“I don’t understand. They told me they only wanted to help.”
My voice came out in a whisper, my eyes wide as the moon overhead.
Our front door stood ajar, golden light tumbling out from inside, the threshold shining like a portal. Not a soul stirred in the street behind us. My heart danced through my chest, pulsed frantically in the tips of my fingers.
Andrea’s grip on my arm tightened painfully, five steel clasps digging into my skin.
“How did they do this?”
“I… they…” I swallowed, my throat a desert. “They said they were going to do something nice. Something small. They wanted to welcome you home.”
“And you believed them?”
I had believed them. That was the truth. But now, as I surveyed the slice of living room visible beyond our doorway, I knew just how wrong I had been.
Where our couches had once rested, only empty space remained, stretching luxuriously. Nothing was left to mark the area where our television had once cracked jokes and shared dazzling spectacles. The coffee table had evaporated.
“Never in my whole life…” Tears began to well in Andrea’s eyes, and she finally walked inside.
I followed slowly, tentatively. “Welcome home?”
She spun around and jumped into my arms, dashing her tears against my sweater.
“Are you happy to be back?” I asked, unsure. “Is this okay?”
“Okay?” She drew back, staring up at me incredulously. “Okay?” One arm flashed out like a scythe, sweeping across the room. “I’ve never been happier.”
I smiled, relieved, glancing to where our couches, television, and coffee table hunched over surreptitiously in the back of the room.
Taking her by the hand, I led Andrea into the middle of the floor and we slowly sank down onto the plush blanket draped there. Two bottle of wine lazed in a bucket. An enticing plate of sandwiches sent envoys of smell up to welcome us. Streamers, posters, and signed plastered the walls – not a single inch was left uncovered.
Then came the staccato of running feet. Two small blurs on the stairs. And suddenly two became four on the blanket.
“Mommy, we missed you!”
“Did we do a good job?”
Andrea gathered the kids up in her arms. “You did an amazing job.”
She winked at me over their heads. “And so did you.”