The Black Room – Fiction

Midlife dark room

Terry dropped the suitcase and juggled the grocery bags so that he could push the 7 on the elevator panel.

“Hey, careful with that!” exclaimed Julie. “I’ve got some delicate things in there.”

“You do?” said Terry with surprise. “What delicate things could you possibly bring on a weekend trip?”

“Never you mind,” replied Julie. “But there are all sorts of possible things I could bring. A gift for my dear brother perhaps? Or a bottle of wine for dinner. Or… well, there’s lots I could have brought.”

Terry’s jaw clenched. Just like his sister to always be right. To always have the last word. At least, he would let it be the last word as he didn’t feel like arguing. But of course, that was just like him – always avoiding any hint of confrontation.

They had reached his floor, so it was a good opening to change the subject. “This way,” he said, as he hoisted the suitcase and exited to the right down the hall. He quickly unlocked the door and they entered the darkened apartment.

“You’ll be in here, right beside the bathroom” said Terry depositing her suitcase in the spare room before hustling down the hall toward the kitchen, groceries bags banging the door frames as he went.

Julie moved into her room and opened the curtains. She then sauntered down the hall and into the living room and again pushed aside the heavy curtains. “Why must you always keep your place so dark?”

“Dark? It’s not that dark” he replied from the kitchen.

“Yes it is. But don’t worry. I’ll soon brighten things up.” Julie bounded back down the hall to her room to begin unpacking and settling in.

Terry was glad of a few moments of solitude to unpack the groceries and settle his nerves before the evening. He was always glad to see his sister but her boundless energy always put him slightly on edge. And now that she had moved to the other side of the country, he saw her infrequently. He was out of practice. The last time he’d seen her had been over a year ago, just before he’d moved into his new apartment.

Terry was busy putting away groceries and laying out ingredients for the dinner he would prepare for them. He hummed quietly to himself. He was so absorbed in his preparations that he didn’t notice Julie had quietly returned. Something finally caught his eye and he looked up to see her leaning against the door frame staring at him, with a strange expression on her face. It was somewhere between surprise and fear. They looked at each other silently for a moment before she finally spoke.

“What is with your room?” she said in voice just above a whisper. “That is your bedroom, right? The one the other side of the bathroom?”

Terry looked away, and returned to the kitchen counter to lay out some tomatoes, his face turned away from her inquiring eyes. “What do you mean?” he said brightly, in a voice unnaturally high and forced.

“What do I mean? What do I mean!? I mean the vampire’s room. The room totally painted black. I mean, even the ceiling is black. What the hell?” she exclaimed.

Terry sighed. He should have known this would happen. He had tried carefully to prepare himself mentally for this weekend. His sister’s extreme extroversion, so far opposite from his own nature, always demanded some mental preparation on his part. But he hadn’t really expected this particular interrogation so soon, if at all.

“Damn!” he cursed to himself. He thought he had closed his door before heading to the airport. How could she have seen his room so quickly? How could he explain the comfort he felt in his darkened room? In being able to totally close off from the hustle and bustle of the world outside? The noise and crowds of the city spread out below. The seething masses of people, pushing and shoving and talking – always talking. Demanding something from him: money for the homeless guys on the corners, answers for the survey takers and tourists trying to find their way. Or the fund-raisers for charities, always increasing in numbers. Or the well-dressed, self-important people shouting into smartphones as they strode down the centre of the sidewalk.  Or the gaggles of boisterous young people, always talking way too loudly or shoving each other about; consuming sidewalks as if there was no one else who may have a need or claim to them. And as always Terry would be forced to the side, out of the way, unnoticed – kind of the way he liked it.

How could he explain any of that to his strong, confident sister. He couldn’t, so he just said simply: “I like it.” Then quickly: “It was like that when I moved in and I haven’t got around to changing it yet,” he lied.

“Dark, man. That’s dark. No, that’s just plain weird. Brother, you’re worrying me now. You’re not going round the bend on me, are you?”

“No,” he scoffed, trying to sound nonchalant. “No, of course not. It’s not so bad really. And there are lots of bright lights coming in from the building across the way. It kinda helps absorb it. So I can sleep. You’ll see tonight.”

“Besides,” he added as he rifled through a nearby drawer, “it’s not black. Black would be weird.” His fingers finally extracted a crumpled paint chip, “it’s Midnight Eggplant. See?”

“Uh-huh”, she said doubtfully. “Look, we’ll go to Home Depot in the morning. We’ll get a nice bright yellow or something and I’ll help you paint it. It won’t take long, with both of us working on it. I know how you procrastinate. But I’m here now and I’ll help you get it fixed up.”

“No, you’re here for a break. I’m not going to make you do housework on your only full day here.”

“I don’t mind. I’m your sister, and I’m here to help.   We’ll be hanging out together while we do it. It’ll be fine,” she said with finality.

“Besides you can’t leave it like that. What if you actually get a woman over here sometime? One look at that room, and she’ll be out the door! It’s just so weird!”

“Ya, that’s it.” Julie had clearly made up her mind. “We’ll get up early tomorrow – go to Home Depot. Get what we need. We can have it painted by early afternoon and go out to do something while it dries.”

She came to him and quickly pecked him on the cheek. “Not to worry. I’ll get you back on the path to normal, bro. Now, what are we making for dinner?” She didn’t wait for a reply as she sidled past him and over to the counter, pulling out recipe books and pushing aside ingredients.

Terry sighed. He was feeling exhausted already and she’d only been here 20 minutes. This was going to be a long, long weekend.

 

© 2018 Quentin Andrews

A writer, actor, singer, private pilot and keen traveller. Formerly in banking industry in various head office roles including data analytics and risk management. Love music, art, theatre, film, food and experiencing new places.

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