She sits by the door, ear pressed against it, waiting to hear footsteps approaching. They’ve been gone for countless days now; surely someone will be back soon.
Hours pass, and it is now dark outside. When she is tired, she lies flat on the floor, her ear still pressed to the door.
She closes her eyes and sleeps:
She is walking down a tunnel with bare, gray walls and a high ceiling she cannot see. The corridor is dark and narrow, but she is not afraid. She knows this is leading her to a specific place, though she doesn’t know which place that is.
She walks for minute after minute and doesn’t find anyone crossing her path. There are no doors on either side, just the stretching, dark walls purposefully leading her somewhere.
More minutes pass, and she is growing tired. Sweat starts to trickle down her neck, and small panting sounds come from every breath. She is walking on, walking farther; there must be an end coming up ahead.
There is. Far away in front, barely distinguishable, is a bend in the corridor. This must lead to where she is going, this right turn in the tunnel.
She quickens her pace, nearing the bend as fast as she can. Soon, she has reached it.
She turns right to follow the new path of the tunnel. In her earnest walk, she scrapes her arm against the corner of the wall. Small beads of blood spring up …
Then her eyes fly open as she hears the footsteps coming down the hall. She realizes that the floor is cold and sits up, pressing her ear against the door once more. She listens closely and can then tell it is he who is coming back. His steps are deliberate, heavy, and brisk.
She waits in complete silence, her breath caught in her swollen lungs. How she wanted it to be he who would return.
She keeps her ear to the door and she can hear him, louder now, closer. He’s almost at her door.
She continues her focus on the clicking of his shoes against the tile outside. He will be here at any moment.
But then his footsteps stop, though, she can tell, he’s not at her door quite yet. He’s almost to it, but he’s stopped just before reaching it.
She scrambles to lie on the floor again to try to look through the space between it and the door, her breathing now resumed heavily. She cranes her neck to lie as flat as it can against the floor. She presses her face to the door and looks with one eye through the slight crack. She can make out the bottom half of black, shiny, leather shoes. They are stopped a few feet to the side, away from her.
She sits up quickly, and looks around the empty room in exasperation and worry.
What do I do? she thinks to herself. He must know I’m here. He must.
She lies back on the floor, checks through the crack, the sits up. But he’s not doing anything. He’s not coming any closer.
She wants to call to him. She wouldn’t even have to yell; standing so closely he would easily be able to hear her. She wants to knock on the door and give him a signal to confirm she is here, just a few steps away, to let him know there is just one plank of wood standing between them.
But you can’t, she reminds herself. You promised you wouldn’t.
She shakes her head roughly, gets up, and begins pacing the room.
You can’t. You can’t let him know.
But a few moments later, she rushes back to the door, keeping complete silence in her socked feet, and looks through the space again. He continues to stand just a few feet away from her door. He hasn’t moved at all.
Why hasn’t he moved? Did they not tell him correctly? Did he not understand?
She goes to the window and, confused, scans the pitch-black outside. Then she turns to look at the light on the ceiling, the only decoration in the room.
I know I can’t; I promised I wouldn’t.
Her eyes shift back to the door, a single, simple piece of wood blocking her way.
I know I shouldn’t …
… But, what if I did?
She goes back to the door, this time to stand, rather than lie, next to it. Palms and body flat against the hard surface, she turns her head to press her ear to it yet again. Silence. No movement of feet. So close, but not close enough to hear her heavy breaths.
Her head still against the door, she lets a hand slowly slide down to the handle she knows is locked. She’s tried it endless times through countless days, and it is always locked. Nonetheless, her fingers soon reach the cool metal. She wraps them around it and slowly begins to turn. She knows just how far the handle will go before snapping back. She is turning it, slowly, willing to try the door once again, but not yet willing to make a sound. (I promised.)
Her heart is beating loudly in her ears; her chest visibly rises and falls. Just a bit more, and the handle will automatically go back. Just a bit more and…
“I am here.”
She immediately lifts her head from the door, eyes wide, and stops her hand. She feels someone else grip the handle on the other side.
“Ana,” he says through the door. “Ana, I am here.”