Those Who Delvestrange, odd, weird, small town, the unknown, jail

Evening Glow

“This the place, Rowan?”

“Mmhm.”

“Nice! How’d you swing something like that?”

I lean back to eye the building’s third story window. It's a small circle of reflected sunlight brightening with the day. “It was my grandpa’s. He died last month.”

“Oh. Oh yeah. That’s why you requested early release, huh?”

I feel my face tighten at her words. They’re cordial words. Expected. I know I shouldn’t feel anger when someone’s just being polite, but I do. The frown I want to use is quickly tucked away. “Yep.”

She shakes her head with soft tutting sounds. “Well, I hope you know that we tried very hard to get your hearing moved to the left. It was a tragedy that we weren’t able to get everything settled in time." Her eyes meet mine. "My condolences.”

It feels like I’ve got great blocks of granite tied to my shoulders. My lungs don't want to expand all the way. They're bound with cord that burns. It hurts to shrug. It takes all my strength to feign dispassion. “I know you tried. Thanks.”

"Anyway, thanks for the update. I'll add the new address to your record." Her hands disappear into the deep pockets of her coat. Her breath leaves a cloud of mist settling around her shoulders. "Be on time for the next checkup."

My brow furrows. "I'm always on time," I say, "I'm always early."

Her expression darkens. "Hey, we talked about your attitude."

It takes a deep breath to relax my features. "Right. Sorry."

"Right," she grumbles. Then she turns away. "Later."

I head inside as fast as I can without running. My skin tingles as I step through the door. The cold fills me as I start to feel again. As I start to let myself feel.

I take a seat on the bare hardwood floor and lean against a wall of peeling floral paper. Cheerful sunflowers are split in half and browned from decades of use and water damage. Windows rattle on one side of the house and I feel a draft tickle the hairs on my neck. My teeth chatter, and then I clench them to stop it from happening again. I stare at cobwebs and the dust ghosts of missing furniture.

There are memories trapped in this place. They assault me now. They approach gleefully to rekindle forgotten days with vibrant color. I hardly recognize the family that I once knew. I hardly believe the kind smiles and shared laughter around a remembered table.

"Gone now," I whisper, "gone forever."

Eventually, as the windows glow a flame's orange, I feel my stomach rumble. My joints ache as I push myself off the floor.

The sum of my worth rests on my shoulders, in my pocket, and in the foundation of a weary house. One of those locations holds a liquid asset. For reassurance, I open my wallet and stare at the contents. Meager living had been worth its days of boredom. There were only so many pushups you could do on a cold concrete floor. There were only so many rehashed conversations that would still engage the mind. It had been a struggle, but perhaps a fistful of cash would be enough to keep me alive.

Panes of glass rattle throughout the house once more. I step outside and hunch my shoulders in an attempt to shield my ears. The door creaks, and I lift to shift the hinges so that it'll close. I don't lock the entrance. I don't have a key.

I compile a mental grocery list as I shiver down the sidewalk.

'Kinda pathetic, don't you think?' My mind clucks its tongue. 'Your first night out, and you just want some groceries? How about something else? How about someone?'

I ignore my own voice. Or at least. I try. Maybe I should go do something fun. For myself. Or maybe I should just get the groceries.

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