Atwood led Viv south on Jefferson Street. Neither said a word as they walked past the Stryker House. Unwilling to break the awkward silence with meaningless conversation, each knowing their relationship was based on something deeper. As they turned right on Green Street, Atwood realized that Viv was leading him to his house. They continued down Green Street, past the Methodist Church with its large stained glass windows, past the local funeral home and after a few more blocks, they were nearing his house. As she stopped in front of it, he wasn’t surprised. Obviously she had been his shadow for many nights.
“Go ahead.” He said.
As she walked to the side door of the house, she turned over a rock in the garden, picked up a skeleton key and proceeded to unlock his door. As the key turned in the lock, the familiar barking began. When she opened the door, she reached into her pocket producing a handful of dog treats. “Here you go girl.” Lucy his dog fled past both of them into the back yard, treats gulped in one bite.
“Why?” It was all he could think to ask her.
Viv looked into his eyes, “Why not?”
“How long has this been going on?”
She thought before she answered, “longer than you would think.”
It was hard to understand that Viv had stood in his kitchen before and he had no recollection of it at all. She probably felt at home, everyone did when they entered his parent’s home. He hadn’t changed a thing since they died. The now faded curtains his Mom had made more than twenty years ago still hung in the windows, her reading glasses stuffed in a coffee cup with pencils, the last grocery list she had been making, a jar of sand and rocks from the beach, his Dad’s hats hanging by the back door. The kitchen table was a time capsule, worn from years of use, thousands of meals, endless nights of homework, years she spent baking and covering the top of it with cookies. The same table he was sitting at when the police showed up to tell him they had been killed in a car accident on the way home from the Lakeshore. At the time of the accident, he had been back in Hastings for only 2 months, not quite settled into a place of his own. Now, he was unable to leave, remove their possessions or move on. The police officer had given him a box of items from the car, including his Mom’s camera. He had yet to develop the film, knowing there were pictures of their last days on the camera. They loved the Lakeshore and undoubtedly there would be a picture his Mom had forced some stranger to take of her and his Dad, in some crazy kiss, as much in love as when they were young. He sat down, lost to the past, unable to take his eyes off of Viv.
She closed her eyes as tears rolled down her face, took a deep breath and said, “I miss them too.”