This snap fiction story (what’s that?) was switched on when I snapped a photo of a doorbell adorned with a little flower.
The Tiniest Gesture
Finding a way in had been easy enough. No one suspects a young man holding a bouquet of flowers. A luckily timed entrance into the hall, some quasi-confident jingling of his own keys, and Maurice had slipped into the stairwell along with a delivery man who was conveniently buzzed in by a shrill-voiced Mrs. Snetsky on the fourth floor.
Jandya lived on the third floor, at no. 2026. Maurice had never been here before, but he’d seen the apartment. He’d seen her friends. Her cat. Her Easter roof-garden luncheon. Her every new outfit, usually one day before she first wore it to work. Social media was scary shit, but occasionally it did come in handy. And a bit of clever Little Data mining can go a long way.
He knew, for example, that Jandya had broken up with her boyfriend five months ago. Those unreasonably confident sideburns had just—poof!—vanished from all her timelines. Hashtag yay. She hadn’t really confided in him about it; they weren’t that kind of friends-at-work. But they were some kind of friends. And, Maurice hoped, maybe more. Maybe soon.
He didn’t pass anyone on the staircase and found the third floor to be deserted and quiet, apart from some nondescript mumbling somewhere. As he stood for a moment gathering his courage, he felt the thrill of intrusion, the promise of something… daring.
But as he made his way closer towards no. 2026, he could already tell. The mumbling came from behind Jandya’s door. She wasn’t alone.
A friend, perhaps. A girl friend. A family member. A neighbor.
A new, heightened awareness came over Maurice. He felt more and more uneasy as those kindred but conflicting sensations, anticipation and anxiety, started trading places. The sounds were those of glee and merriment. And there was a certain focus to them—something tentative and at once compelling.
He was by now close enough to make out the two voices. Jandya’s and a man’s. With the cruel X‑ray vision of acute jealousy, Maurice pierced through the locked door saw what was going on in the apartment. The wine glasses clinking, the teasing laughter, she shuffling of chairs, the muffled breathing of a rapturous kiss.
Maurice looked at the flowers. They were nice, really. The same eager imagination that had led him to buy them and come here tonight was now making it painfully clear how useless they were. Or not. He made up his mind to give the bouquet to the first person he saw in the street. Something good can come out of every misfortune, and he wasn’t taking them back home with him.
Before he turned to leave, he broke off a single pink bud and gently wedged its stem behind Jandya’s doorbell. Even failed ambitions are allowed to leave a mark. Whoever the man was, he wouldn’t notice it when he left. But Jandya would, sooner or later.
Maybe it would make her wonder. Maybe it would make her smile. And maybe, just maybe, that was enough.
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