There's someone at the door

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There's Someone at the Door

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Barbara is reading a novel.

It's Sunday, just after nine p.m.

Her husb& enters the living room, drying his hands on a dishcloth. He says: "There's someone at the door."

Barbara lowers the novel. She looks at her husb&.

"I heard a knock," he says.

"I didn't hear anything," Barbara says. She lifts a glass of wine from the table beside her chair và takes a sip.

"Well, you weren't listening then," her husbvà says.

But Barbara has been listening. She's quite sensitive sầu to sound. And she would know if someone knocked on the door, especially if her husbvà heard it all the way from the kitchen.

Now her husb& is walking toward the foyer, as if he means to answer the door.

Barbara considers the fact that her husb& might be pulling some kind of prank. He used khổng lồ bởi that sort of thing when they first met. They were in college then. He sat behind her in astronomy class. Every time she turned around, he was smiling. As if he knew some secret.

Barbara's husb& reaches the front door và begins khổng lồ unfasten the chain.

"Wait," Barbara says. She doesn't know why she tells hlặng to wait, other than the fact that it simply doesn't seem right khổng lồ answer a door if no one has knocked.

Her husb& pauses, turning to look at her. "Wait for what?"

"I don't know," Barbara says. "Just—"

"What if it's Mrs. Miller?" her husband asks.

Barbara considers this. Mrs. Miller is their neighbor. Her husb& died in a oto accident years ago. She never remarried. Mrs. Miller knocked on their door last month when she was locked out of her house. She wanted khổng lồ use the telephone to lớn gọi her sister.

"It isn't Mrs. Miller," Barbara says.

"How vì chưng you know?" her husband asks.

"Because she hides a key on her porch now. She told me."

Barbara's husband nods. "Well then," he says, "I'll just look through the peephole. Will that make you happy?"

"Alan," Barbara says. But before she can say anything else, he's looking through the peephole. He glances baông chồng at Barbara then. His face is pale.

"What's wrong?" Barbara says.

"It's Mrs. Miller," Barbara's husbvà says in an uncharacteristically soft voice.

"What vị you mean it's Mrs. Miller?"

"Mrs. Miller is standing out there, but—"

"But what?"

"There's something wrong with her," Barbara's husband says.

"What's wrong?"

"She's—well, she's bleeding,"

Barbara drops her book and stands from the chair. She moves toward the foyer, brushing past her husband. She begins to lớn unfasten the door chain.

"Wait," her husband says.

Barbara turns to look at hlặng. "Mrs. Miller is bleeding, Alan."

"She is," he says. "But it's not just that. It's—it's the way she's bleeding."

"What way?"

"All over," her husbvà says. "From everywhere at once. Eyes và nose & mouth and­–"

"My God," Barbara says. She turns & looks through the peephole then. But there's no one outside. The yellow circle of light on the porch is empty. Barbara hears her husband laughing. She's angry at first. But then she turns to lớn look at him. And she realizes he's laughing lượt thích he used lớn when he was young, when they were at college together.

"Alan," she says. "That was awful."

"Your face," he says.

"You told me Mrs. Miller was bleeding all over," Barbara says. "How was my face supposed lớn look? The poor old woman."

Her husbvà is still laughing.

"What made you decide to lớn bởi a thing lượt thích that?" Barbara asks.

He shakes his head. "I was washing the dishes. My hands were down in the warm water. And it just sort of occurred khổng lồ me. It seemed like it would be funny."

Barbara shakes her head. "You're funny all right," she says. She thinks she might slap hlặng lượt thích she used lớn. Not hard, of course, but in a playful way.

Then there's a knock at the door.

Barbara turns lớn look.

"What?" her husb& says.

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Barbara listens, wondering if it will happen again. "Didn't you hear it?" she says.

"Hear what?"

Barbara studies her husb&. "Is this the second part of your prank?" she asks.

"Prank? Barbara–"

"Someone just knocked on the door, Alan," she says.

He looks surprised.

"How did you vày it?" Barbara asks. "How did you make it sound like someone knocked?"

"I didn't bởi anything," her husband says. "I was standing here talking khổng lồ you."

"Did you tap your foot?" Barbara says, looking down at her husband's shoe.

"I didn't even hear anything," he says.

Barbara turns toward the door. She puts her hand on the chain.

"Wait," her husb& says.

"Why should I wait?" Barbara says.

"Because this doesn't seem right. I'm really sorry. I shouldn't have sầu tried to lớn triông xã you lượt thích that. It wasn't nice of me. And if you're playing a trick on me now, I deserve it."

Barbara thinks her husb& looks sincere. He's a good actor though. He used khổng lồ act in college. Once, she saw him in a play. He kissed her afterwards in the alley behind the theater. He still had his costume on, và Barbara felt like she was in the play too. She realizes now it's entirely possible that her husband is not afraid at all.

Barbara turns & looks through the peephole. There's no one standing in the yellow circle of light on the porch. And there's no one in the shadows of the yard either.

Barbara makes a sound at the bachồng of her throat.

"What?" her husb& says.

Barbara shakes her head. She walks bachồng khổng lồ her chair in the living room. She sits down calmly and takes another sip of wine. Then she picks up her novel & starts lớn read.

"You're reading?" her husbvà says.

"I am," Barbara says.

"But you said you heard–"

"I know what I said," she replies. "Why don't you just go baông chồng and finish the dishes?"

Her husbvà doesn't move from the foyer.

Everything is silent.

Then Barbara hears her husb& unfasten the door chain. She hears hyên ổn turn the door handle. "Alan," she says. She realizes she wants khổng lồ tell hyên khổng lồ wait. But there's no time for that. He has already opened the door. He's walking outside onkhổng lồ the porch. "Alan?" she says again. He doesn't answer. Barbara stands và walks inkhổng lồ the foyer. She looks out onto lớn the porch. There's no one in the pool of yellow light. She looks into the darkened yard beyond. There's no one. She wants khổng lồ Hotline out, lớn tell her husbvà this isn't funny. When he used to pull pranks in college, they were always harmless things. But this–

Barbara pauses. She knows what she has lớn bởi vì. She steps baông chồng inside the house & closes the front door. Then she waits.

Finally, there's a knoông chồng.

Barbara goes lớn the peephole & looks out. Her husband is there. He's smiling.

"Alan?" Barbara says.

He doesn't respond.

When Mrs. Miller knocked on the door last month, it had been Barbara who went to answer. She peered out through the peephole và saw Mrs. Miller, small & shivering, in the pool of yellow light. Barbara had opened the door. Mrs. Miller told her that she'd gotten locked out of the house. It had been such a foolish thing. Barbara looked at Mrs. Miller và thought about what it would feel like khổng lồ be so old & alone. She felt sorry for Mrs. Miller. But, more than that, she felt glad that she herself was not old và alone. Barbara was thirty-seven. She had Alan. Cheerful Alan who always was kind và often thoughtful.

"I'm not going khổng lồ open the door, Alan," Barbara says, standing in the foyer. "You can stay out there in the cold."

She looks through the peephole again.

Alan is in the same spot in the yellow pool of light, still smiling. He looks lượt thích he did when they were young. In fact, Barbara realizes, he looks exactly lượt thích he did when they were young. He doesn't look lượt thích her husbvà anymore. He looks like a photograph of the boy she met in astronomy class. The boy who would smile at her as if he knew a secret.

"Alan," she says through the closed door. "What are you doing? What's wrong?"

He doesn't answer. He only smiles.

Barbara thinks of Mrs. Miller then. She thinks of Mrs. Miller's husbvà who died in a oto accident. Barbara never met him. He died before she và Alan moved inkhổng lồ the neighborhood. She wonders what his name was. She wonders if she's ever heard Mrs. Miller speak it out loud.

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Barbara realizes her husbvà has now come closer khổng lồ the door. He touches the door handle. He moves it bachồng và forth.

Barbara thinks about something her husb& once said in astronomy class. He said: "What if we get married, Barbara? What if we get married và live sầu together like an old man và old woman?"


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