouldn’t be able to get out if there was a fire. Now she was thankful for her laziness.

She walked back to the living room and sat on the couch again. Still light in the keyhole. She looked out the window and saw it was getting darker, the rain so intense she could barely see past the droplets on the window. The thunder roared louder, the lightning bright. The storm must have been right over her by now.

She heard someone coughing downstairs. Then creaking in the floor as someone walked in the apartment above. Another creak. Was that one from upstairs? She looked at the door, still light. But she saw she still had not locked it or put the chain on. Why hadn’t she done that when she came back from the kitchen? She stared out the window and listened to the storm intensify. The wind was picking up. It made the blinds shake back and forth. She hated how drafty all of the windows were. The charm of old houses was one of her favorite things, but there were always apparent downfalls.

She moved closer to the window to look down at the street. It was raining even harder now. There was another flash of lightning, then darkness. The power had gone out. She felt her heart beat harder. No light through the keyhole. She stared at it for a few minutes, taking notice of her heavy breathing had become, but remembering the hallway light was out too. She got up the courage to lock the door. As she walked the mere ten feet to it, each of her steps made the floor creak loudly. She suddenly felt more confident for some reason though. She reached out and switched the lock on. There was a loud metal click. Then she slid the chain on. The sound of metal dragging on metal sounded louder than normal. She waited by the door for a minute. Somehow, she could not shake the feeling that there was someone else standing just as still on the other side. She bent down to look through the keyhole. Darkness.

She walked back over to the couch and lit a candle. She picked up a book and began reading. After getting through a chapter, she paused for a moment and thought about how silly all of this had been. She continued reading. Soon the rain turned to a drizzle and the worst of the storm seemed to be over.

After about an hour of reading, the power came back on. She read a little while longer, and then decided it was time for bed. She stood up, shut off the light and walked the five feet to her bedroom. She changed her clothes and crawled under the covers. Just as she was nuzzling her head into her pillow, she heard it. The short shuffle of footsteps and loud metal click.