When the front door bell rang she considered ignoring it. She had started to stack the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher, she wasn’t expecting anyone and could not be bothered with evangelists. She picked up another bowl and the doorbell chimed again. She shut the dishwasher walked along her hallway and opened her front door.
He was tall and looked to be around thirty-five. He wore crumpled black trousers and a faded blue shirt. His dark jacket looked worse for wear and she was grateful for the double locked, protective screen door between her and the stranger scowling from beneath unkempt eye brows.
‘I’ve come for your heart,’ he said.
‘I beg your pardon.’
‘I’ve come for your heart,’ he said.
‘I have no idea what you’re talking about,’ she said, ‘but whatever it is you want—think you want—or wish to sell, I’m not interested.
She shut the door firmly and walked back into the kitchen. The doorbell rang again.
She ought to ignore it. She was alone in the house, one of a brace of glass and concrete confections she and her husband moved into a year ago. The neighbours were either young or middle-aged, all professionals, who left, as did her husband, for work at six fifteen in the morning and arrived home after six in the evening.
The doorbell rang a fourth time. She hovered between the kitchen and the hall. Her mobile phone gleamed at her from the bench top and she reached for it, sliding it into her jeans pocket as she retraced her steps and opened the door.
He was wearing the same clothes but looked different. He was older, yes, older by a decade.
‘More acceptable?’ he said.
‘More acceptable …?’
‘I’ve changed, so you can trust me. I can do that, I can be whatever or whoever you want me to be. I want you to feel comfortable.’
‘It’s hardly possible to be comfortable with a man who interrupts my day, ignores my, my … rejection of him, rings my doorbell repeatedly and then…’
‘… changes his appearance?’
‘Exactly who are you? What do you want? What are you doing here, at my door?’
‘I’ve told you, I’ve come to collect your heart.’
‘What kind of joke is this? I’m not contemplating anything Faustian.’
‘This’ he said, ‘has nothing to do with dealing with the devil. Neither am I a Shylock come to claim my pound—or would it be 500 grams—of flesh. Unless, of course, that’s how you wish to think of me. I don’t, however, recommend it.’
She leant against the front door frame, the mobile phone pressing into her hip. She squinted at him through the screen door, then beyond him to the paved driveway that wound past her home to the bungalows at the back of the block. The houses on the other side of the driveway glazed, implacable witnesses to the clear, still morning. The Jacarandas guarding them dripped with purple blossoms.
‘Who are you,’ she said, ‘why are you here and how did you do that … that thing, how you can age ten years in less than a minute?’
‘Why are you stacking the dishwasher?’ he said.
She stepped away from the door. ‘How do you know what I’m doing? You should leave. I have things to do.’
He smiled. ‘What you have to do will be easier if you give me your heart.’
She realized he had a pleasant smile, one that almost masked the cunning in his eyes. Or was it guile? Perhaps chicanery? He smiled again, waiting for her to work it through. She preferred chicanery to cunning but did ‘masked the chicanery in his eyes’ work? She’d probably stick with cunning, although chicanery had a smell about it she appreciated.
‘I shouldn’t let you in,’ she said.
His smile softened. ‘You know you should and you know you will because …’
‘…Of your claim on my heart,’ she said.
Five hours later her husband arrived home. She watched him come through the door, the Jacaranda blossoms behind him soaking up the twilight. He shut the door, placed his briefcase on the hallway floor and walked into the kitchen as she settled the last cereal bowl into the dishwasher.
‘Hmm,’ he said, kissing her on the cheek, ‘Looks like it’s been a good day.’
She smiled and inclined her head towards the dining table where a neat stack of paper sat in the centre, next to the salt and pepper shakers.
‘I’ve just printed it.’
‘I’ll read it after dinner if you like,’ he said.
‘That would be good, thanks’. She turned on the tap and rinsed a coffee stain from the bottom of a mug.
‘Are you happy with it?’ he said.
She smiled at him. Was it pensive, or wistful? ‘I gave it,’ she said as she bent and placed the mug into the dishwasher, ‘my heart.’
(c) Janet Thomas