"Heart House" is one of the October Writing Challenge entries that was chosen to be a featured story.
Her name was Emmy and her heart was a house.
To get inside, you would need a key.
There were others with no locks on their doors; they let people go in and out of their hearts as they pleased. Then there were those who had deadbolts and passcodes that only chosen individuals could unlock.
Emmy had just one lock with one key, which she would leave in a secret place only some could guess at. If they knew her well enough to find it, then they shouldn’t have a problem.
Her heart had three floors, the top being the attic. On the first floor, there were hundreds of people lounging on the sofas or playing cards by the window. Plenty of them would remain there. Either they couldn’t get to the second floor no matter how much they tried, or they weren’t trying enough. But even though most had spilled their drinks on the carpet and broken her flower vases, they still had a place in her heart.
If you were one of the few to reach the second floor, though, you’d know that there were three rooms with three very different doors.
The first one would be of dark, polished mahogany. At first, you wouldn’t notice it, but up close you’d realize that the number on the door keeps changing. Wasn’t it 2506B just a while ago, or was it the 325 you’re scrutinizing right now?
Within was a large hotel room, with her family gathered together watching television. Of all the amazing moments Emmy had with her family, this peaceful setting of them on vacation was her favorite.
Her closest friends had their own room, too. It’s bigger than her family’s, not because her love for them was any greater than the other, but because she had more friends than she had family.
Now, the last room was the smallest of the three. Inside, the lights were always switched off, but you could still see mirrors covering every inch of the walls.
This was Emmy’s room—the room where she could be silent, just stare into those mirrors, acknowledge her good qualities, and point out her insecurities. Because no matter how big of a house her heart may be for everyone in the world, there was little room in it for her own self.
Lastly, to get to the attic, you had to climb a short old set of stairs to a door at the far corner of her friends’ room. But the thing was, the door had no knob.
Perhaps you’re wondering: What’s in the attic?
Emmy herself had no idea.
She was baffled at first, but after weeks of trying to get it open, she let the matter go.
On this particular day, though, something was different.
Everything else was as it usually was; Emmy waved hello to everyone on the first floor before ascending to the second floor, to her family. After she had a meal with them, she headed over to her friends’ room to hang out.
“Where’s Jess?” she asked Ronald. “I saw him just last night.”
“Beats me. After you guys talked, he just vanished.”
“Did he do something to you, Emmy?” Nigel asked, implying that maybe Jess had been sent back to the first floor, or worse, out of the house.
“Oh no, nothing like that,” she assured him, shaking her head.
“I always thought Jess had a thing for Emmy,” Cathy said. While others murmured their agreement, Emmy blushed, and the strangest thing happened—the whole house jumped up.
“What was that?” Nigel exclaimed, gripping his chair tightly.
“It’s the same one as yesterday,” Ronald pointed out. Everyone looked shaken, for this was something frightening and new—everyone except Emmy. She was too busy recalling her last conversation with Jess, which was exactly when the first earthquake had occurred.
She knew this was somehow related to Jess’ disappearance, but she couldn’t understand why. They were just discussing a book Emmy had read, and while she babbled on about how good it was, she said something that made him laugh and he kissed her cheek.
There wasn’t anything weird about that; they’ve held hands and hugged and slept beside each other since they could first walk. What changed everything was Jess. He looked…different. He was always tall, handsome, and sweet, but somehow yesterday they were all exemplified. So when his lips brushed her cheek—well, the whole house jumped up, as it did just minutes ago.
Emmy suddenly stood from her seat. “I’ll try looking for Jess again.”
She left her friends and circled around the room, hoping that Jess would suddenly appear. And it was in her search for him that she found the new addition to the door.
She looked around to see if the others noticed anything, but they were just doing their own thing. As she crept closer, she wondered again why she was reacting this way to Jess. She had to figure it out before it could damage their friendship.
She walked up the rickety stairs to the attic, wincing every time the wood groaned under her weight. Her curiosity couldn’t take it any longer. She had to know what was behind the door that now stood before her.
She grabbed the knob, her stomach twisting into knots. She opened the door slowly, but it only revealed an empty room…with Jess standing right in the middle of it.
“Jess!” she said incredulously. “What are you doing in here?”
Jess turned to her, confused. “I don’t know. It’s like I…just teleported to this room.” He shook his head. “But it doesn’t matter. I’m glad you’re here. I thought I’d lost you.” And then he offered her his best smile, as he always did.
The house jumped up for the third time.
Shouts of panic rose up behind her, but Emmy now knew the reason why the house kept jumping, and why this boy who was so special to her was in a special room in her heart.