The only thing that seemed to move was our eyes as they drifted over each other. Time itself stood still between us. Three years had passed since I’d run into him apart from the one mishap at the grocery store where I’d darted out and hadn’t looked back even as he’d called out my name.
“Zara,” he said, his voice surprisingly even. I didn’t know what I was expecting; would I have liked for his voice to tremble with quivering emotions, raw and needy? Did I want him to show me he still desired me even after so many years? The foolish thoughts remained in the back of my head even as I answered his greeting with a “hello” that was just as composed as his.
“I didn’t know you’d be here,” he told me
“That makes two of us,” I quipped. It brought out a slight smile but it faded quicker than I had the time to take it in. I hadn’t made him smile in a long while.
More people appeared behind him, looking curiously at the exchange between us. Had there been much sunlight, maybe it would have been possible to see all those unsaid words swirling between us like dust particles.
Alice appeared and I was torn between wanting to hug her or strangle; I suppose that defined much of our relationship as siblings.
“Oh, I see you two have met,” she chirped at us like she didn’t know about any of the bad blood, “Zara, this is Sam, Ameer, and Casper.”
Sam looked like she’d entered both her butterfly pixie and goth phase, Ameer was well…I’d had to look away quickly and then there was Casper. He was taller than all of us, even Alice, who towered over most people.
“Casper like the ghost?” I asked in an attempt to socialize with them.
“Exactly like the ghost, only much, much taller,” he grinned at me. I think I liked him.
“Well, Casper the taller ghost maybe you can help reach the corners in my basement.”
I wasn’t even ashamed of trying to rope them into helping me out. There’s only so much a woman can do. Alice rolled her eyes knowing exactly what I was doing. Sometimes, I really did feel like the older sister.
“We have a basement?” Sam spoke for the first time. I nodded at her.
“Yes and I’m trying to make it look less…” I searched for a word.
“Dubious? Scary? Dirty?” James offered.
I waved my hand dismissively.
“Less of whatever it is right now.”
A slight draft swept over me in that moment and I wondered if the vents were malfunctioning. I think Ameer felt it too if his sudden perusal of the area was evidence enough.
“Did anybody feel that?”
They all just looked at each other and shook their heads. All except Ameer who nodded, just like I’d expected.
“Well, at least I’m not going insane,” I joked.
“It must be the vents or the heating system,” he offered, “I’ll take a look into it.”
I smiled gratefully at him before my sister spoke up.
“Careful,” she warned, “if you’re too helpful she might end up making you the house help.”
“I don’t see anything wrong with that. Of course, if she asks,” Ameer replied. His words sounded oddly like…an invitation. James gave him a brief look too.
I made a quick excuse and left them downstairs.
Collapsing on my bed, I put a hand to my forehead. It felt like I was running a fever. Kicking off my shoes and discarding my jeans, I pulled the duvet up to me.
A break was meant to be slept through.