Can't Help Falling(3)

By: Kara Isaac


“Do you mind if I crash at your place for a couple of nights? Marissa’s kicked me out.” His brother’s voice jerked his attention away from the woman and back to their conversation.

“Again?” Peter couldn’t think of anything he’d like less. He already saw way more of his brother than he had any desire to.

“Says the guy who’s had all of, what? One girlfriend in his entire life? How about we talk when you have some experience under your belt, little bro.” Peter couldn’t have been less interested in the kind of experience Victor referred to, but his brother’s jab still hurt.

Didn’t matter what Peter said; his brother would have taken up residence on his foldout by the time Peter got home. “Two nights. Max.”

“Gotcha.”

No doubt Victor would be on the charm offensive tomorrow, wooing his way back into his on-again, off-again girlfriend’s forgiveness for whatever his latest transgression was. And she’d relent, as she always did. For a smart girl, Marissa was mighty dumb when it came to his brother. Peter would have put money on Afghanistan’s winning an Olympic rowing gold over his brother’s backing up the promises that slipped off his lips like honey but always delivered vinegar.

“And pick up some milk and cereal on your way over. We’re out.” He ended the call before his brother could reply. If Victor managed one out of the two, Peter would count it as a win.

He’d spent his entire life covering his older brother’s backside, and it had reached new heights in the last year. He was over it. Over being hauled out of bed at crazy hours to get him out of trouble. Over his flat being treated like a halfway house whenever it suited. Over helping Victor achieve the very dream that Peter had been robbed of. Over trying to help cover up the gaping crevices in his brother’s character. Yet he kept doing it because the alternative was worse.

He scanned the teacups one last time. As if one might have miraculously transformed in the last thirty seconds. Nope. Still nothing.

Jamming his phone back into his pocket, he turned to head back to the front door, then paused. Might as well keep looking around. Maybe the teacup was a bust, but something else might grab his eye. It wasn’t like he’d been smart enough to come up with a Plan B on the present front.

Turning back, he pulled his hat off his head as he ducked under the archway into the next room, partly intrigued to see what it was the girl with the wavy hair had been so intent on reaching.

Stopping, he blinked, trying to work out what he was seeing. Or wasn’t. There were no exits from the room except the one he was standing in. But the girl had disappeared.

Once Emelia had located the town center, it had been easy to find an antiques shop. Now she just hoped it held the one thing she was looking for. It had to. This was England. The first room hadn’t yielded anything apart from a gentleman manning the register who looked like he predated most of his shop’s contents and a tall guy on a phone.

Ducking through an archway, she stepped into another room packed with furniture. It was almost impossible to move between tables, chairs, side tables, and desks to get farther into the space.

But there it was, in the far corner: a tall, wide wardrobe flush against the wall. How she didn’t see it as soon as she walked in, she had no idea. Imposing. Majestic. In the crowded room, there was space around it, a gap between it and the other pieces of furniture. As if even inanimate objects instinctively knew that this was something deserving of deference. Not to be crowded around like baked beans packed into a can.

Moving furniture out of the way as quietly as possible so as not to attract any attention, Emelia drew closer. Until she was close enough to touch it, to see her breath fog up the varnished mahogany.

Of course, the real one was made of apple-tree wood, but who really knew what that looked like?

It was deep, one of the deepest she’d ever seen. And tall. Towering above her, not even an inch between its top and the ceiling.

Lifting her left hand, she brushed the wood with her fingertips, then placed her palm flat against the cool surface.

Looking over her shoulder, she scanned the space. No one. The only sound was the low, muffled voice of the guy on the phone in the other room.

Biting her bottom lip, she let her fingers run along the side of the door. The wardrobe tugged at her, the way all wardrobes like this had since she was a little girl.

Wherever you are, Emmy, you will always find safety in here. And one day, one day, you and me? We’ll find the wardrobe.

The words her mom had whispered to her tiptoed through her mind. Whispers of the past that haunted her every step.

The door swung open without even a squeak. Smoothly, on hinges that felt like they’d been oiled seconds ago, even though the cobwebs in the top corner told a different story.