No one lived in the apartment through the wall.
Those thumping, banging, crashing noises that Cassie heard were the maintenance crew, putting in new cabinets or something. The old neighbor had moved out weeks ago, and they’d been busy getting the place ready for a new renter, or so her parents had said.
Cassie moaned and tried to sit up to look at the clock. Her head spun. Nine-thirty at night. Why was the maintenance crew working on the apartment through the wall at nine-thirty at night, especially when she was sick and trying to get some sleep.
She pounded on the wall with her fist in feeble irritation, but she didn’t think they would have been able to hear it.
An especially loud crack made her headache flare. Scowling, she sat up and pulled on her robe. If her parents were home, she’d ask her dad to go over there and ask the workers to keep it down. But Mom and Dad had gone to the football game and wouldn’t be back for another hour or so. Her older brother played flute in the band, and afterward they were probably all going to go out for ice cream or something. She wondered if they’d bring her anything.
Cassie kept her eyes part closed as she shuffled out her bedroom door and down the hallway. She couldn’t believe those guys were still working past nine o’clock at night. Maybe the new neighbor was moving in soon and they had to get finished. Still, she thought they ought to keep it quiet. It was past the nine-o-clock noise curfew. Her parents could complain to the neighborhood association, like the neighbors across the way did when her brother kept practicing the flute at ten o’clock at night.
Cassie made herself a cup of hot soup in the microwave to the sounds of splintering wood and pounding hammers next door. With each noise her headache got worse. She finally set her cup down and decided to go over there and see what was going on. Maybe they thought no one in this apartment was at home. She would ask them if they could call it quits for the night and come back in the morning.
Outside the air was a little chilly, and Cassie pulled her robe closer around her aching shoulders. She knew she wasn’t thinking quite straight, probably because of the fever. She walked the five steps from her door to the front door of the next apartment. The door was slightly cracked open. She glanced at the parking lot over her shoulder.
She couldn’t see the maintenance truck, the big red pickup the crew always drove around. Well, she could certainly hear them in there. Cassie knocked on the partly open door.
The sounds inside changed from persistent banging to a rapid clatter of tools and hushed voices she couldn’t quite make out.
“Hello?” Cassie croaked, “I live next door, and I wanted to know if you could cut it out because I’m kind of trying to sleep?”
There was no answer. Cassie eased the door open.
And was suddenly very confused. This wasn’t the next door apartment. This was her apartment.
She stepped inside, wondering how it could have happened. She remembered walking next door, but this was her own door. Her own place. The right pictures were on the walls, the right tile on the floor. She must have gotten lost trying to find her way next door.
Well, at least the noise had stopped. Wondering if she’d maybe fallen asleep without noticing, Cassie walked down the hall and went to her room. She climbed back into her bed.
And then she noticed the paintbrush. One big, fat, dripping paintbrush on her desk. That hadn’t been there before.