“It’s haunted, you know?” said Maxine, the attractive older woman across the hall. She smiled at Jen, but made a quick assessment of me: loser.
With no job, I was bored while Jen worked shifts at the Infirmary. I rearranged things. I pulled the big bookcase aside and discovered the door.
It was green, paint peeling, warped and rickety.
It wasn’t locked. I opened it.
I expected a box room with old cobwebs and mouse droppings. But there was a big space beyond, the twin of our flat. But a better flat. The walls were a creamy eggshell, the furniture elegant, the sofa leather. This wasn’t a cluttered home for a struggling couple: it was a groovy bachelor pad.
I explored. Amazing home cinema. Wine collection. The photos were of a successful young fashionista, snowboarding. Except, it was me.
Who lived here? I looked for a name plate on the front door and found my own. The door opposite opened. It was Maxine, in a bath towel.
“Oh” she said, and blushed, “it’s you.”
I looked back, through the mystery flat and the green door to our room, with its door to the corridor where Maxine – our Maxine – lived.
“Are you coming inside?” she said and drew me to her, letting her wet towel fall to the floor.
Each day, after Jen left, I pulled aside the bookcase and went through the green door to my other life. I listened to the high-end stereo. I had wild sex with Maxine – other Maxine – on the sofa, in the shower, on the balcony.
“You never sleep over,” Maxine sighed, so I did. When Jen pulled her next night shift, I went through and found Maxine in my bed – my other bed, with the satin sheets – and I stayed there.
I don’t know how long I stayed there.
I returned to find our flat changed. Furniture packed away. Jen sobbing by the window; Maxine – original Maxine – comforting her.
“He’s gone to a better place,” she said.
I said, “Jen?”
Jen turned, saw me and screamed. Maxine screamed. I stumbled backward, passing through the green door like smoke and found myself in a pokey box room full of cobwebs and mouse droppings.
This is where I have to stay. Beyond the door, in the flat – our old flat – I hear a new couple moving in and Maxine warning them:
“It’s haunted, you know…”