Growing up, I thought that my life would be normal. I would end up being a chef somewhere; I’d be underpaid, but I would love it regardless. I’d be married to the one person I know who makes my world stop. The person that can make me smile in any situation. We would have a few kids, and we’d be happy.
Looking back, that all seems naive now. I can’t believe I used to give myself the false hope that I would be normal, my life would be normal. None of that matters now since there is no possible way to get back on track to having that future; the future that’s good. The future where I was good.
I can feel myself being pulled towards the door. Every step I take seems not to get me any closer. I know what lies behind it, for I’ve opened it millions of times before. Some unknown reason does not allow me the strength to open it.
The door seems to stretch and grow before me, but I do not back down. I swallow and take a deep breath. I lift my fist to knock, but I hesitate. It’s been a year since I’ve even tried this door. Who knows what has changed behind it. Will everything be different, or will it be exactly as I remember? Which of these would be worse? Will it even be familiar?
All of these thoughts are spinning around my head like an unwanted cyclone. I close my eyes and slowly inhale. I only open them again when I’m certain my thoughts are gathered. I raise my fist again and knock before I can stop myself once more. There is a moment of silence before I hear rustling on the other side.
The door opens, and I am immediately greeted with a familiar scent that I have come to love. I guess things stayed the same in my absence. I’m not quite sure how to feel about that.
The open door also reveals a woman. A woman with long brown hair and matching caramel eyes that look like honey when they catch the light. Her outfit is a mere yellow tank top and sweatpants, but she makes them look fit for a model.
Her eyebrows raise for a moment, but her face lights up as soon as she realizes it’s only me. “Emily! What a pleasant surprise! My nephew didn’t tell me you were coming back.” She wraps me in a tight hug that allows me to smell her floral perfume. She squeezes me once before letting me go.
“I didn’t exactly tell him,” I admit sheepishly. I refuse to meet her eyes.
“Well, why not?” She puts her hands on her hips, but the smile in her eyes tells me she isn’t all that upset.
“This wasn’t exactly planned,” I admit, “I was gonna stay in Philly, but then, one day, I woke up and decided to come back to Manhattan.” She nods and smiles.
She turns her body slightly towards the living room when she says, “Come on in!”
Their living room reminds me of one that would be found in a TV show. The brown carpet has been covered with a plush rug. On top of which is a tan couch, a wooden coffee table, and a good-sized flatscreen.
While leading me inside, April asks, “So when did you move back in? I never saw any movers or anything.” She sits down on the couch, and I follow suit.
“I just came back a few days ago, actually.”
“Oh,” April exclaims. “Are you already enrolled in school?”
“Yeah. I was pretty lucky that there were still spots left.”
“And what about moving in? You must have hired pretty quiet movers.” She raises her eyebrow and leans forward ever so slightly. I laugh at her suspicion.
“I was planning on coming back during break, so I left everything here. You know how that turned out,” I say with a sad smile. She gives a nod of understanding.
“I missed you a lot last year, and I know Parker did too.” A smile crosses my face at the thought of my best friend. April looks down at her watch and gasps. “It’s already 7:17. Wow, time does fly. Would you like to stay until you have to leave for school? I know there’s someone in particular who has been wanting to see you for a while now.” She stands and turns to me expectantly.
“I wish I could, but I haven’t eaten yet. I just wanted to stop by so you didn’t think someone broke into my apartment and unintentionally call the cops on me.” She laughs in a way that makes her eyes crinkle slightly.
“We have plenty of food here.” I can tell by the look on her face that she is not going to take no for an answer.
“Ok. I’ll stay.” She gives me a bright smile.
“Well, I have to go get ready and make sure Parker didn’t sleep through his alarm again. I swear that boy....” She shakes her head. “I take it you remember where everything is?”
She smiles. “Great.” She turns to go wake up Parker.
April gives me a bright smile. “It’s no problem. I’m just happy you’re back.” With that, she disappears into the hallway.
I wander over to the kitchen. I go to the cupboard and pull out the box of Frosted Flakes. I then walk over to the fridge and grab the milk. I set them both down on the table, grab a bowl, and sit down.
As soon as I start to take a bite of my cereal, a door opens behind me. There’s a pause, then a sharp, excited intake of breath.
“Em?!” I hear Parker’s hurried footsteps approaching me from behind. “Em, you’re here, but how? Why?”
“What? I can’t come to surprise my best friend?” Suddenly he tackles me in a huge bear hug. “Whoa! You’re a lot stronger then I remember,” I gasp.
“Oops. Sorry.” He quickly releases me and starts scanning my face. “Wow. I can’t believe you’re actually here! I missed you so much!” I smile.
“I missed you too.”
He sits down across from me, grabs the bowl next to him, and pours cereal into it. He doesn’t stop staring at me with a dopey grin on his face for even one second.
“It’s crazy that you’re right in front of me again! I’ve been dreaming about seeing you again since you left...not in a creepy way, though.”
“I’m not going anywhere, so eat your cereal, dork.”
He pours milk into his bowl while talking faster than I thought was humanly possible. “Oh my god, you missed you so much while you were gone! Lee and I built a device that can cool anything in a matter of seconds! And then I found out I was-”
I perk up at his sudden cutoff. “What did you find out?” He suddenly becomes very interested in the back of the cereal box. “I know you’re hiding something, Edwards,” I say, using his last name.
“It’s nothing, Watson,” he responds, mocking my use of his last name. He bites his lip nervously. Whatever he is hiding is something big.
I’m about to open my mouth to disagree when there’s a knock at the door. I guess I’ll have to wait to find out his secret.
Parker exclaims, “It’s Lee!” He jumps up, nearly knocking over his bowl in his excitement.
“Careful,” I warn.
Parker half-heartedly waves in my direction before opening the door with a “Hi, Lee!” He looks more excited to see Lee than he did to see me. I might be offended if it wasn’t so funny.
“Hey, Par- Em?!” Lee hurries over and tackles me in the same fashion as Parker.
Parker mock gasps. “You don’t care about me?”
Lee shakes his head and pays him no attention. “What are you doing here, Em? It’s not that I’m not happy to see you, I am,” Lee clarifies, “But, you’re supposed to be home. Why aren’t you home?” He and Parker raise their eyebrows at me in perfect sync.
“I missed you guys?” I shrug. “What else is there to say?”
Parker gives me a look. “I know you’re hiding something.”
“You’re one to talk,” I point out.
“We’re not talking about me right now,” Parker defends, “So answer the question.”
“I’m not hiding anything!” Parker gives me a stern look. “Ok, fine. Something happened,” I admit, “It’s not a big deal, and I don’t wanna talk about it right now. I’ll tell you guys, later...maybe.”
Parker’s face immediately softens as he says, “We’re here for you when you’re ready to talk about it.”
“Thanks, guys. I appreciate it.”
Lee and Parker sit down. Parker starts happily chowing down on his cereal yet again. I start to reach for my spoon when my arm starts feeling like it just got plunged into a campfire. My breath catches at the sudden pain.
Parker looks up at me, startled. “Are you ok, Em?”
The pain doesn’t stop. The heat in my arm is increasing, getting hotter with every passing second. I bite my tongue to stop myself from crying out. What is happening to me?
I push my chair out abruptly, causing it to scrape loudly against the tile. “I gotta go.”
I run out of his apartment and scramble into mine. As soon as I shut the door, I collapse against it. My breathing is frantic now.
In no time, Parker starts banging on the door. “Em?! Are you ok?!”
The heat in my arm is getting a lot worse. If someone were to tell me I accidentally put it into a volcano, I’d not doubt it for even a second.
I quickly glance down at my arm then look back at it to make sure I’m not seeing things. My entire arm is covered in flames. I scream in terror.
The doorknob rustles for a second, then it stops. Parker yelps in pain at the exact same second. I stop staring at my arm long enough to look up at the doorknob. Huh. It’s glowing red-hot. That’s new.
“Em?! Wha- what’s happening?! I can’t open the door! It’s too hot!”
“Don’t worry, Parker. Everything is totally fine.” My voice is trembling with terror. I am unable to move to put the fire out.
Parker scoffs. “Like hell, it is! Open the door!”
I start to focus on my arm. Through the flames, I can see that it’s causing me no harm. But that’s impossible. Right? Unless... “Holy shit! It’s me! I’m the one causing this!”
Parker’s voice is hysterical, “What do you mean?! Emily?! Are you ok?! Open the freaking door!”
I take a deep breath and try to steady myself. “I promise everything is perfectly fine. Just head to school with Lee. I’ll meet you there.”
“I’m not leaving you when you’re in danger! I’m staying right here!”
“Parker, please, trust me.”
He groans. I can tell he doesn’t want to leave but also knows it is futile to argue with me. “I hate this so much, but if you really say you’re ok, I’ll go.”
“Ugh. I don’t want to leave you, but I know you want me to, so I will. See ya later.”
I wait a minute after his footsteps shuffle away down the hall. I look down at my still-on-fire arm, and panic starts coursing through me again. “What the fuck is happening? What the hell is this? What the absolute fuck is this?”
I take a deep breath. “Okay, Emily. Calm down. This is fine. Everything is fine. Just breathe.” I look down at my arm, the flames start growing. “And maybe don’t look at it either.”
I breathe for a few seconds before I open my eyes again to reveal a perfectly normal arm. I let out a sigh of relief.