Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Return

As she walked down the sloping driveway she looked up at the colossal white building. Did she really used to live here? She couldn't pinpoint exactly what was different, but there were little things, subtle changes. The walls were no longer the soft grayish white that her dad had found through trial and error. Now the house gleamed with a bright white paint that made it look even bigger. The windows were like black eyes starring at her without blinking. Gone were the white lace curtains that her mom used to starch in water and sugar. The curtains had been old-fashioned even 30 years ago, but they covered the blackness like sheer eyelids. Along the driveway were large urns filled with pink geraniums. Pretty, but her mom had always planted red ones.

In front of the garage there were two cars. Theyt looked brand new. Both were spotless and she could see her reflection in the dark metallic paint that had a sort of bluish tint. She smiled as she remembered the red beetle that her parents used to drive. It had always looked so out of place in front of this huge house. These two cars looked like they belonged. Maybe they had bought them just to match the house. She giggled and starred at her reflection half waiting to see that little girl with the thin pixie hair. But of course she didn't.

She walked up to the front door. It was made of dark wood with leaded glass windows in rich colors. In an instant she remembered the day she came home from school with the brass key on a red woolen string around her neck and saw the glass shattered and the door opened. Being young and not very smart she had walked right inside. The whole house had been torn apart, but all she could remember was her mom's vase lying on the floor. Red tulips scattered all over the carpet adorned by the sharp pieces of broken crystal. She knew her mom would cry.

As she rung the doorbell she heard the sound she knew so very well. She gave a short laugh as she recalled how she would run to the door when that doorbell rang. She had always hoped that it would be someone asking for her. Someone to play with. But it never was. No one ever came to her house. So she got used to playing alone and the house had been her playground. She knew every secret place in this house, from the basement to the attic.

An elegant woman in beige opened the door with a strained smile. "Oh, you are here!" was all she said, not offering a name or a hand. "Come inside", she said with her back already turned.
Stepping into the hall she felt a rush of emotions. The blue carpet was no longer there. And the periwinkle blue brocade wallpaper was gone. Not so strange really. There had been faint red stains on that wallpaper after she had decided to decorate it with red flowers one day her parents were out. To her it looked much prettier, but her parents did not agree. She remember how they had both tried to clean it off with different remedies for hours. She had been sent to her room. They never got the stains out completely, but they didn't put up a new wallpaper either. It remained there for years as a testimony that a child lived and played in this house.

Now the walls and floors were covered in stark white. Beautiful, clean white. It looked like right out of a magazine. Still to her it was cold and uninviting. Walking passed the curved stairways, she looked up. There, at the top of the stairs, behind the banister, was one of her secret places. It's where she used to hide at night when she couldn't sleep. She would bring her pillow and lay down on the floor listening to the voices of her parents. Happy voices, voices that were soft and loving even when she could hear the presence of worry in her mom's faint words. The comfort of those voices would often lull her to sleep. Every now and then her dad would walk up the stairs and cradle her in his strong arms. To her delight he would not put her back into bed, but carry her downstairs into the candlelit living room. It was the best feeling in the world. The feeling of being included in the happiness that her parents shared. Dad would place her in the big sofa and her mom would make hot chocolate and sandwiches. She always served the hot chocolate in the large white cups with purple saucers. It was the only time they used those cups. She hadn't seen them in years.

The beige lady beckoned her to follow her into the kitchen. Of course it had been remodeled. No one would have wanted to keep the old kitchen. She remember how embarrassed she used to be when they had guests at their house. The guests would walk through all the beautiful rooms and admire the house until they walked into that kitchen. Then they would go silent. And stare. It was a crazy kitchen. Her parents had decorated it just before she was born in 1968. It had the loudest wallpaper you could imagine. Bright white vinyl wallpaper with huge blood-red flowers. (Sort of early Marimekko.) It was one of those things that just captured your eyes and would not let them go. To finish it off her parents had covered the ceiling with it as well. When you walked into that kitchen you were surrounded by cocoon of big red flowers everywhere. She used to hate it. Now as she looked at the discrete gold and ivory striped wallpaper, she almost burst out laughing. What a change!

She realized that she missed it. She missed the tacky red flowers. She missed the blue brocade wallpaper with the red stains. She missed her house with all the secret places and childhood memories. She missed her parents and missed the life that was lived in this house.

There were no signs of a child living, playing or dreaming in this place any more. There were no signs of the past. And no signs of a present. It was all perfection, but it was no longer home. She had thought about this house for so long. When it was sold she had such a feeling of loss. And all these years she had believed that she would be happy living here again. Suddenly she realized that it was not the house that had made her happy. It was the love.

The lady reached for a brown cardboard box place on the shiny granite countertop. "I believe this is yours," she said with a quick smile as she lifted it up. It was heavy. "We found it in the attic a few months ago. We thought it belonged to you." She handed over the box and started moving toward the hallway. It was clear that the visit was over and that the lady was ready to say goodbye. Walking through the beautiful house one more time, she felt the bittersweetness of goodbyes. This house was no longer hers. It belonged to someone else. And now it was up to her to make her small house a happy place for her family. As she walked back up the driveway she turned one more time looking at the impressive house with the black hollow eyes. For a split second a memory flashed before her eyes and she saw the three of them, laughing and playing on the lawn. She smiled and when she turned towards the road she knew she would never come back.

In her own kitchen, a very simple white Ikea kitchen, she opened the box. Inside were objects wrapped in soft creamy silk paper. She picked up one of the objects and started to carefully unwrap it. It was a purple saucer. One by one she unveiled her mother's special porcelain service. She placed the cups and saucers on the counter and looked around at the white walls of her kitchen. It was time to make this house her home!

I was challenged to write a story called the Return by La Belle Mere. Please visit her for more examples of creative writing.


susan said...

I enjoyed reading this very much. I have always wanted to ring the doorbell of, not the house I grew up in, but my grandmother's house...where my most special memories are. Funny, to me things always look smaller than I remember them.

Amy said...

This was amazing. I did this once when I was back home the house was for sale. I went in and everything had changed and it was pretty strange.

La Belle Mere UK said...

WOW Dreamgirl! That was AMAZING!! Thanks so much for taking part in my Writing challenge.

And I'm so sorry that I kept you up until 3.30am doing it!!!! Blimey. Hope you stay away today! ;-)

Thanks again for taking part.

LBM xxxxxx

Chrisy said...

Bravo...you're so talented...do you know this? There is a book waiting in this story!

M said...

Hei Drømmejenten,
jeg fant ikke utfordreren med creative writing greien, men så hadde jeg også litt dårlig tid!
Please advice!
Det står velkommen til vistor from Copenhagen, hehe, men det er bare meg, som snek meg innom fra jobb.
(..det kan sikkert ikke du se likavel?)
Ps. skal du på bloggtreff!?

Nanni said...

Hei søte kjære...
Jeg skjønte denne historien og jeg sitte her litt satt ut, dette var vakkert....
Så klokt du skriver...
Klemmer fra meg <3

Nanni said...

Og du... neste år må vi ha den store båten!!! :o) Vi må be fruen fra havet lære seg å kjøre den... :o)

Amber Page Writes said...

Beautiful story... Makes me wonder what my childhood home looks like now.

Theta Mom said...

Bravo! My childhood home was recently sold this Spring, so I wonder how it's changed. Excellent writing!

Veronica Lee said...

Hi! I'm visiting from MBC. Great blog.

Kristen said...

Such a beautiful story. It brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my lips. You are an amazing writer.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Wonderful read! Great job!

Jen Sue Wild said...

What a great short story..

I was really intrigued by your writing. It was like every thing was happening to me.

You really do have a gift with words.

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