The Centre Cannot Hold

He gently pushed the key into the lock, trying desperately to push each tumbler down quietly. The lock, old as the house, nevertheless agreeably snicked open. He thanked his own need for neatness as he stepped onto the plush rug. It both quieted his tread and brushed off some of the blood on his shoes. He undid the laces and slipped his feet out of his shoes, thick wool socks padding on the dull hardwood floor.

He carefully set down the briefcase on the side table, and took a moment to steady his breathing. Then, he took the first step onto the stairs leading up to the bedrooms. His lean and thin face was pulled taut with worry, and a drop of sweat beaded on his brow. His eyes darted both up to the stairs and back to the door – he seemed equally worried about what would happen if she woke up, and who he would be if she didn’t.

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