The Key

Prompt was "You use a key to go into the apartment of an ex-boyfriend. He comes in and you hide in the closet. Describe what happens."

What I wrote:

Photo courtesy hisks,

She stood outside his apartment fingering the key he’d given her. If he’d really meant the break-up to be permanent, wouldn’t he have asked for it back? She slipped the key in the lock like she’d done a hundred times before, but this time she felt guilty.

“I’m just going to gather the rest of my stuff and get out of here,” she muttered. The lie rang in her own ears. She knew full well that she had taken all of her belongings three weeks ago while he had stood watching her. She had packed slowly, hoping he would rethink his decision, but he didn’t say a word. And when she had finished he still didn’t say anything, just opened the door and shut it behind her.

She wandered around the apartment, now fingering his things. His books, his golf clubs, his guitar. She opened his refrigerator. Diet Coke? That was new. Dirty dishes in the sink. That wasn’t new. She made her way to the bedroom and stopped just inside the door. Memories brought tears to her eyes. She distracted herself by moving into the bathroom. She opened the medicine cabinet door, feeling a bit comforted by the mangled toothpaste tube, the familiar blue toothbrush and his bottle of after-shave, but a pink plastic case of birth-control pills on the second shelf made her heart skip a beat. She backed away from them, away from the bathroom and back into the bedroom, her mind reeling.

It had only been three weeks.

She opened the door to his walk-in closet. The one they had shared. The space had once been cluttered with their stuff, piled on the floor, intermingled, like it all belonged tangled together…belonged to just one person, or two people who had become one.

The space was completely organized now. So orderly, with his clothes hung neatly on the right side of the closet and separated by colors. Shoes on their racks, sporting equipment in a bin, ties hung on a special carousel.

And on the left…dresses, blouses, purses, high-heels…all organized neatly. She fought the urge to rip them from their hangers. She fought the urge to scream. She didn’t fight the urge to run, but just as she turned to flee she heard the front door open.

She ducked inside the closet and pulled the door shut. She could hear them talking, laughing, sharing the events of the day. She could hear dishwater running. They were doing the dishes together. Something she’d never known him to do. The doorbell rang and soon she could smell food…Chinese food. He hated Chinese food. Her stomach growled.

By the time dinner was over, her legs were aching from standing in one spot so long. straining to hear what was going on in the other room.

He put on some music. It cut through her like a knife. She could imagine him pulling this woman into his arms, nuzzling her neck, moving her seductively around the room. She could hear their footsteps moving in time with the music. Moving closer as he danced her into the bedroom.

Shadows moved past the crack in the closet door. Past her to the bed. She could hear clothing dropping to the floor. Could hear the sounds of passion building. Could feel the shattering of her heart into a million pieces.

She backed into the furthest corner of the closet, knowing that any noise she made would not be heard in this moment. She slid to the floor, closed her eyes and covered her ears.

She waited, past the soft low murmurs that follow passion, past the routine bathroom preparations for sleep and past the goodnight kisses. Until she could hear the steady deep breathing of satisfied lovers.

Then she slipped silently from the closet, being careful not to look in their direction, through the apartment where she deposited the key on the dining room table before slipping out the front door into the darkest night she’d ever known.

(Copyright © 2009 Jan Christiansen. All rights reserved.)


JudyO said...

This one really tore at my heart. I could feel her agony,sorrow and shame. You really captured a very dark night indeed.

Jan said...

Thank, Judy - I am enjoying the writing process more and more. I've never really written fiction until about a year ago and then it was the sock monkey stuff. It's just been the past couple of months that I've tried my hand at real fiction. I really appreciate your feedback.

Matt and Carol said...


That's tough. I felt for her and wanted to throw him and his golf clubs out the window.

Of course, we don't know the backstory or if this is someone he just met [yeah it's fast but it's been known to happen...] or if this was his plan all along.

The term 'turd' comes to mind - well, so do a number of others but I won't post them here ;).

So - any idea what your Nano project is going to be?!

Jan said...

Love the fact that this piece allows people to get inside her skin and feel what she's feeling. Purposely left out a back story. We don't know why they broke up...maybe she was a real pain (extremely jealous, stalker type) or maybe he already had someone. (She sure moved in with him quickly after the breakup.) I like writing pieces that let the reader fill in the details.

Don't know what my Nana project will be yet. Getting a bit nervous about whether I can come up with something that will hold my attention for 30 days. Want to do an outline before I start writing, so I better think of something quick!

Rod said...

Well, from a man's perspective this girl is a psycho. It's never okay to let yourself into your ex's apartment. She knew she didn't leave anything there and she almost got caught being really creepy. I did however feel the shattering feeling of being in the closet and hearing the one you love with someone else, that just sounds like the most awful thing in the world. But it's her own dang fault.

Matt. said...

Being an avid reader myself, I think I can spot a good writer when I read one. Good detail, but not wrapped up in excess words. Distinct emotions, but not soap opera drama. Very well planned response to a writing prompt. A bit too realistic (ha, ha!) I prefer my fiction on the lighter side :) Besides, "there ain't no way in Hades I would've left a key with that chick"! I've read way too many articles that have to do with disgruntled spouses and kitchen utensils.