The bright blue paint was the first thing that greeted me when I walked up to 50 Main Circle. I scanned the structure, from the sides to the maroon roof shingles twisting and pointing every-which-way like porcupine quills.
As I approached, I noticed the chipping of the paint in strips, revealing a soft grey color beneath. Finally, I reached the white door – there was nothing particularly impressive about this door. Except that it opened, closed, and locked. Still, I felt the time rush back through decades as I stepped over the threshold, immediately feeling as if I were a little kid once more visiting my grandparents.
I shut the door behind me. With eyes closed, I took in a deep breath and tossed my keys to the left, waiting to hear a cling, signifying the table’s catch. Instead, I heard a rattling echo. With a jump, I whipped my head to the side to realize there was no longer a key-catching table there. Only more hardwood. I let my eyes droop with my lips as I stared at the foyer that opened up before me. It was completely empty. I was hesitant to take too many steps or I would’ve be able to see the equally empty and significantly more depressing looking rooms to my right and left. They’ll be here any minute. I have to get going. Why didn’t I just hire a professional realtor? I whispered this under my breath. I never talked to myself. Only in this house have I ever spoken with no particular audience. Then again, maybe the house was my audience.
I shrugged my coat from my shoulders and dropped it onto the hook beside the door.
I started with the kitchen. The island and marble counter-tops were perfectly clean and bare. The floor shone from the mopping I did a few days prior. I let a faint smile creep across my lips at the sight of the cabinets being painted the same blue as the exterior and peeling likewise. This was the color my grandfather had painted nearly everything right before my grandmother got sick. Her favorite color was blue.
I shook off the eerie feeling that this was no longer my house and went to the fridge to retrieve the milk that I had bought to accompany the cookies I was putting out. Complementing the treats was a little pink piece of folded card stock that said Help Yourself! I swept my hands against the thighs of my jeans as if to straighten them. Like having straight jeans would impress the buyers more. Maybe I should have worn slacks.
Suddenly aware of my unprofessional attire, I was surprised to hear a foreign voice from the door. “Hello?” a high pitched chirp like a parakeet (except not as pretty) sounded from back over by the door with notable. I jumped to the side as if it was so absurd to hear others in the house. Checking my watch, I realized it’s not absurd at all seeing as they’re right on time. Annoyingly on time.
“Y-yes, hello!” I called, straightening my straight jeans again while flipping my hair to the side and out of my face. A young woman, probably mid-twenties with pin straight black hair and teeth equally as such poked her head around the corner with a Cheshire Cat-like grin. I tried my best to smile back but it didn’t feel like a smile. It felt strained and contorted.
“Doesn’t she look ill Tom?” she asked the man entering alongside her. He was tall, slim, and wore a dark grey flat cap over his brunette locks.
Putting an arm around the woman he said, “Jesus, Kimmy, leave Ms. Warren alone. We’re here to see a house not play doctor.” The woman – Kimmy – pouted a bit but quickly recovered her smile while walking around the house, her stilettos click-clacking on the kitchen tile. I cringed at the sound, like bullets were being shot into my floor. Their floor. “So, where shall we start?” Tom said, flashing pearly white teeth at me. He would almost be charming if he wasn’t intruding on me and possibly the last moments I will spend with my house. Their house.
“Well,” I said, only stopping to clear my throat. “This is, obviously, the kitchen. Everything is original. Except the cabinets. Those were painted a little over fifteen years ago.”
“Oh, that’s fine. We can just strip ‘em,” Kimmy said, waving her hand like a nasty fly was buzzing too close to her face. I locked my jaw in place and made no effort to look agreeable.
“This way to the family room,” I said, gesturing to a threshold behind the kitchen. I showed them the family room with pencil markings of me and my cousins’ heights. I exhibited the dining room that had scratches in the hardwood from all the times Aunt Mindy felt the need to rearrange the furniture to “utilize the most space and fit the most family”. I brought them up to my old bedroom where you could still see how the sun had bleached the paint except for rectangles around the walls where various boy-band posters had hung. And my grandparent’s bedroom where it still faintly smelled of Nana’s rose perfume.
Every room had a “solution”. They would repaint all the rooms, of course, and just hope the smell of cleaning products masked that ungodly smell of dead flowers. I cringed at the insult. It wasn’t until every room had been covered and we were back in the kitchen ignoring the cookies that Kimmy began rattling off another renovation. “I mean, it’s just us so we could knock down a few of those walls upstairs and make it a movie room.”
“Or a den,” Tom contributed.
“That would be nice too,” Kimmy agreed.
“Knock down walls?” I asked softly, praying I misheard her chirpy voice.
“Well, of course. We don’t plan on having kids and we love a good movie,” Kimmy said, putting a hand to her husband’s chest and laughing as if this was all some big joke that she was entitled to make. I felt my fingers clench into fists. The anger inside my boiled so high I thought I must be as red as the fire within me. That would explain their furrowed brows and looks of confusion as they watched my preemptive explosion.
“Get out,” the voice didn’t sound like mine. It was too strong and certain. Still, I felt my lips move. And it was definitely me that was sweating under my straight jeans.
“Excuse me?” Tom said, stepping forward as if that would intimidate me back into my place. It just might, we’ll see.
“How dare you?” Kimmy said stepping in front of Tom and pushing her hands into her hips.
“How dare you?” I said assuming the same stance, adding a finger point at the couple for emphasis. “Knock down walls? Repaint? Cover up her-” I began to feel my throat choke up and my vision blur at the tears welling up. “The dead flowers with cleaning products? How dare you?” I let them stand there, completely bewildered for a few moments, exchanging looks with each other as if to decide whether they still wanted to buy. They seemed to be weighing whether they could deal with my crazy long enough to secure their work-in-progress dream home. I could make that decision for them. “My house is not for sale. Get. Out.” I pointed to the front door and stared at them until they made their exit. After hearing their car doors slam, undoubtedly a two-seater, I slumped to the floor. What did I do? My job isn’t here, I can’t live here. Once again, I was whispering to no one in particular again. I let my body fall down till I was on my back, laying on the floor. My eyes closed from exhaustion and I exhaled saying, Could I live here? I opened my eyes and dropped my head to the side, facing the cabinets. A small, white rectangle was shoved between the floor and the cabinet door.
I sat up and squinted to see if I could get a better look. “What in the-” I crawled over to the cabinet and wedged my fingers between the structure and the rectangle. It was a photograph. Turning it, I saw my grandparents staring up at me with their deep brown eyes, just like mine. Seeing them was like they were back with me, three years ago, when they were still living in this house. Two winters, one after another. One gone, then the next.
This house was family. Or it encompassed the idea of family. Either way, it was its own separate entity; not just a vessel in which we resided.
I let the photograph fall onto my lap.
“Maybe we can work something out,” I said to the house with a sigh and a smile. And I swear, it sighed too.