Your luxury car glides past manicured lawns and the welcoming glow of our neighbors’ porch lights. At last, you turn into your driveway and kill the engine. It’s been a long day and an even longer week. Now, you’re looking forward to relaxing with a glass of wine.
It’s cold when you get out of the car. Your breath hangs in the air as you pop the trunk and retrieve your briefcase.
You walk to the front door and slide your key into the lock. The ring that you wear on your right hand catches your eye. The insignia, fashioned in 24-carat gold, identifies you as a member of the Septimal Knights, a college society, secret and all powerful, though you’ve had little to do with them since graduating. Now, the ring is little more than a reminder of your privilege and good fortune. You take a deep breath and open the door.
The stereo is on. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. You can smell freesias and lavender. Jenny’s boss sent her a huge bouquet of the fragrant flowers in recognition of her outstanding work on the interior design of a new corporate office building. You smile proudly; Jenny’s good at her job.
You take off your coat and hang it up. “Jenny,” you call, but there’s no response.
The stained-glass window rattles in its frame as you close the front door behind you.
You rub your arms as you walk through the house. It’s as cold in here as it is outside. You snatch a glance in the living room. The lamps are on. Nothing is out of place.
“Jenny?” you call again, this time heading for the kitchen.
Water is dripping in the sink. You turn the tap off tightly as you look around. The dishes are done. The bench is pristine... There’s no sign of dinner in the making. Jenny must be upstairs.
In the hall, you stop to check the thermostat. The heat is off. The control beeps when you turn it on.
You catch a glance at the photos hanging on the wall. You’ve only been married for six years, but you’ve done a lot together.
You head upstairs. At last, you find Jenny in the bedroom, curled up on top of your bed, her long chestnut-colored hair framing her face as she sleeps.
You smile as you loosen your tie and take off your jacket and remember the day you met. You were running late on your way to a political science class when you were stopped by your best friend Paul. Paul couldn’t wait, he just had to introduce you to Jenny. He had a feeling you’d hit it off. And you did. The moment you looked into Jenny’s eyes, you forgot all about being late.
Things have changed in the last six years; you had hoped for more. However, your career at the corporate law firm is steady if not routine. You’ve talked about children, but attempts to become parents have been devastating. Jenny can’t conceive, yet, the specialist assures you there’s a good chance IVF treatment will be successful.
You sit on the bed beside her and sweep a stray strand of hair from her face.
She stirs and wakes, looks up at you and smiles. “What time is it?”
“I’ll get up.”
“Stay there,” you tell her. “I’ll bring you something.” You pick up your jacket and drape it over her shoulders like a blanket. “We should go out tomorrow.”
“Okay,” she says, smiling.
Then you kiss her cheek and head back downstairs. In the hallway, you receive a text message.
You’re stunned. The Septimal Knights have been watching you. Why? You’re nobody. Well, you’re not nobody, you’re alumni, but you’re way down the bottom of their ranks. They are powerful, powerful enough to change peoples’ lives. It’s flattering to know you’re on their radar… But the Knights… Once you’ve entered the inner sanctum, you’re indebted to them — forever.
You can’t deny you’re ready for a new challenge, but you’re not sure you’re ready for the Knights. Argh! What the hell are you thinking?
You drag your fingers through your hair as you think. What should you do? What will you do?
Arriving Home, 7:37 p.m.