The Guest

There is a mouse in your bedroom.

He has been there for some time now, and you hardly even think about it anymore. He had planned – had promised – to only stay for a day or two, but then something came up rather unexpectedly, and you haven’t had the heart anymore to ask him to leave. After all, he is quite clean – especially for a mouse – and always courteous. More courteous than some of your previous housemates, you decide. He only asks for some water and a bit of food, and you enjoy his company so much that it is a small price to pay.

He tells the most wonderful stories, and you wonder occasionally where he might have heard them. Perhaps in other bedrooms, with other company. He talks about all the places he has been – places not even you yourself have gone in your sleep. Paris, Milan, Timbuktu – cities that seem more like daydreams than real places. For him, it is as easy as stowing away in backpacks and suitcases. No one ever wonders at where a mouse goes or where he’s been, you think to yourself. On the darkest, dreariest days, you wish that you could do the same. Somehow, he knows all the best spots in town, and you always trust him to recommend the best restaurants.

At night, you can hear him scratching and moving about behind the walls. It bothered you a bit at first – though you never would have told him so – but now you can hardly sleep without the sound. After all, he is always considerate about your sleeping hours, and makes as little noise as he can.

He rarely comes out during the day, and if he does, you never seem to catch him. Your nightly talks always take place over dinner, and always run until the moon is highest in the sky and the city lights on the other side of the window are the brightest stars on the horizon. You do not know where he goes while the sun is up, and you haven’t yet the courage the ask. You don’t want to pry, after all. Though he always brings back trinkets for you – coins and rings and occasionally a small diamond or two. Jokingly, you have become to call this his rent.

Almost a year later, when the city streets no longer seem quite as winding, and as the faces of the strangers around you finally begin to soften, he vanishes. He is gone for almost a week before you begin to worry. Without the sound of him at night, you find it difficult to fall asleep. Just when you decide to look for him in every corner and behind each wall in the city if you have to, there is a quiet knock at your door. He is there with a shy, white little mouse that he introduces as his betrothed, and he meekly asks for his old room and board again.

Later that night, when there are a hundred mice in your living room for the wedding, and his shy fiancé wears a veil cut from one of your silk napkins, you present him with a wedding gift of you own.

Yes, there is a mouse in your bedroom – and the rest of his family lives in the guest room.

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