Keith watched Léa in the last of the night’s moonlight. She had little of the qualities of her brother: no arrogance in her voice, and gentle sweetness in her eyes. Even her physical attributes- or what Keith had been able to see of them- were very different. Where Lucas had off-green eyes, Lea’s were sea-blue; her face not as round, with a chin thrust into place, and her slimmer body gave rise to an altogether much quieter person. Keith noticed, under the dark satin, that, though her body was athletic, her shape had the same curvaceous streaks that Andrea’s had wound.
He found himself opening the car-door for her. Still, however, Léa kept her eyes off him- at least, she looked away in some sort of disgust each time Keith glanced in her direction. By the time he had thrust open his front door, Keith was still not sure what to make of the woman.
Keith led Léa into his abode. She walked slowly, her eyes searching every crevice of the place, from the modern ceiling to the piles of lint that crept onto the edges of the walls. With each step, Léa seemed to pick up her heeled feet, tenderly, as if she were afraid of walking over Keith’s carpet.
Still dainty, she managed to place herself on the sofa, before unlacing her shoes, tossing them aside to hide under the coffee table with a sigh. Again, those round eyes made a way of searching the house, before, with the tiniest of sighs, she finally dropped her bag beside her legs, tights clinging and barely visible.
“Can I get you anything?” Keith said, stopping by the door to the kitchen where he had been heading.
Léa stifled a yawn. Her nails had been meticulously painted a light shade of orange-red.
“I’ve had a long day. I’m sorry. I think I’ll just go to bed, if that’s okay.”
“It’s not that late,” Keith added, looking to the clock.
Her eyebrows arched.
“I’ve had a busy day. I’m sorry.”
“Oh, no, no,” Keith said, waving his hands. Her persistence had a way of irritating Keith, without his knowing for what real reason. They were on the same side, were they not?
“Yeah, of course.” Keith skirted back through the living room, tempted to drag Léa with him. Instead he simply waited by the stairs whilst she abandoned her shoes in place and followed. “The guest bedroom is just up the stairs, the first room. I hope it’s okay.”
Keith lingered at the open door as Léa trotted behind him. His eyes strayed to the many possessions that Andrea had kept whilst she had been there. A knitted cardigan had been thrown aside to the back of the desk-chair. Even in her absence she was typical.
Léa, too, flinched, her eyes even broader in the advent of knowing her predecessor.
“Oh, I am sorry. I didn’t realise…”
“It’s still a guest bedroom,” he said, beginning to sense the constriction of his gullet.
Léa wandered over to the desk, something that Keith had not actually set eyes upon since Andrea had moved in. Her own face, grinning from the effect of some University gear, plastered one of the two frames there. The other, Keith was not surprised to see, contained a pair of elderly people.
“Andrea lived here?”
“And as you saw, she no longer does.” To avoid trembling, Keith set his head and fists tight.
“Is it really okay for me to-?”
If he thought that his cry would have shut the woman up, still she pressed on, albeit with a voice that had grown quieter.
“Keith…it’ll be fine. I’ll ring Lucas in the morning and then we’ll be out of your hair.” Her eyes flicked across his curly black mop. Keith turned away, his insides twitching at her. She had to pick out the one thing that distinguished him easily from other men, the one piece of life that Keith was sure had Andrea fascinated.
Léa wandered further around the bedroom, exploring; her hand glided across the desk surface. Andrea had barely furnished it, Keith noticed; whereas, when he had set the space as an office- or indeed a guest bedroom- Keith had always kept a few files in place. After all, he had been working for so long, it seemed.
When Keith looked up from the desk, it appeared that Léa had been watching him. She dipped her head once more as her eyes floated from him to the bed that had been Andrea’s.
The cough stuck in Keith’s throat.
“Don’t be.” He had meant to say the words with confidence, but they came out like nothing.
“Goodnight.” Léa nodded, all of a sudden becoming oddly dreamlike. But it was Keith who was the one in a dream-state; Léa’s glance said it all: get out of the room. Even the temperate taste in her eyes began to harden as she shrugged off her jacket. It clung to her bare shoulders, though Keith had originally been certain that it hadn’t been made out of leather.
Backing away, Keith swallowed. Little more could be said- and it was not like Keith to open up to a stranger. She would stay there, but the nights would stay bare.
When the door had fully closed, Keith remained. Thoughts rushed through his head, not one of them staying put, even when he knew everything centred around Andrea. The view of white panelling focused and unfocused, all without blurring. Eventually, it occurred to Keith sensible to stop staring at the old door, and he made his way downstairs. A strong cup of coffee, even that could not settle him.
And, as he began to stare once more, watching and remembering the pace of Andrea when she had resided here, the lump in Keith’s throat remained to no amount of swallowing. The world slowed to a dull and dusty velocity, but, even then, no tears came to Keith.