"There are few things more sad than an empty house. The more decay the closer to demolition. But before you even consider such a move, the house in itself must tell its story" She was walking backwards, looking at the old shack of a house, standing somewhat crouching beneath the trees.
-A house is nothing but a pile of bricks, carpentry, plaster and paint. You build it, move in, move out, house decays, rats moving in, spiders webbing all over, windows breaking, villains use it as a coverup for narcoticdeals. Tear it down, I say, there is nothing to it! It fits badly into this neat and precious neigbourhood of yours. I mean, he had stopped his pacing and waved both hands in the air as if fighting off the villains , look at those gardens!! Roses, arches, goblins and gnomes, fountains, lilies and Godknowswhat.
- Hold your breath, dad, I haven't bought that house, have I, I was just being curious, you always told me to keep my curiosity alert, didn't you?
She watched his hands fall down to the sides. He frowned at her, and she saw more signs of age in his face than last time . His hair had turned grey the day mom died, and that was almost ten years ago.
The rest of him seemed vigorous enough, but he never really spoke of her mother anymore.He had retired two years ago, somewhat premature but as he could afford it ,there was no hesitation. He said he needed to live while he actually could. As a result, he bought a small house in the outskirts of Nice. She was an onlychild, when her mother got sick she had already moved out.
Her Universitystudies where badly disturbed those dark and horrible years. In and out of hospitals and private clinics, sanatoriums and those healing trips to Nice. Her mother had loved France, dad hated it. Always said that the french where pompous and selfconcious. Couldn't even speak english, could they?? Eventually he yielded, but that house was not bought until after the funeral.
Her childhood house and garden was for sale faster than she could imagine. Before she knew it, new
people moved in and all she could do was stand across the street and watch them alter everything she had held dear. Her father didn't look back for a second. He sold almost everything , she had to tangibly stop him from selling keepsakes from her childhood, stop him from burning albums and old pictures in old frames.
Two weeks ago she made the downpayment of a small cottage, she wanted him to see and approve of it. She had taken her Masters degree, a good employment had been offered to her and she had accepted. She wanted a good place to stay , as yet she was unattached, well, almost. The almostpart was unknown to her father, one thing at the time. She knew why that shack disturbed him so much,
he wasn't much for nostalgia, not much for imagination and dreams. Imagining what life could had been like within those old walls would force him to imagine the house he sold out, remembering the life that had been so vivid once and so sad and dark in the end. His house in Nice was untouched by his old life, nothing in it reminded him of her. It was all clean and neat.
- When can you move in, puppet? I'm staying two weeks, I can help you.
- Well, actually I am planning to start moving in next week. You can help me sort things out, paperwork, that kind of things. I have been packing since the contract was signed, they moved out long time ago and gave me free access. I told you when we spoke last month, remember?
- I still think I should have been involved in the actual process of choice. You know nothing of houses, what to look for and potential mishaps and inaccuracies. What it you have been tricked into a bad affair??
- I had some help dad, don't worry. Told you that too. I'm sorry you weren't involved, but I do need you to approve. I think you're going to like it, it's right up this alley here, see, you can see the chimney above those pinetrees.
- Pinetrees? We had pinetrees....
- Yes, we did . In the south corner, close to the playhouse you built dad,
- Yes yes, is that the house, that red one??
No, he wasn't much for talking of days past. A mere glimps of something that could cause a serious case of memories was wiped away like an irritating fly. She watched his face with a vague sense of remorse, maybe it was wrong to mention the playhouse. She just wanted him to start talking. Start feeling. There had been no one for her to talk to, some friends, yes and this past year, Daniel. There was great disadvantage in being an onlychild, that had become obvious these years.
But that sharing of mutual life, of mutual memories, experiences, feelings was absent. She had an aunt living up north, much older than her mother. She took the train up to visit her, twice a year. Those were precious times for both of them, times for laughing, crying and blackcurrant wine. She usually stayed a couple of days, bringing the albums, taking time for afternoon tea and chickensoup. Her aunt was one for travelling memorylanes, she had loved her little sister dearly but they hardly spoke for many years. Her father wasn't too fond of her and her mother did nothing he wouldn't approve of.
But when she had her diagnosis settled, the bonds were almost visible and there was no stopping their relation from growing. And after the funeral her aunt had been rather lost and confused, she lived alone and had always done so, being a retired schoolteacher. Her focus had been the children and the churchchoir, after retirement she was more deeply engaged in the local church. She also took it upon her to care for her niece, and so there it was.
Daniel was another matter entirely, it was his doing she bought a house in this particular village. The old shack had been alive and bright when he grew up. He loved old abandoned houses and could scatter around for hours , peeking, touching and pondering.
- Well, here you are dad, this is my new home and castle, it even has a name you see, there is a painted board above the garden gate - Rosehip Cottage. They are growing in heaps in the backside, the rosehips. When they are in bloom, there is the most lovely smell and...
- How do you know? You just bought it and the blooming is over long ago.
He had that frown again, but he was eyeing the cottage with great interest. His keen and alert mind took it all in, the roses growing over the arch, the board on the arch, the small outhouse covered with
ivy, as where the actual cottage as well. The red bricks where visible here and there.
- I know the ivy will ruin the bricks, I have to remove most of it.
- You need to dig beneath it, the roots must be removed, otherwise it will grow again. It looks very nice, how old can it be? Hundred?
- 115 actually, wait 'til you see it inside, they have kept it soo well and done a great job in restauration. It has stonetiles in the hall , I will open up, wait a second now...
She found the keyes and got the front door open. It had an enormous doorclap shaped like a lion.
Slowly she swung the door open.
- And welcome to my mansion!
He took small steps, slowly he passed the treshold, gazing in to the dim hall. Words seemed to have failed him. He walked slowly from room to room. She walked quietly beside him. Oddly enough,
her enthusiasm was great but she felt no need to talk. She had been talking continously when Daniel was here but now ....
After a while she left him and went to pic up the basket in the kitchen. She had prepared lunch. There was a table and two chairs in the kitchen. She had brought a checkered tablecloth, one she had saved from home, and she lit two candles. Plates, glasses, food...where was he? She couldn't hear him.
-Dad? I have laid the table, let's eat! Dad?
As she got no answer, she went looking for him, the house was not that big, the kitchen, a master bedroom and two smaller rooms on the groundfloor, one large on the second, with a fireplace.
There she found him. He was sitting on the floor, his arms folded around his knees. He was crying quietly.
Many hours later, when darkness had fallen, he had cleared his mind and heart for the first time in ten years. Never had they spoken like this and never would they ever again, but it was good enough.
In his mind he had refurnished the house he once abandoned, walked through the years and the rooms, allowing the pictures to come and go. She joined him.
When they locked the door and walked silently to the trainstation, the air was fresh and crispy.
There is something sad about an empty house, but it can sometimes bring life to an empty heart.