Stars beam bright against the ink-blue sky. A soft hush breathes through the houses as the wind blows. Streetlamps glare over parked cars, casting their silhouettes along the concrete. Her house stands in the shadows. My hands twitch with wonder. What does Sophia look like at this moment? What is she thinking, feeling?
I flip the key over in my hand, pressing the sharp edge into my palm before turning it over onto its flat surface. Over and over. I think back to the break-in at my home all those years ago. The same adrenaline that they must have felt pumps through my blood now. I can’t help but feel a sense of bonding. We are somehow intertwined and bound together by this obscure common interest. Is it power or desperation that drives us?
Since being a little boy, I have been consumed by a need to see the unseen. Know the unknown. Like an addict, over time, my impulses have grown more dangerous. I’ve become tolerant, desensitised and in need of a bigger hit. Tonight, I knowingly graduate from cocaine to heroin. I stare at the impending threshold. The desire takes over and I succumb. Not taking any chances, I remove my shoes and put them in my backpack. Socks will be far quieter. As the key twists in the lock, I pause to catch my breath. My heart throbs in my throat as I close my eyes and open the door.
The scene is a routine I have practised many times, back at my own house, but the sensation of unlocking someone else’s door is so very different. The air is thick with trepidation. I practically wade through it to transition fully inside. There to greet me are the framed photographs I spotted this evening. I pick one up and focus my flashlight on the image. A young Sophia stares back at me in a gingham dress and open-toe sandals. I settle the photograph back on the cabinet and illuminate the rest. All of them include Sophia at varying stages of her life. In those with her parents, she affectionately leans against her father’s chest or holds his hand. Daddy’s little girl. In my favourite, Sophia and her mum are laid in a field with their hair splayed out, caught in a fit of laughter. What a warm, happy family unit they are. Could my life have been so effortless if I had been more accepting? There is no question, I see the glass half-empty. Could Sophia be my glass half-full?
Sophia. So close, yet so far.
I glide up the stairs, forgoing the creaks that I’d located earlier. At the top, I listen to the house and wait for my eyes to adjust. Someone snores softly. As I pass beyond Janice and Fred’s bedroom, the snores fade, indicating that Sophia is not the perpetrator. I reach Sophia’s door and bask in her electrifying presence. An undeniable force willing me to enter. My hand bends the handle and I venture in. My eyes take a second to see the room through the blackness. I begin to make out the shape of her desk and bed in the far corner. A wardrobe leans against the righthand wall, and I can just make out where the window is. Eager for more, I tug on the blind’s cord, parting it just enough to allow some streetlight to filter in. The room transforms with a blue, yellow tinge.
Sophia is laid facing the wall, undisturbed. Her hair spreads across the pillow and I watch her back subtly rise and fall, like a melodic wave. Without her face visible, I turn my attention to her desk. Laid atop are several books and a large sketchpad. Her artwork perhaps? Upon opening the book, my predictions are verified but not in the way that I thought. Her work is dramatic, abstract, and visceral. Bold, angry, black lines strike the page. Squiggles build to create the form of a woman, cowering on the floor. The visual repeats itself in various positions. Each time, the piece evokes a sense of despair and anguish. What inspired such harrowing drawings? What happened in Richmond? I wish I could reach out to Sophia and soothe her, but I know that is impossible. Doing so would sever any trust I have briefly established.
Tomorrow, I must conjure a way of getting Sophia to talk about her past, without letting on that I’ve seen her artwork. Of all the quandaries I am in right now, this poses the largest threat.