Scrutinizing every inch of what she can’t see, Gretchen squints and squints some more, hoping to find the source of the disturbing noise. For a period of time she can’t fathom, she sits silently gazing into the void, holding her breath and waiting. All she’s greeted by, though, is the sound of her heartbeat, banging wildly like a drum whacked by a wind-up monkey. Thinking it might just be her mind playing tricks on her after all, she cautiously prepares to turn her attention back to the allure of the toasty log fire when it hits her. She can’t believe she didn’t notice it straight away, yet somehow, like the lemon she is, she missed it. In the darkness, next to the coat stand, there should be the front door of the apartment leading out to the communal stairwell; the peep-hole in the middle and the bronze handle with an air freshener hanging from it positioned to the right. Only, it’s not there. The frame is in place, but the door itself is wide open. What she glimpses instead is the lonely stairwell beyond. All at once, her heart jumps into her mouth, and for a fleeting moment, she swears it’s beating so fast that it might just explode like a tomato squashed beneath a stamping foot. It hadn’t been open when she woke earlier, she’s sure of it, and she certainly didn’t open the thing on her way to the kitchen or when she was in the throes of being, elsewhere. Trying desperately not to panic, the urge to flee is suddenly overwhelming. Perhaps she’s not as grown-up as she thought she was. The shame reddens her cheeks, but at this moment—in this situation—it’s of no consequence. Gulping as if she were a fish out of its tank, she tries getting to her feet as quickly as she can. Such a feat is not an easy one, however, as her legs have gone to sleep. Pinching and poking them as if she were overcome with fleas, her eyes never leave the space beyond the frame of the front door for fear of what’s out there, or more alarmingly, what might have wandered in.

X and I: A Novel and A Journal for Damned Lovers on Amazon UK

X and I: A Novel and A Journal for Damned Lovers on Amazon US

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