September 6, 2013 by The Citron Review
The girl sat on the roof beneath a rain so fine you could hardly see it. Leaves rustled under the invisible weight. The hum of motors on a nearby street drifted up to her. She sat with her knees hugged to her chest.
Eventually, headlights appeared below, shining over lawns and hedges and a little boy’s fallen scooter. The car followed the curve of the road, then turned onto a driveway three houses down. The engine went silent.
The girl craned her neck, watching to see who would step out. The car doors opened and closed.
A woman laughed, like a cheerful splash of yellow against the green-gray evening. A man’s low murmur followed, midnight blue. Their voices danced toward the house, and the girl on the roof closed her eyes, wishing she hadn’t heard them.
As the girl stood, her sneakers slipped on the wet shingles. But she knew how to shift her weight, how to balance, how to leap from house to house like a whisper. She walked toward her parents’ driveway, crossed the top of the gate like a tight rope, and continued over the next house’s kitchen, bedroom, study. Her thin body moved lightly, making as little noise inside her neighbors’ homes as an acorn falling from a branch.
The girl stopped at the house next to the one where the car had parked. Rain sizzled faintly against the metal hood. She settled on a corner of the roof, part angel, part gargoyle.
From here, she could see into the house where the man and woman had disappeared. A light filled the nearest window, spreading to each room as the pair moved through the house. She imagined the man going to the front door for the mail, then upstairs to the bedroom to change out of his stiff shirt and work slacks, then to the bathroom to take off his watch and splash water on his face. He would check the mirror, making sure no new gray hairs had joined the one he found last week. He would roll his shoulders, trying to ease the knots between them. But he would need someone else to help, someone with strong, soft hands. Someone who knew where to touch.
A door creaked below, and the girl tensed. It was only the man, walking back to the car. He opened the rear door and leaned in, searching for something. The girl relaxed and let her gaze roam over the long, lean cut of his jeans, over his broad shoulders, over the muscles peeking out from under his sleeves.
He straightened again, holding a small box in one hand. He closed the door, started back for the house, then glanced around. The street was empty but for the scent of wet pine. His gaze lingered on the house of the pretty teenage girl at the end of the road.
A bird cawed. The man looked up and saw the girl. He sighed deeply.
“You shouldn’t be up there,” he said. He spoke as if she were right in front of him, so the words were soft by the time they reached her on the roof. “It’s dangerous.”
“I can handle the rain,” she said.
“I’m not worried about the rain.”
The man tucked the box under his arm to protect it. The girl played with her shoelaces.
“Can I come over later?”
The man’s knuckles tightened around the box. “You know the answer to that.”
“One of these days, you’re going to let me.”
“God, I hope not.” The man shook his head. “Good night.”
“Good night.” She waved to his back as he disappeared into the house.
After a while, she returned to her own roof and settled into the valley between two gables. A spider web swayed in the branches above, and she stretched a pale arm up to meet it. The wispy strands quivered against her fingers.
Nearby, the chimney exhaled a savory warmth. Soon the girl would climb down, dry off, and join her parents for dinner. They would talk about school and make plans for the weekend. She would do homework, check email, text her friends. And at the end of the night, she would vanish into sleep, invisible and anonymous like a raindrop in the mist.
Kristan Hoffman graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a B.A. in creative writing and later attended the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. Her women’s fiction novel The Good Daughters was a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards; her web serial Twenty-Somewhere won a contest with St. Martin’s Press; and her short fiction has appeared in the Oakland Review and Sugar Mule. She lives in Cincinnati with her fiancé, dog, and leopard gecko, but you can always find her at kristanhoffman.com.