“I was here first,” she says, knuckles turned pale with her tight grip on the door handle. Her back is to you, forehead pressed against the door. You can’t see her face, but her shoulders shudder, once, twice.
“I was here first,” she repeats, “I was here long before you,” she continues.
“Yes,” you respond, “I know.” It’s not like her to make such obvious and repetitive statements–there must be a reason–then again, it’s not like her to cry.
The lock turning makes a heavy thunk; she removes the key a shaking hand.
When she turns around there is only the barest trace of tears on her face. Still, she has never looked more heartbroken.
When she places the key in your hand, her fingers brush against yours, cold to the touch.
“You will devote your life to this place,” she says, less command and more premonition, “you will protect this house, you will give your all, your everything.”
Your hand curls around the key, so tightly that the teeth bite into your skin. You would not be the first Caretaker whose blood has polished the key. It is poignant.
“Yes. I will.”
The day of your daughter’s wedding, you reunite with the love of your life.
You are walking her down the aisle, trying not to cry, and perhaps that’s why at first it doesn’t register. Your eyes filled with unshed tears, your attention on your daughter, the setting sun painting everything in soft but blinding light.
You let your daughter go, watch her walk to the man she loves, and take your seat.
It’s a moment of curiosity. Mere coincidence. Your eyes landing on the right spot at the right time.
Or, perhaps the wrong one.
Across the aisle, in the seat corresponding to yours, sits the father of the groom.
The years have changed him, aged him and reshaped him, but you recognize him in a heartbeat. A skipped one.
There he is. The long lost love of your life.