The door of the box bedroom would not stay shut. Seconds after I’d closed it, the door would open again. If I was still nearby I would hear the handle turn and the door slowly moving open. I turned around to look but there never seemed a reason why this kept happening.
I would find my boyfriend, Reece, in another room of the house and start telling him about it for the hundredth time.
He would look at me with wide brown eyes, his face too quickly aged with worry lines and an expression that pleaded with me not to start anything. His short, dark brown hair always looked a mess and he seemed to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. He was in his early twenties, same as me but both of us looked so much older.
I was younger by two years. My blonde hair cut boy-short, my dull blue eyes hollowed alongside my pale face and too thin body I gave the impression that I was a cancer victim. I had never been, it was just the way I’d always come across. I had been through a lot too. Different from Reece’s experience but it still amounted to the same out come.
‘We need to replace that door,’ I snapped.
‘We don’t have the money and there’s nothing wrong with it,’ he replied.
‘But it won’t close properly,’ I complained.
‘It’s an old house. A house we are lucky to have, Joanna,’ he remind me.
And that would be the end of the repeating argument before it had time to build because he was right. His grandparents had owned the house and they had passed it to him but left hardly any money for the upkeep.
Reece had been in and out of foster care until his grandparents had ‘rescued’ him when he was thirteen. He’d only told me bits and pieces, including how he’d never had a real home and had constantly been abused.
I disliked this house but I had nowhere else to go. Reece’s love had saved me from having to survive on the streets and I was about to throw that away. Maybe, if we were able to make the house ours it would be be different. We couldn’t offered to redecorate or get rid of all the furniture and it still felt like we were living with his grandparents.
I kept trying to let the door thing go but I just couldn’t. I had a niggly feeling about the bedroom door each time I saw it open and I would have try to close it.
Finally, I’d had enough. I saved some money to buy a lock and had a neighbour, Mr Duman, who was a local handyman, fit it for me whilst Reece was out playing in a football match on Saturday afternoon.
Mr Duman was a nice man almost in his sixties and he had known Reece’s grandparents. He was tall, going grey and had a pot belly. He reminded me of images I had seen of Father Christmas.
‘This is the door,’ I pointed out to him, ‘can you please check it?’
He nodded and set to work.
‘Maybe, the hinges are loose?’ I suggested, ‘or the door frame misaligned? Does the carpet catch on the bottom of the door?’
‘No,’ Mr Duman replied, ‘that’s all fine.’
‘Then why doesn’t it stay closed?’ I pressed.
‘Could be a drift or a loose floorboard underneath?’ he said, ‘I could take a look for you, Joanna.’
‘No, it’s okay can you just fit the lock?’
‘No problems. Looks like there was once a lock here anyway. Makes the job easier,’ Mr Duman said.
‘Really?’ I asked and he showed me where an old lock had once been under the door handle.
Then he fitted the new lock and we tested it out.
‘Should be good now,’ Mr Duman spoke with a smile, ‘no more problems!’
That was true for two weeks. The box bedroom door stayed locked and shut. Reece wasn’t happy about it but he could see how much better I felt about it and that was good enough. Then I came home from my job at a supermarket early one afternoon and the door was wide open.
Forgetting everything else, I walked over and looked. The key, which was always left in the lock was on the floor next to the door, inside the room. Nothing seemed to have been disturbed, though there was only an old child’s bed under the square window and small, empty wardrobe on the opposite wall.
I picked up the key, closed and locked the door then went through the rest of the house. Everything looked fine. I tried to put it out of my mind but it was really bugging me. Why would someone do that?
‘Reece, did you leave the box bedroom door open?’ I asked him as soon as he come from work.
He was tried, covered in dust and plaster from his current builder job. He looked at me confused as he took his boots off at the front door.
‘What? No, Joanna,’ he replied.
‘It was open when I got home from work. Like all the way open and the key was on the floor inside the room,’ I explained.
Reece shook his head and dumped his boots under the coat rack, ‘I’ve not touched it.’
‘Then somebody broke in and did!’ I cried.
‘Is anything missing?’ Reece demanded.
‘No….It doesn’t seem like it, but someone must have unlocked the door!’
Reece gripped my shoulders and said firmly, ‘stop getting hysterical about it. It’s just a door, Jo. Just a door.’
I took a few deep breaths and nodded.
Reece took his clothes off so he wouldn’t get dirt everywhere and I took his things to the washing machine. Once he’d showered and dressed, he checked through the house and I made us something to eat.
‘Nothing’s been touched,’ Reece came back to tell me.
He kissed and hugged me, giving me the little bit of comfort he was able too.
We ate, watched TV and went to bed early. I had a dream where I could see the door in front of me and the key was turning in the lock by itself. The door opened, I went inside, the door closed and locked behind me. I tried to get out but couldn’t. I yelled, screamed, kicked and punched the door. Exhausted, I curled in a corner and cried.
I awoke up into darkness and heard the sound of a door slowly creaking open. Turning on the lamp, I woke up Reece and though he was grumpy, we both got up and went out into the hallway.
Reece turned on the light and we both saw the box bedroom door wide open.
‘Stay here,’ he said.
He walked down the hallway, turned the light on in the room then bent down to pick something up. Turning off the light, he pulled the door to and locked it. He came back and showed me the key between his fingers.
‘I’m keeping this,’ he said.
I nodded and watched as he put the key in the top draw of his bedside table.
Without saying anything, he walked passed me and went downstairs. I heard him trying all the doors and windows, making sure everything was locked.
I got back into bed, wondering about my dream whilst I glanced around the old fashioned decorated room. It had been his grandparents room and there was a pink ceiling, flowered wall paper and old brown furniture. At least the bed was all new. I had refused to sleep in the bed both his grandparents had died in.
Reece came back, announced everything was secure and we both tried to sleep again. However, it felt like I spent the night awake listening to a child crying and a door handle being rattled.
In the morning, the door was still locked and we went back to having believed we’d dealt with it. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong and every night it seemed I could hear crying and rattling.
I didn’t believe in the supernatural and I’d never had much of an imagination, my strict Catholic parents had beaten that out of me. That’s how Reece and I had met and stuck together; both orphaned teenagers with lost childhoods.
The noise was getting to me and I starting to hear it during the day when I was home alone. So, one afternoon I took the key from the draw and unlocked the door.
‘There now, stop crying,’ I spoke into the empty room, ‘go out, whatever you are, be free and let us be in peace.’
Leaving the door open, I went back downstairs and made some Chamomile tea. I felt better after that and waited for Reece to come home.
‘Why is that door open?’ he asked from the hallway.
‘Because, I want whatever is trapped in there to leave,’ I replied back.
He muttered something then came into the living room doorway, carrying his football kit bag. He looked flushed and tired, still damp from the shower he had before coming home. He reminded me of a child, exhausted after a hard practice session and long day at school.
‘Do you want something to eat?’ I asked to change the subject, ‘there’s pizza.’
He nodded and without saying anything else went upstairs.
I thought he would come back down but later after calling him twice that food was ready, I went up to find him.
The upstairs lights were all off except for the one in the box bedroom. I went slowly up and along in the dark, my mind turning over all kinds of things. I peered around the door and saw him sitting on the bare mattress of the bed.
‘Reece?’ I whispered softly, ‘what is it?’
He took a sobbing breathe and turned to me.
‘Are you crying?’
I went in and hugged him. He grabbed me, wrapping his arms around me and burying his face into my stomach. He broke into a hard crying which affected his whole body.
‘What’s wrong?’ I asked in a soft voice, ‘whatever it is you can tell me.’
‘It’s me!’ he broke out through the heaving, ‘I’ve been causing this!’ he waved at the door.
I stroked his hair, trying to figure out what he meant. I sat down on the bed next to him, the old springs squeaking and we held each other until he’d calmed down.
‘This was my bedroom when I first came here,’ Reece began, ‘My grandparents didn’t hurt me and they convinced me I was finally safe. For sometime though I would have these angry rages. I would destroy whatever I could, I would scare my grandma and my grandpa. It was his idea to lock me in here to keep them and myself safe.’
‘I see…’ I trailed off.
‘I got over it, I guess’ Reece continued, ‘and they let me have the bigger bedroom next to their’s. I’ve hated this room ever since. Things were better afterwards, until they…’ he stopped and took a gasping breath.
‘It’s okay,’ I said gently, ‘I won’t complain about it anymore. We won’t lock or shut this door ever again. It’ll always be open and you don’t have to worry anymore.’
He nodded and snuggled into me as best he could. I felt his crying stop and his body relaxing. I stroked his face, waiting till he was calm again.
‘We have to make this place a proper home now,’ I whispered into his hair.
‘Why?’ he mumbled back.
I took his hand, placed it over my stomach and left my hand on top of his, my fingers rubbed his knuckles.
‘Because we are going to have a baby.’