The key turns smoothly in the lock. She listens for the familiar click as the bolt draws back.
Her hand reaches for the knob. A gentle turn and push. The door opens on the quiet dark beyond.
Deep breath in, big sigh out. Courage summoned.
Gingerly she lifts her foot over the stoop and places it in the threshold. Her stomach knots and her heart wrenches.
She feels her throat constricting, her eyes filling. A single tear spills over her lashes and makes its way down her cheek.
She is in now. Her eardrums reverberate, the silence deafens her, reinforcing the emptiness.
She stills herself, blending chameleon-like into the surroundings. Everything that makes her her dissipates. Blandness drapes itself over her, extinguishing any last flickers of vim.
Summer’s laughter, the squeals and tussles, are gone. What she would give for a few more seconds of that bustle. Even the arguments of whose air is being breathed would be better than the loneliness that stretches ahead.
She always struggles with that first day the kids are back at school.
Then, the sharp chick chick of tiny feet on the tiles. A warm body throws itself against her legs. Reaching, scrabbling, grappling for attention. Her heart soars with joy as she reaches down, scooping the little body into her arms.
“Oh my baby. Thank goodness you’re here. I’d go mad with loneliness if it weren’t for you. My little furry one.” The puppy licks her face all over in enthusiastic desperation.