Amid their argument, there was a pause.
The crackling of the fireplace pierced through the room. Each fresh ember exploded through the airwaves, splitting the particles that held the room motionless, before disappearing onto the wooden floor below.
There was a rare moment of silence before the telephone rang. The echo of the ring cut through the room, and the sound of the fireplace faded into the background.
They stared at one another in shock, perplexed.
Neither quite knew what to do. Neither really wanted to make the first move. It was evident by the look on each of their faces, visible despite the darkness that cloaked the room. Both wanted to be able to anticipate, to react to the other’s actions rather than lead the charge.
The second ring practically blasted through the room. It reverberated off of the walls. With it, the air in the room became lighter. The heaviness that once held the room so still for so long seemed to dissipate, as though the fog that once held everything carefully in place had now begun to lift, revealing what lay underneath.
There was a surge of possibility filtering through the room. They each eventually processed the situation, then simultaneously lunged towards the telephone. Yet, she was faster.
“Hello?” She panted, barely lifting the receiver before speaking. She never allowed herself to look away from his gaze. He stared at her, threatening, the blood rushing to his face. Undoubtedly, she did not perceive him that way.
She felt the faint breath rumbling on the other end of the line, someone breathing in and out through their nostrils, as if they were trying to conceal themselves. Exhaling as though they could not hold the air any longer, as though the breath was being forced out of its body. Then unsteadily, the breath inhaled as slowly as it could. Otherwise, there was silence.
She was patient. He continued to stare at her. He tried to be as still as possible, but he could not stop his fingertips from shaking. It would have been undetectable to anyone but her.
“I know it is you.”
Her voice started off quietly, hesitantly. It grew with force. Her body relaxed into her newfound conviction. She revelled in the adrenaline.
“No one else would so much as attempt to call this line. No one else even knows that it exists. Even if they did, they would not dare to dial this number.”
The breathing on the other end of the line had stopped. It held its breath, not yet ready to come up for air. It could not manage to make any other sound.
“Well, then. I guess this is over.”
His eyes went dark but refused to shut, and he kept them locked on her. The pace of his breath quickened, now matching the pattern of breath flowing through the receiver.
“Wait.” The voice at the end of the line breathed. It spoke vehemently, compelling its audience to listen.
“What am I waiting for?”
She did not need to hesitate. She would not give the voice the satisfaction of waiting.
“I will come to you.” The voice exhaled, releasing what little clout it had left with its breath.
She paused, never once taking her eyes off him. His eyes must have been burning at this point. Still, he could not blink. They were standing only inches apart, but they might as well have been miles away from one another.
“You have an hour.” she said.
There was a crash on the other end of the line as the voice dropped the telephone to the floor. It did not bother to hang up before it started running.
A faint beeping emerged from the telephone, before the crackling of the fireplace cascaded back into the room.
"Receiver" by Jane A. Loyer.
Jane Loyer is a lawyer by day who is passionate about writing, reading, running, cycling, and music. She is from Barrie, Ontario.