“Hello, Rita,” the old man said quietly. He stood by the door, bag in hand, and waited.
Rita coughed and scratched her leg before gracing him with a blank look.
“When are you going to leave me the hell alone?” she said, then turned back to the television.
“You know I have to visit everyone who still believes.”
“What’s there to believe? You’re standing right in front of me. I believe my eyes, it’s no leap of faith.”
“That doesn’t matter. It’s the way this job works. You believe, I come.”
Rita laughed and crushed her cigarette in an overflowing ashtray laying on the night stand.
“Look,” she said “you coming here every year isn’t going to change anything. It’s not going to change who I am or what I am. It’s just a waste of my time and yours.”
“If you haven’t given up on me, then I can’t give up on you. Like it or not, those are the rules.”
“Believe me, I’d forget all about you if I could. I wish everyday of my life that I’d never walked in find you in our living room that night. But you’re always there. No matter how drunk or high I get, I can feel you there in the back of my mind, watching me, judging me.”
“No, not judging. Watching, yes, but never judging.”
Rita picked up the pack of cigarettes and pulled another one out. She twirled it her fingers a few times before raising it to her lips and lighting it.
The old man took a step toward the bed. Behind him, the door opened. He turned to see a young man in jeans and a flannel shirt already unfastening his belt buckle. He started when he saw the old man.
“Jesus, Rita, I thought you locked the door when you already had someone in here. I’ll wait outside until you’re done.”
“No, it’s ok. We’re done,” she said, giving the old man another blank look.
The old man reached into his sack and pulled out a brown box. He laid it on the night stand next to the ashtray and let himself out.
“Merry Christmas, Rita,” he said as he pulled the door closed. A moment later, there was a soft click as the lock turned.
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