Bruce stood just inside the doorway, unsure of what to do. “Liza?” he called. No answer. He turned to leave, stopped, bent down to take off his shoes, and stopped again. Noises were coming from the basement. It sounded like someone was moving boxes around. The tree. He put his wet shoes on the doormat and his gloves on the radiator. The warmth felt amazing. Bad Santa was on TV. The house smelled like Liza’s perfume and…chocolate.
Bruce looked around. It was a typical rowhouse. The living room led into the dining room, which led into the kitchen. The basement steps would be off the dining room. Family pictures sat on a shelf in the living room. Bruce couldn’t stop himself from inspecting them. There were no pictures of Casey or her mom. Bruce picked up a picture of Liza and her parents. Liza looked much like she did now. It was probably taken not long before her parents died. He forced himself to put it down and move on. A mug of hot chocolate and a plate with three chocolate chip cookies sat on the dining room table. “That’s for you!” called Liza’s disembodied voice from somewhere in the basement. It sounded like she was in a cave.
Bruce shoved one of the cookies in his mouth and washed it down with the hot chocolate. “Thanks. Where are you?”
“The hole.” Ah, well that explained it. Bruce grabbed the mug and the two cookies and headed down the basement. It was unfinished but clean, with cement floors, plaster walls, and a ceiling high enough for him to walk upright. A lot of the houses in the City originally had garages in the back. The basement doors were recessed back, with a pathway leading to them from the driveway. Most people removed the garages to create extra space in the basement. Liza’s house was like this. A wall with a steel door sat at the back of the basement, where the garage door would have been. The original exterior wall remained, but the pathway had been enclosed, creating a long cinder block and brick storage area. The Hole.
Liza was inside moving boxes around. Bruce watched her while he wolfed down the rest of the cookies and hot chocolate. He smiled, then frowned. It felt a little weird being in this house. He shouldn’t be here. Should he? Did it matter now? His thoughts were interrupted by a dramatic sigh. Liza was wedged in the doorway of The Hole, pinned there by a mammoth Christmas tree box. “Are you going to help me, Professor?” Bruce shook his head and smiled as he went over to free Liza.