"Opening the Door"
A young secluded artist named Hazel pours sugar into her mint tea, stirring the tiny little crystals into her mug. The crisp scent warms her nose and the steam from the mug fogs her spectacles. She kept to herself and had remained in her home and studio for several years. She hasn’t left her home since her brother died, her fear of outside growing each year. As she peers through the frosted window she observes her neighbor, Heath.
Heath had moved in three weeks ago. He bought the house earlier in the year, but only recently began living there. He lived alone with his two fat cats and made no moves to acquaint himself with the neighborhood. Mrs. Wimble, the neighborhood gossip, had attempted to welcome him with her awful banana muffins, but Heath had politely refused her offer. Hazel had chuckled as Mrs. Wimble hastily walked back to her house, with her nose in the air and face red. Since then no one has spoken to the man. He kept a strict schedule, he left for work promptly at 8 am every morning except on the weekends.
Hazel took her mug to the living room avoiding the boxes on the floor. She took a seat in her favorite chair facing the window. She took a small sip of her tea, the warm liquid a glorious reprieve from a dry mouth. Heaths cats were watching him from the stoop of his front door. The chubby four legged balls cuddling one another for warmth as Heath was shoveling his sidewalk. Why is he shoveling now, it’s going to snow later? Hazel pushes her glasses up, this must be Heaths first winter. She looks closer at his hands and sees the man isn’t wearing gloves. What the firecracker? Is the man nuts? She looks frantically around her cluttered room for a pair of gloves. Boxes are piled high up, and crates of books, yarn, and painting materials are everywhere. Her canvas of the two hidden lovers, unfinished in her living room. She looks back at Heath wondering if she should help him. Resigned to the task at hand she sits up clutching her poncho closer to her, as she steps forward into the mess. She pulls the yarn box out of the way, digging through her knitted projects careful to not knock her latest piece. A yellow and brown scarf with a lightning design is tossed aside. Red and purple handbags, orange wallets, and blue socks are pushed out of the box. She reaches in further pulling out the black gloves she had knitted with a smiling cat face at the end. Smiling to herself, she puts everything back in the box, tucking away the hideous yellow and brown scarf at the bottom. She looks at her door, the dark windowless gate to a world she hasn’t set foot in many years. Her heart pounds as she steps closer to it.
She wishes her assistant hadn’t taken the week off. She could have sent her with the gloves across the street so she could be safe in her home. She begins tapping her palm with her finger. I need to stay inside it is safe here. She places her hand on the wall to steady herself. The room feels warm, and her heart rattles in her chest. I could shout his name and toss them in a bag outside. Her breathing eases, and she smiles. What an excellent idea. She walks back to her kitchen going through some drawers, looking for a plastic ziplock bag and a notecard. She writes a stern note, explaining the importance of proper clothing in winter and frostbite. She places the gloves in the bag along with the note.
Hazel slowly opens her door, peeking out into the neighborhood. The snow had piled up to the mail slot at her door. She sees Heath shoveling around his car. She shouts his name and for a moment, he cannot place the source of the sound. When he looks at her she tosses the bag out into her lawn, where it landed not close to his house. It sunk into the snow at the edge of her property. Embarrassed she blushes, and closes the door quickly. She quickly walks back to her armchair, where her tea has gone lukewarm and watches Heath. He steps through the snow cautiously walking to her home, he picks up the bag and sees the note. Heath puts on the gloves and looks content with how they fit. My good deed is done for the day. She sips her tea when she observes Heath walking, but not back to his home but to Hazels. Hazel almost chokes on her tea when she hears the knock at her door. What is this? Why is here? She stands up in a rush peeking at her appearance in the hallway mirror. Green frames are crooked on her nose, her poncho has a loose thread, her cat slippers look aged, and her hair is a nest, holding a paintbrush and a pencil. A second knock on the door and her heart began to pound again. No. No. No. She looks at her door of doom and steps to it. With her hand on the handle, she opens the door to see Heath standing with the card in hand.
“Hello ma’am, I wanted to thank you for the gloves.” He greets her politely.
The cold draft from the door rushes through Hazels poncho, as clumps of snow slip onto her door mat.
“It’s no problem at all, please keep warm,” Hazel says, her nervousness making her speech rush out.
“Do you have a spare scarf as well? You listed that I would need a scarf to keep warm in your note.” Heath says, his mouth crinkles into a small smile. Hazel nods and informs him she only has one. She closes the door, to go back to her yarn box and pulls out the hideous scarf. It is for warmth, not style. She opens the door again to see him waiting patiently for her, she hands the scarf over.
“Thanks, my cats had fun earlier tearing it in their game of tug a war,” Heath says chuckling. A loud mewl causes Heath to turn and see his cats yelling for him.
“I think your cats miss you” Hazel comments. Heath smiles, as he tucks the scarf around his neck.
“I think so to. Hey, I heard that you knit sweaters do you think you could knit a couple of cat sweaters for my boys?” He pulls out a card from his wallet handing it over.
“My number is on the back, I make a mean meatloaf and would love to have you knit me some things for them.” Heath says, Hazel still too shocked to process his offer accepts the card. He stomps through the snow back to his cats and Hazel closes the door.
She looks down at the card and reads that Heath is an accountant, looking at his home number printed so beautifully in silver text. She tucks the card into her pocket and walking to the kitchen. She grabs a towel to mop up the melting snow that fell in her house. She sighs to herself as she bends down to the smell of wet outside drifting into her nose as the aroma of mint tea faded.