Reads: 9

The Souvenir


I had marked the house for a little more than a month and a half now. It was pretty, new, in the affluent neighborhood of the city. Two new Mercedes stood parked out front. The owners left the house early in the morning and went to work. I did not dare to enter the house during the day because an older woman liked to sit on her porch next door and sniff around. Usually, I parked up the street before and after my "day job" and leisurely investigated the victims. I was not in a hurry. I had enough time. For me, the theft was more than anything, a hobby. Of course, I wouldn’t say no to cash — who would? But, I didn’t do it for money only; it wasn’t worth the risk of getting caught for that.

Now I was preparing for the burglary. I’d go in, snatch a souvenir. If there were some cash, I’d grab it and leave without too much of a hassle. That was my secret — if you could call it so. I knew what I was looking for. There were usually small rewards for my work. They wouldn’t make me rich, but they would give me exactly what I wanted — the thrill.

So, for a few nights now, I had been preparing to break into the house. The owners were usually out on Friday nights — wonderful nights for robberies, especially considering that the police were generally too busy with drunk students downtown to patrol the streets around here.

And now I was looking at the man and woman leaving the house. The path from the house was well-lit so that I could look them over well—a lovely couple, both a little younger than me, in their early thirties.

I had once seen the man up-close in the grocery store down the street. And he had a good look at me, too, but I didn’t think that would become a problem. He looked a little threatening, muscular, and with curved eyebrows. I almost felt a strange kind of sympathy towards him. There was something — I don’t know, tragic about him. I didn’t think it was the fact that I was going to rob him. There was something else sad about him, which I couldn’t define, but it was there. And trying to hide this tragic something was producing a shell of aggression. It was the way he treated the boy behind the counter, to whom he shouted to hurry, the stranger who the man pushed in the shoulder as he was leaving the shop. He looked at a woman suggestively in the eyes and then turned to look at her ass, not knowing that it is precisely this slim, thirty-something-year-old woman with a hood on her head and a toothpick in her mouth who would slip in his house at the first opportunity she got.

The man and his wife were now descending the path. They were lightly clothed, too light for the weather — snowflakes were dancing through the air. They held hands and turned toward one of the Mercedes. It had a remote start and was now undoubtedly warm inside. They got in, laughing, and drove off.

I waited for ten minutes, put on my gloves, and got out of my car.

A slight wind pierced through my hoodie. Brrr — cold. I walked down the street, calmly turned at the entrance to their house, and climbed the path towards the front door. If someone was watching me, I was just a friend of the family who was visiting. I rang the bell. Nobody opened, of course, so I pressed down on the door handle. As I had guessed, in this part of the city, people don’t even lock their doors. I was kind of hoping that they had locked — I had a backpack with tools in my car. I was getting ready to go through the garage if I had to, but no. No worries — let it be easy. I entered the house and looked around. The front door led to a small foyer that opened into a large living room. In the living room, there was a fireplace in which a fire burned warmly. The fire was pleasant, but I didn’t have time to admire it.

An entrance to the kitchen was at the back, and there was a staircase to the upper floor. I took it. On the right, there was a bedroom decorated for a child, a baby. The cot was empty.

I headed for a bedroom at the end of the hallway, passing by the master bedroom, leaving it for last. The woman had been sleeping there — she’d left some of her clothes on the chair and the bed. I checked the dresser in the room quickly — nothing worth my attention. I opened the closet door. Frankly, I open such closets, not so much because I expect to find anything valuable, but because they make me nervous — I always have the feeling that someone’s hiding in them. No one was hiding in that one.

I made my way to the master bedroom. At the back, as I had hoped, besides an ample wardrobe for clothes, the room held a big cabinet and a large safe. I didn’t even think of messing with the safe. There was a large velvet box in the cabinet. Someone was asking for me to rob them. I opened the box — a nice collection of jewelry. My eyes were attracted to a necklace with a small ruby in the shape of a heart. It was in the center of the collection, and rightfully so. Of course, it would be stupid to take it for financial reasons — I could never sell the ruby. The necklace itself golden — fine quality — but it didn’t weigh much. At that point, I just wanted to put it on my neck — to see how I looked. I switched on the lamp. There was a large mirror on the wall in front of me. With my green eyes and dark-blonde hair, rubies must be my stone because the necklace looked like made for me. I sighed with regret — I would never wear such a beautiful thing. If I stole it, I'd be afraid the cops would get me, and if I bought a necklace like it, I'd be afraid someone would steal it from me — a professional distortion on my part. In the next moment, I saw a small bottle with pills. The label on it said, "Xanax." It was in the same cabinet as the jewels. I knew this drug — calming; I could get an excellent high out of it, so I opened the bottle and poured two pills into my hand. I swallowed them. Then I went out of the bathroom and sat down on the bed.

I'd been thinking about the people I'd been robbing. That was the best part of my "craft." Much of the thrill lay in entering the souls of people without them knowing it.

On the surface, this couple had everything going for them. My theft wouldn’t make much more than a small dent in their wonderful life.

I found myself in the real heart of the house — the couple’s bedroom. And I saw things. Generally, couples sleep together. That is very important, not just because of sex. People talk in bed. They discuss and decide things before going to sleep when their inhibitions are down. And when people sleep in separate beds, then something bad festers. Someone once said that silence in the bedroom bears monsters. What monsters did this couple have?

Then and there, I decided to take the necklace with the ruby. I wouldn’t wear it outside, just look at it at home — sort of a souvenir. They would probably wonder why someone had stolen only a necklace. Even better. There was something special about it. I wanted to give them a tiny bee sting. To let them know I’d been in their house, their bedroom, their soul.

My thoughts became more and more sluggish. I was feeling cozy and warm. I lied on the bed and closed my eyes for a moment.

I don’t know if the light or the sound of the car on the gravel woke me up, which is strange since I could swear I hadn’t fallen asleep. At least they had parked in the yard, in front of the garage, and not on the street. With my senses, as the medication dampened them, I wouldn’t have heard them park on the road. I got up from the bed and went to the window. The woman was helping the man out of the car. My mind began to work quickly. I had to hide somewhere. I thought about getting under the bed, but in general, it's a pretty dumb place to hide because there’s no escape route, and people could not help feeling that someone was breathing underneath, so I dismissed the idea. Panicked, I left the master bedroom.

Where, where — where to hide, was going through my head. I went into the farthest room and looked around. There was nowhere else to hide except in the closet. Well, I'm petite — my head was just below the level of the metal rod where the clothes hooks were hanging. Anyway, if someone opened the closet door, I could just pull a couple of dresses over me, and they would completely cover me. I waited.

I soon heard them climbing the stairs. They stopped there and started talking. At one point, someone laughed loudly. I was curious, so I emerged from underneath the dresses and walked out of the closet. On my tiptoes, I stepped to the door that I had left open:

"Yeah, nice party," the man said, "a nice party to see someone swooning over my wife. I saw everything, Maya. What were you two talking about at the end of the party? You went somewhere for a while."

"You see everything, Joe, you see everything, especially drunk. Love, glances, intrigue. You made a pig of yourself. Screaming at your poor friend in front of everyone."

"Ed is not my friend. Not anymore. After tonight, he's dead to me."

"Am I dead to you too?" The woman laughed in turn.

"You will not trick me," Joe said insistently, "I always see you two cooing, whispering."

"We're talking, Joe. What's wrong with that?" There was silence, and then Maya seemed to try to raise him on his feet again, for he cried out in a drunken voice.

"Here, I will sit! Overnight. I'm going to keep you from leaving me for Ed."

I thought that that would be a rather unpleasant development because if someone wanted to leave, that was me.

"I'm tired of it, Joe. I'm tired! Of this day, of such scenes, something must change, you see. We can’t live like this. Everybody in my office is a lover."

The woman was silent. Then there was sobbing. It was the man.

Eventually, he asked, "Where is it?"

"Where is what?"

"Where's the necklace I gave you? The one shaped like a heart?"

"For God's sake, why do you need it?"

"Please, put it on. I have not seen you for a long time with it," said Joe in a pleading voice.

"If I put it on, will you go to bed?"


Maya climbed up the stairs. They were talking about the ruby necklace. With this thought, my hand rose to my neck — Maya would be looking for it, but I knew she wouldn’t find it. I went into the wardrobe again. Five minutes later, Maya rushed into the room and turned on the lights. I saw her through the slits of the closet door. She searched desperately across the room — opened the nightstand, leaned under the bed — yes, a bed is always a bad place to hide.

Please, do not look in the closet, I thought. Instead, Maya pulled a phone from the little handbag that she had previously thrown on the bed and dialed a number. She spoke in a muffled voice.

"Eddie?... Yes, we are at home. Are you at home? The other day I was at your house with a necklace. I think I must have left it somewhere; please look. No, there’s no time for that, we'll talk another time. Please look for it and call me."

Maya hanged up and sat on the bed and covered her face with her hands. After a while, her phone rang.

"Hello, Eddie ... is it there? Have you looked everywhere? Oh, Eddie, if you know ... No, no, you are not in love with me," said Maya laughing bitterly. "You're just infatuated … and I think we should not see each other anymore. See, now I can’t talk … No! You will not say anything to him. We will talk all right, but not now." She hung up the phone and then lay back on the bed — her hair sprawled around her head. She stared at the ceiling. Her chest was rising and falling evenly.

I could see her up close now. She had a delicate face, long, dark-brown hair that fell on her bare shoulders over her evening gown. She had a small beautiful mouth, a little, snub nose, and a sexy mole on her left cheek. She had warm, brown eyes — beautiful eyes, as she was, too.

She closed her eyes and laid there for so long, I thought she fell asleep, but at one point she remembered that she had to find the necklace. She went out into the hall.

"Joe, hey, Joe, dear, come on, come on to the bedroom," said Maya.

"Mmm," Joe groaned, apparently having fallen asleep in the meantime. "Help me stand up."

He had forgotten about the necklace. The two slowly climbed up the stairs to the second floor, and Maya managed to help her husband get into the bed. I heard him crashing on it. Maya undressed him. After a while, I heard her gently say, "Good night Joe."

He didn’t answer.

Luckily, she did not come to the room where I was, but to the other place instead — the one with the baby’s things. I heard her pushing the crib back and forth as it creaked sadly. What was the deal with that baby’s room, I wondered? The woman wasn’t visibly pregnant. Who furnishes a baby’s room if no one is ready to give birth?

After half an hour, I decided that it was safe to get out of the closet. The hallway was empty. On my tip-toes, I began to move forward toward the stairwell. Walking past the master bedroom, I saw the man sprawled across the bed, covered with a blanket and snoring loudly. Down the hall on the left was the door of the baby's room. Maya was there. She was lying in a fetal position on the floor beside the baby cot wrapped in a little blue blanket that left her feet uncovered. When I saw her, I remembered the necklace I still wore. Maybe I am a kleptomaniac, but I'm not cruel. I went down, holding myself close to the wall, hoping that the steps wouldn’t creak. Once I was downstairs, I looked for a place to leave the necklace. Above the fireplace was a mantle which the fire slightly warmed. I left the necklace there so that Maya would find it in the morning. And I remained without a souvenir. No worries. Another night, another home.

With that thought, I quietly opened the door and walked out of the house.

Submitted: May 20, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Robert Ratman. All rights reserved.


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