The three-story building shouldered the sharp winter wind. Pastel teal paint, dull in the grey light, had lost its charm. The white of the shutters had begun to surrender. Harsh fluorescent blue streaked out of a window on the first floor, left of the entrance. Someone on the third floor was watching TV, or had otherwise left their set on through the night. Dated script on the glass read Balmoral, number 5661. Two trees sat on either side of a cracked cement pathway that led to the large glassed-in foyer. Leaves helplessly scraped along the ground outside, the branches that stabbed the sky had been barren for months. The winter hung on, not bitterly, but with a certain determination.
Ruth stood on the sidewalk across the street from her apartment building and inhaled deeply. As she walked across the street she tickled around her pocket for her keys, ducking to hide in her collar. She rolled the key into her grasp and unlocked the heavy metal and glass door. As she stepped over the threshold the door swung violently away from the jamb, slamming into the foyer wall before she could catch it. The wind fought with her, attempting to pry the door out of her fingers . Finally, her pull was stronger than the push and she managed, with both hands, to yank the door to a loud close. She breathed heavy for a moment in the silence and felt a sweep of sweat mingle with guilt for making so much noise so early in the morning. Ruth adjusted her fallen canvas bag, pushing it firmly onto her shoulder, and continued through the second glass door. Inside, the building was warm and smelled of freshly brewed coffee, mixed with the permanent staleness of old carpet.