As soon as I read this week’s writing challenge, I knew what it was that I was going to write about. I wasn’t going to be looking into the past, but into the future. The future that I have imagined for my house and for myself, and for the both of them together. I hope you enjoy it.
The familiar red wood greets me as I run my hand over the intricate pattern. It has faded with the years but the lingering imprint remains, slightly bolder than the rest. I slide my key into the lock and play the tug and pull game that it is so fond of, trying to find the right angle to let it unlock. With a faint click, I am able to turn the key with one hand while the other rests on the curved handle, shaped to fit my palm.
Before I can push the door open, a hurricane of noise in the form of two small bundles of energy comes rushing out, neither of them noticing me as I catch the scream that is caught in my lungs.
“Claire,” a voice rings out from the kitchen, “Ryan!”
There’s something about it that is familiar, but unplaceable. A nagging feeling overcomes me as though I should recognise what I am hearing, my brain pulling at a distant memory, trying to make me understand. But my mind is too fogged over with shock.
The bundles return, dragging their heels behind them, their heads bent to the ground in stubborn sulking making them oblivious to anything else around them. My eyes follow them inside, my feet still stuck in place outside the door, and down the corridor lined with plastic chairs and odds and ends from around the house. Only the plastic chairs have been put away… when did that happen… and the odds and ends have been replaced with carefully hung portraits, smiling faces and happy moments. My eyes wander over them not taking anything in.
“Now”, the voice continues, getting louder as it rounds the corner. “Please be careful. Claire, look after your little brother. And Ryan, don’t run in the road.” She kisses each of them on the forehead, which they grudgingly accept before whooshing past me once again this time with brown bags of food in their hands. Part of me wants to follow them out, see where they are gong, live a day of their lives with them, but I am stuck in place, my eyes fixated on the woman before me.
The years have done me well – the wrinkles that my mother always warned me of staying away for the most part. My hair is the same as always – God I’ve always hated it – but much shorter now, more manageable than the long locks that I was always so fond of. How old am I here? If those were my children, which I would bet anything they were – children, like I had always wanted and Grant had always fought me about – Claire would have to be at least 9 years old making me no younger than 35. But I look much older than that, closer to 50. Sure, my face isn’t wrinkled, but there are other signs of it – the white wisps in my hair (I always knew that grey would show up like a wine stain on a white shirt against my dark curls), the posture that I held all my life having arched my shoulders and curled my back downwards, but most of all it is the eyes that show it, once so full of life but now so tired.
“Lara,” I whisper, but the sound falls on deaf ears. She can’t hear me. None of them can. I look on helplessly as I watch my children run down the precarious driveway and down the road before closing the door, leaving me standing, staring, confused and unsure at the red wood once again.
The weight of the key in my hand brings me back to the real world as I realise that I have been turning it over and over in my palm. A daydream, I think to myself and shake my head of the fogginess that accompanies my trip back down to reality. I place it in the lock once more… or is this the first time… and prepare to fight with the lock (again?). Only, this time the lock turns smoothly. The door swings open quietly and I can see once again the familiar, but all too unfamiliar, passage that leads into the rest of the house. This isn’t my home – the plastic chairs and odds and ends that I expect still not where they should be, but it’s not the home that I had found before either. The photographs are faded now, replaced in some cases with more unfamiliar faces, but there are also more of them. Weddings, parties, birthday cakes and candles, children, grandchildren and aging faces that bear resemblance to the one that I have stared into and the one that I have seen in the mirror daily – the walls are almost entirely covered with pictures as I had always been prone to do, leaving no open spaces.
I force my feet to move this time, and step into the house, wandering down the passageway and glancing at the rooms as I pass, each of them seeming familiar, but completely new to me. There is no part of the house that is the same, all carpets and colour schemes replaced, but the house itself remains unchanged. I wander through the lounge with it’s poufy beige couches and ottomans, it’s widescreen TV taking up most of one wall and books covering all of the others, into the bar area which actually ended up being turned into a bar – it only took years on end for us to get around to it – into the renovated kitchen with it’s black and white tiles and granite, so different from the bright orange 70’s theme that had been there before. I glance at the garden through the kitchen window and see that we finally planted the strawberry patch that I had always wanted, and it was flourishing. I pull my eyes away and continue my tour with the next stop being the spare bathroom, which, it seems, has turned into the children’s bathroom. Only they can’t be children any more. It is now filled with aftershave and razor blades, a giant mirror reflecting them back to me. The bath has been converted into a shower giving the room the space that it always lacked. I look behind me and am confronted with a man’s bedroom, not a boy’s. All black bedding and curtains, a modern-looking PC atop the desk with little else inside. But everything is covered in dust, the room unlived in for what seems like many years. Finally, I wander into the last room, our bedroom. I gently rest my hand on the handle, preparing myself for what I might see, and push the door open.
Our arms around each other, we lie together, my grey hair falling softly around my face with his cheek buried into it. Our arms lie outside of the blankets that cover us, our fingers entwined in an embrace, and silence fills the room. I stare, with tears filling my eyes and a smile crossing my lips as I stir in the bed, pushing myself against him, burrowing for warmth and his grip around me tightens. We are not young, our 50’s having left us long ago, but we are together the same way as we have always been. My face has finally succumb to the wrinkles as I always knew it would, and his has too. His hairline has receded, but looking down on him, even with his age, I can still see the handsome man that I fell in love with.
I backtrack now, not caring about the rest of the room, not wanting to spend another moment in this future house of mine, pacing quickly towards the door and letting it shut behind me, coming to my senses as I hear the loud slam and awaken. I blink at the bright sunlight that is hitting my face, drying the tears as they roll down my cheeks, and the door opens in front of me, Grant standing inside of it, his normal 28 year old self, staring at me as though I am a crazy person.
“Hello?” It’s a question rather than a greeting, a wondering what I must have been doing standing out here for the last few minutes. My response is a smile, a run and a leap into his arms that takes him by surprise.
“I love you,” I announce, “and I always will.”