George was sitting on the dark landing, waiting for Katie to come home. For a journalist, she sure worked long hours, he felt. Her neighbours were apparently having a good time. He could hear loud music from their apartment. If what Katie had said was true, then her ex-fiancé was having quite a blast. He sighed and waited, hoping that she came home soon; he wondered if his daughter was okay with the new babysitter . . .

He was suddenly very alert. He thought he heard footsteps on the stairs below. Katie lived on the first floor, so she rarely ever used the elevator. He quietly got up and climbed up, so that he was on the landing leading to the next floor. He crouched low, so she wouldn’t see him—he didn’t want her to talk to him outside her house, where the neighbours might hear them; he preferred talking inside. He saw a tall form climb up and go straight to her door. He swallowed once and climbed down the stairs.

Katie was rummaging through her bag for her keys when there was a hard push from the back, and two strong arms bound around her waist. She dropped her keys, partly due to shock, and partly due to the impact. She felt a slight jab below her right ear, as if a pair of spectacles was pressing against it. She could hear the person breathe hard, as if he or she was . . . scared. If she had wanted, she could have shouted for help, but she was unable to open her mouth. She knew who it was, because she knew of only one person in the world who dared to hug her from the back.

‘George’ she stated, her voice unexpectedly hard. She wanted to soften her voice down, for it sounded so steely, like she didn’t care.

‘I’m sorry’ she could hear his muffled voice, ‘I’m so sorry.’

‘For what, George?’ she asked in that same steely voice, prying his hands loose, ‘What are you so sorry about?’ What had come over her? Why was she acting so . . . cold-hearted?

She bent down to pick up the keys, and opened the door quietly. If she had seen his face then, she would've started crying, so she went straight in, leaving the door open. He didn’t say anything—what could he possibly say after that? She went in and switched the lights on, and dumped her bags on the couch. She could hear him come in, and shut the door behind him.

‘Katie’ he said softly. She walked back across the length of the room and stood right in front of him, barely two inches away.

Her hair was splayed all over her face, covering the sheer disgust in her eyes. Her eyes didn’t meet his, but she kept on clenching and unclenching her fists, as if she was preparing herself for the worst. She did not feel so vulnerable usually, but today was different. It seemed like someone else had possessed her body. She couldn’t say anything right, and nor could she think properly. His mere presence overpowered all her senses, making her feel so horribly numb. He was wearing a black overcoat on top of a simple shirt and jeans, just like old times, it was as if they had been transported back in time. If only he had remained as he had been....

Her face was pale, but he couldn’t decide whether it was out of anger or not. He had never seen this frightened side of her. She had always been so tough and it was hard to imagine that she could also react like this. It was clear that she didn’t want him to be there—she hadn’t even invited him in. if she wanted him to just leave, all she had to do was to say the word, and he would vanish from the face of the earth again.

‘So, when did all of this start?’ she could feel tears ready to come out at the slightest signal, but her voice was still cold.Apologise, a voice shrieked inside her head,Apologise before it’s too late.Before he walks out and you never see him again…

‘It started about a year ago’ he said hesitantly, ‘But you gotta believe me when I sat that I do it only for publicity. I mean…sure I like hanging out with models…but the main purpose is publicity…’

‘You amaze me’ she said in a disgusted voice, ‘Anyway, I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have judged you today morning. Obviously, it’s up to you how you wish to spend your life.’

She had wanted to sound apologetic, but the result was very sarcastic. She couldn’t believe just how mean she sounded. His face turned a bit pale when she said that. She wanted to apologise properly when he started speaking.

‘Since when did you become so hurtful, Katie?’ he asked in a pained voice, ‘What happened with you? You tell me—are I the only one who has changed? You were not so cruel, as far as I remember, back in high school.’

She could feel those traitor tears slowly crawling down her face. Why didn’t he understand that she had no control over what she was saying? She wasn’t like this. She wanted to hug him tightly as an apology, but didn’t know if he would take that the right way. The atmosphere was so tensed that she was having difficulty in breathing. She quickly turned and went over to the main door.

‘Hey wait’ he said, breaking the silence, “where are you going?’

‘I…I need…I need to go…pick up my daughter’ she was unable to form a proper sentence. She felt the blood rush to her face. She hurriedly opened the door and rushed out. He rushed after her, and was just in time to see her go into her neighbour’s house. Now he couldn’t chase after her—you didn’t barge into strangers’ house, following someone who was clearly upset at your presence. Especially if the neighbour was that someone’s ex—fiancé. He knew that she wouldn’t be coming home anytime soon, but he decided to wait anyway. After all, she had to come home someday. . .

The End

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