February

February

The rustles and the whispers were what initially drew her to him. Unknowingly, she followed sound emanating from above until she reached a set of double doors, cracked, ajar. Through the sliver, vibrating air easily passed and penetrated her mind, but what she saw did not match what she heard. Cautious, she moved away from the centerfold of the doors and stood, back pressed against the wainscoting, between a thin, chin-height table large enough for only one potted plant, and the left edge of the door frame. Intent, she listened carefully as the man inside the room hummed a gentle tune to the rhythm of the enormous grandfather clock’s pendulum.

Someone whispers with urgency. She recognizes not the voice of whoever whispers. A softer, gentle whisper of yet another man. To distinguish between the two voices suggests a familiarity with the people inside the room. She lacks such familiarity. Again cautious, she turns to look through the small sliver between the door and the frame where the door hinges. Blocked by the glare and shine of the sun spilling in from a, seemingly floor-to-ceiling, window, she makes out a stereo set and table, or maybe a desk. A body moves between her and the sunshine. She gasps and moves back, away from the crack. The gentle whisperer whispers once more. In response, the other person merely grunts. A chair skids across the floor and then sounds as if a leg caught on a rug. Low rumbles of dissatisfaction.

She very much dislikes living among strangers, but also, she cannot quite kick the feeling of liking the situation as a whole. The anonymous existence suits her quite well, she determines. Nameless, she easily moves about the palatial mansion, virtually undetected, unbothered, solo. Until, inevitably, the cranky old miser—Nanny Patrick—finds her scaling floors off limits to the likes of her and her kind. Being lost makes up most of her excuses, but today, she knows that no one will find her through her time-warping apparatus.

If someone stumbles upon her, she will press the magic button on her device and time will rewind itself, to only a few moments before, and off she’ll run, away from the place where she was caught. When time catches up with reality, she imagines, her would-be captor will feel enormously stupid. Held firmly within both hands, she clutches the miraculous time-warping device of her own making. Through the side crack in the door frame, she peeks again. Still the sun blares too hot. She takes inventory of the situation around her. The usual scurry of people seems nearly nonexistent today. Where everyone is, she could only guess, but for now, the coast is clear, and so, she hustles to the other side of the towering double doors.

Feeling safe, she takes another good look around and determines that she ought to be alright for now. She looks into the room, now through the side crack in the right side of the right door and its respective framing. Pleased, she can, in fact, see that two men, at least, reside within, what looks like, a fancy bedroom. She sees a set of couches and chairs, a huge bed, rugs, paintings, half a dozen different tables of various shapes and sizes, and that is about it from this angle. And then, she notices a handful of plants. A loud, clear, audible voice starts to speak out from somewhere, and the two men, one of whom she easily sees, bolt around to face the wall with the windows.

The easily seen man, she realizes, possesses the gentler voice. He whispers something she cannot quite hear. Again, the brasher of the man mumbles something in response or return. The specifics elude her. As she continues to listen to the loud voice spilling easily through the cracks in the cracked doors, she understands nothing about what is being said, and the two men have fallen silent for quite some time. And then, the inevitable happens.

Across the landing, she sees the woman who lords over the staff. Immediately, the woman recognizes her, and she freezes. Calm, the woman, holding firm eye contact, approaches her. Time slows, she hears her own heartbeat in her ears, feels her pulse in her thumbs, sees the world grow bright around her, and then she remembers. In slow motion, she looks down at her device and moves the thumb of her right hand directly over the button. Just as she begins to press down on the thing, she looks up to see the woman lunging toward her, floating through the air, both arms outstretched. She hears the click of the pressed button and notices how it sounds so similar to the tock of the grandfather clock. By the time the button pops back up into its ready position, she’s gone. She disappears, device and all.