Light enters the dismal corridor once more and I watch as she walks in. The third time today. Her voice echoes around the house, interrupting the silence which seems to be a permanent resident here these days. Making small talk with a middle aged couple, she moves into the first room making extravagant hand gestures in an attempt to emphasise the vastness of it. They look around them and see the broken floorboards under their feet; the cracked wallpaper peeling away. The man wrinkles his nose as he looks above him and sees the bare wires hanging from the ceiling. Yet another client who won’t invest.
She moves swiftly, explaining that the last tenants struggled with the upkeep of the house. They had difficulty managing their finances and eventually moved somewhere smaller. The third time she’s told this lie today. The couple exchange looks as she turns to walk upstairs, each knowing the others verdict before they even speak.
I know the truth behind her lies. I’ve been here the whole time watching her every move. Observing her. Her brow furrows every time she rushes through her rehearsed speeches of why the house is abandoned.
I know the truth. I have sat at the bottom of the stairs for fourteen years. I have watched a family so happy that the walls used to reverberate with laughter every day. Tears were rarely shed; anger never present.
I have watched the same woman who keeps a permanent smile on her face as she shows potential buyers around. I see her pain every time she visits each individual room as she is aware that the house will not sell. How can it? The glass of the windowpanes is replaced by wooden boards so that the little light that there is comes from desk lamps she has lit around the room. The smell of fresh paint has not hit anyone’s nostrils for twenty long years since two newlyweds argued over the colour that should coat the walls of the hallway, before deciding to paint each other instead. No one has made any changes since.
She is walking back down the stairs now. I hear her heels hit the wooden steps hard and the sound hurts my ears. She talks of the weather, of the couple’s plans for this evening before concluding that she hopes to see them again soon. And the door is shut. And silence takes up residence once more.
I can see the newlyweds from where I sit. They are dancing in the living room to Bob Dylan’s ‘Mr Tambourine Man.’ The girl laughs as her husband becomes a ‘tambourine man’ himself, pretending to dance along the sand. He takes her hand, placing her feet on his and they are one, spinning and whirling across the room. They dance away and they are gone. The cassette player fades to nothing.
There is a key in the lock and the estate agent clacks across the room to where she has left her phone. An excuse to let herself back in the house. She watches her parents as they dance through the emptiness, lost in each other. If they could see her now. She walks over and sits beside me. She traces the features of my face and my spiky hair. Then my baggy t-shirt and my jeans. And lastly my oversized feet.
As she leaves once more, I see her smile at me. I see her eyes as they take in the emptiness of the house. I see her bite her lip to stop the tears. And I see in her eyes the memory of drawing me on the cream hallway wall with a blue biro when she was just six years old.
©Alice Morgan 2012