George twisted the den doorknob, listening for activity. He did not want to startle her, he just needed to talk. She had a wicked temper, but he loved her and wanted to get her back. If she remained calm, they could resolve their issues. Karen did not know that George had kept a key when she threw him out two weeks ago.
The flashing red neon sign from the neighborhood bar across the street invaded the Venetian blinds in a monotonous cadence, splashing bands of purple onto the gaudy blue walls and ceiling. Soft background music filled the room. The Theme from Out of Africa was playing in an endless loop on her dad’s old tape deck. Karen must be in her bedroom.
Her dad had been eccentric for years, and a widower since Karen was five. He died a year ago. In his last few years, his demented mind had created an African fantasy world she could not escape. Now twenty-two, she had trouble coping with his death. She kept his den in a near shrine state–untouched, music and all. George had been dating Karen for a year when he moved in with her a month after the funeral. They had often argued about the den.
George crossed to the fireplace as a violin crescendo led into Karen’s Song. God, he even named her after the Meryl Streep character in the movie. He crept along the paneled wall with a gallery of 8 x 10, sepia toned photos, for authenticity, of old pals in safari jackets, jodhpurs, leather puttees, and shotguns, lounging around tents. Her dad, in one larger framed photo-shopped image, posed like a triumphant Teddy Roosevelt with one foot on the body of a trophy male lion. He cradled his long rifle in the crook of his elbow while he flashed a toothy grin beneath his safari hat. The wild bore’s head mounted on the opposite wall looked ominous as his lifelike eyes blinked in time with the red light from the bar.
George fingered the wood carved Ghanaian mask that lorded over the mantle…obviously Pier One. He found the tape deck and turned it off. The silence was sudden and complete.
“Is somebody there?” Her voice came from down the hall.
“It’s me, Karen, George.” The rustle of her silk robe told him she was running. The door burst open, and Karen stood frozen, framed in the hallway light.
“How Dare You!” In a single movement she snapped on the overhead light, grabbed a flower vase from the end table, and threw it at him.
George ducked as the vase flew over his head. It wiped everything off the mantle. The now broken African mask lay next to the bronze vase that hit the stone hearth with a metallic clang. Karen gasped, and she sank to her knees on the hearth, cradling the vase to her breast. She rocked back and forth, sobbing. “Now look what you made me do!”
“I’m so sorry, Karen.” George, hesitant to move, stayed next to her with his hand on her heaving shoulders. Her sobbing gradually morphed into half-laughter.
She glanced up at him and said, “Oh, George, won’t you please come back.”
“Of course, baby, that’s what I want too. I love you.”
Karen stood, flung her arms around his neck, and filled his face with kisses, repeating, “I love you too, George. I really do.”
He stepped back a bit, his raised palm at arm’s length, warding her off. “Ahh, Karen… what do we do about the den?”
She looked at him, her lips curling into a sly grin, “Oh, Hon, can’t you use it as an office or something?”
“Of course… and I am sorry about the vase.”
“I know, I know.” She dropped to her knees again, looked up to him, and said, “Let’s just forget the whole thing. Now help me sweep up Daddy’s ashes. You know… I never liked the old bastard, anyway.”