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The Separatist

Julie was in no mood to return to the office, so she decided to head straight for her appointment with Mr. Andersen, instead. That meant arriving before seven, but she hoped he would be ready for her. When she arrived, her knock was greeted by silence. She tried the doorbell. It chimed loudly, but elicited no response. Julie began to wonder if the old man had fled from her as well. 

     Without a watch, Julie couldn’t be sure how long she waited on the porch, but she knew it was well past seven. Dusk was descending, and the city’s lights winked and danced in the streets below her. She could taste the spicy tang in the ocean air as she stood looking at the sparkling city. An earlier shower had washed the pavements, producing glistening images that shimmered in the reflections of streetlights and neon signs. 
     The scene made her think of Jackie. As much as she enjoyed the city’s youthful energy and sophisticated charms, she wondered if it could ever yield someone, man or woman, to replace what she had shared with Jackie. It could be lonely, in spite of the crowded streets, dazzling theaters, and boisterous taverns. She thought about the parallels between the Kathy Griffith described by Mr. Andersen and her. She was friendly enough, had many acquaintances. But she didn’t have anyone with whom she could tell her deepest secrets, not since Jackie had moved to New York. 
     Waiting on the porch was making her melancholy. She shifted her feet impatiently and rang the doorbell again. Still no answer. Julie began to consider the possibility that something was wrong. She stepped off the porch and walked cautiously around the house, peeking through windows. The curtains were open, but there was no sign of life inside. The house was becoming darker and more foreboding by the minute. When Julie tried the back door, she discovered it was unlocked. After a moment’s hesitation, she pushed the door open and stepped inside, her hands trembling like Mr. Andersen’s when he’d entered that poker room. But there were no shuffling cards or clicking chips to greet her.
     Silence filled the rooms as Julie explored them, mocking her attempts to walk undetected on the hardwood floors. Her high heels echoed like birds pecking at a window. She abandoned her attempts at stealth and strode through the murky rooms looking for any signs of Thomas Andersen. A casual shirt and jacket hung in the downstairs closet, but their style suggested someone much younger. The kitchen was well stocked with plates, glasses, and utensils, but all were put away in their proper places. Two cans of soup stood on one shelf. The refrigerator was empty. She moved upstairs, where she found empty closets and drawers. The two bathrooms were as void of personal items as the rest of the house. There was nothing to prove Thomas Andersen had ever been there.