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Glad You Made It

For Round Five of our contest, we asked you to send us original works of fiction that began with the line, "Some people swore that the house was haunted," and ended with the line, "Nothing was ever the same again after that."

A man walks up stairs.

Some people swore that the house was haunted.

You weren't sure. Your new hip slowed your steps, water bottle in one hand while the other hand's fingers trailed our gate. Your pulse paused on a pointed picket. Your glasses reflected our bedroom window. Your hand brushed mine as you walked away.

You weren't sure, but you came back and slipped three keys in the rear gate before one clicked. You stood in the tall grass, licking your dry tongue over the crack in your lip.

Back then, you told me not to worry about you, to be at peace. You said, kneeling so we could look eye to eye, that you would see me soon.

You promised the same when you served in Korea and when you worked nights at the precinct, but even those times, you studied my face for new wrinkles and asked me why I couldn't just rest.

You didn't ask me that after I was the one forced to leave you.

Instead, you stood in the tall grass and looked up at the porch swing where you left my yellow pillow. Maybe you were thinking, as I thought settling there, of our green tea and company. Maybe you remembered how Dr. Patel scolded us and warned us that mixing the tea with your Coumadin might stop your heart.

You moved most of our things, but you didn't take the little bear of honey from the cabinet above the stove. You left two cups, too.

You looked like you could use a cup of tea, so I stood.

You heard the swing creak. You said my name. Your eyes searched for mine.

You cursed at my roses growing over the porch rail, covering in thorns the very thing you needed to grab onto. And you lifted a heavy foot, heavy heart, and heavy eyes to the steps you couldn't climb.

For a moment, I wanted you to try harder. I wanted you to fall like a star. I wanted you to blaze up the steps or down into the ground, burying into the earth next to me. You tried. And when you fell, I wished on you without words.

But not for you to die.

I wished for you to be okay (you were). I wished for you to quit wincing in pain (you eventually did).

And with all my heart, I wished for you to stop feeling haunted.

Nothing was ever the same again after that.