The small room that was Jan’s office sat sequestered in the far corner of the building. He had purposely picked this house and this room to be his office to minimize the distraction from passing traffic or potential visitors knocking on the door. Here he could sit in complete silence with maximum concentration.
Jan had picked his desk and computer very carefully to keep the room tidy and straightforward. The single bookshelf in the room housed many works of fiction but mainly consisted of ‘craft’ literature that supposedly would teach him to write better. Every time he read a new one, he would get a burst of confidence, but it would diminish as soon as he sat in the comfortable chair facing the computer.
Jan’s mind wandered back to when the words flowed fast but flawed. The stories had been incomplete, and the ideas were barely rough outlines until he had met someone special. Someone who had left soon after they had met, and he hadn’t seen in fifteen months. Someone that had helped to refine the ideas and polish them to perfection inside his mind.
“Stop it,” Jan muttered, shaking his head as he placed his hands on the keyboard. “You don’t need him to be here. You didn’t need him before, and you don’t need him now.”
Jan’s hands froze when they touched the keys, as they had every day since. He felt his face growing hot in irritation. The irritation quickly became overrun by the sense of shame that he hadn’t been able to complete a single sentence in months. The shame drifted away as his head dropped into his hands, and the feeling of despair washed over him.
Unknown to Jan, Aaron walked slowly and silently through the building, carefully making his way to the office he had felt an insult to his character. He could smell the bad thoughts and stories drifting through the air, and his nose wrinkled at it. He continued on his path, looking for the open door at the end of the hall that he knew would lead him to that little room he liked so little.
Reaching the doorway, he found Jan sitting there. Looking as pathetic as ever in his misery.
“Hello, Jan,” Aaron said as he slid his hands into his pockets and leaned on the doorframe to the small office.
“Aaron!” Jan exclaimed as his attention snapped up. “You scared me!”
Jan felt his heart pound heavily in his chest as he took in the image of his muse. The half-cocked smile adorning Aaron’s face let his slightly twisted canine tooth show giving him an amused air. The simple pocket t-shirt he wore looked freshly laundered and was tucked neatly into his jeans. The pale complexion of his skin made gave the impression that he hadn’t been out much since the last time they had spoken.
“I didn’t mean to scare you. I just thought it would be nice to come by and see how you’re doing,” Aaron said with a half shrug.
“I’ve been al-” Jan faltered. A sob escaped his mouth before he could stop it, and he lunged for his friend. He wrapped his arms around him. “I missed you.”
“I missed you too,” Aaron said, pulling Jan in for a tighter hug. “Let it out, buddy. I’ve got you now.”
After a few more minutes of crying, Jan forced himself to stop, there was work to be done now, and he didn’t want to waste the time he had with Aaron.
“Look at me. I must look ridiculous,” Jan said, grabbing a tissue from the box on the back of his desk.
“You look amazing,” Aaron said as Jan blew his nose loudly.
“I’ve looked better, I’m sure, but I appreciate the compliment,” Jan replied.
The pair stared at each other in silence for a few moments, and Jan’s palms began to sweat. Both of them opened their mouths to speak at the same time, and they both stopped short.
“You go,” Aaron said, motioning with his left hand.
“When have you been?” Jan asked, trying to hide the pleading desperation in his eyes.
“I’ve been all over, really,” Aaron replied. “Have you been writing much?”
“Nothing like before,” Jan answered honestly. “I can’t even write bad stories anymore.”
“You set the bar too high for yourself,” Aaron replied, shaking his head. “You need to remember what we talked about before. Nothing will be perfect the first time it comes out. It will need editing and rewriting, and sometimes even to be trashed. It’s okay to make mistakes.”
“It’s not the same, though,” Jan said. “With you gone, I haven’t been able to concentrate or even follow any tiny idea in my head.”
“What have you been doing then?” Aaron asked.
“Mostly feeling sorry for myself,” Jan replied, “and missing you.”
“Well, I’m here now. Should we get started?” Aaron asked.
Jan turned away and placed his hands on the keys. The idea came as small as a candle in a cave. He was scared to breathe when he saw it for fear of blowing it out.
“Go on,” Aaron said, “you can do this!”
Jan carefully picked his words and began typing, first slowly, like adding kindling to the candle, and then faster as the light grew. Each sentence felt like scraping away at layers of ice on his body, and his mind remembered the heat of the fire he needed, only pushing him on further.
Words became sentences, sentences became paragraphs, and paragraphs quickly became pages. Time passed at an unknown rate while he wrote. Eventually, he grew tired and looked away from the screen. Aaron had left once again but had lit a candle in the doorway that burned merrily.
Looking up at the clock, he saw that six hours had passed, and his stomach growled in confirmation.
“Thank you,” Jan whispered, not wanting to put out the candle just yet. “Thank you for returning to me.”