by Nikki Rowe
It is said that often times discovery and exploration only lead to more questions.
| Richard and I reclined on a sagging, dusty couch, staring up at a faded painting of a serious family. When the weight of his arm settled across my shoulders, I reached up and laced my fingers with his.|
“Do you think they were happy?” I wondered aloud.
He grunted his response and when I turned to look at his I noticed that his eyes were shut and his breathing was slowing and becoming rhythmic. The early evening sun was piercing into the traditionally furnished parlor, throwing long shadows across the parquet floor and illuminating the flurries of dust that had been disrupted by our presence.
“I think they were happy.” I answered my own question.
I stood, stretched, and walked over to the set of French doors that looked out over a long sloping lawn, trying to fight of the heavy feeling that was creeping up my limbs and had already taken over the majority of my fiancées body. A yawn took me by surprise and caused my jaw to pop.
“Come on, Richard,” I squeezed his shoulder as I passed him, making for the double doors that lead back to the foyer, “Let’s go look around.”
One of his eyes cracked open and he heaved a sigh, but he pushed himself up and stumbled across the room.
“Come on you lazy bones, you’re like a tortoise.” I joked attempting to get him to more faster.
He snorted a laugh while stretching his long arms above his head causing his shirt to rise up and expose a sliver of his abdomen.
“I’ll have you know that we tortoises can more quite fast when we like.” He pulled me into a hug and we moved awkwardly into the hall and deeper into the abandoned house.
“Yea, sure, but most of the time you’re just slow.”
We found ourselves in the dinning where everything was still in its place.
“Bizarre isn’t it, it’s like they all just disappeared, like no one even cared.”
“Do you think they all just died?” I pulled him into the kitchen.
“That’s highly unlikely.”
“But what if they did?” I hopped up onto the kitchen counter.
“Then that would be very sad.” He kissed me on the lips.
“What if they were all murdered in the night?”
“Then we should get back to the campground because this place is probably haunted. Plus you’d think that someone would mention the murder of such a large wealthy family.”
I jumped down and dragged him to the staircase.
“But what if no one found out?”
He gasped and smiled, finally giving to my desire for him to play along with me.
“What if they we stabbed and then sealed inside to die?”
“What if their corpses are still in their beds, tucked in, just like they were when they were killed in the middle of the night?” We flung open door after door finding nothing.
“Well, first of all, they would be little more than skeletons now, plus there would probably be more evidence of rodent activity.”
I rolled my eyes and flung open a set of double doors to the master bedroom, “I know that, I’m just saying. Don’t you think it’s a little weird? I mean, if they just moved you would think that they would take their personal belongings.”
He pulled his finger along a vanity and it came back white with dust, “I don’t know, Sarah. Maybe they were just trying to start fresh. Escape the sins of their fathers or something.”
A cloud of dust ticked my nose when I plunked myself down on the large four poster bed. I fought back a sneeze and opened the drawer of the night stand.
“Find anything good?” he sat beside me.
“Personal effects of the lady of the house,” I answered in a stuffy, mock English accent.
“Let’s see then.”
I pulled out the contents of the drawer and passed each of them to him.
“Diary, Bible, note book, tons of paper, pencils, fountain pen, ink; she must have been a writer, I don’t know anyone who’s not a writer who keeps this much paper by their bed; and one unidentified velvet drawstring bag.” I stacked the items one on top of the other in his hands.
“What? Seriously? You’re not going to open that?” He asked incredulously.
I laughed, “Fine.”
Chuckling he tried to pass me the delicate bag, but he spilled everything he held all over the floor. I picked it, pulled it open, and tipped the contents into my palm. We both laughed when we recognized a cervical cap.
“Oh, shoot,” He climbed on to his knees and tried to straighten everything while I gawked at the old model of contraception. “Sarah,” he caught my attention and pulled a flask out of the bible, “Lady of the house was a rebel!”
I dropped her items onto the bed and slipped on to the floor to peck him on the lips.
“Is that all there is in the drawer?” He whispered.
“No,” I pulled away and pulled out the last item, “just this though.” I flipped it open, “Oh, it’s a photo album.”
He shifted to look over my shoulder as I turned the stiff pages that were sticking together. With each turn of the page we watched as their family grew, on first photo was at a wedding then a formal picture of the two married. Each birth was documented after that, and later more formal photos of the whole family in different locations. The final picture was another wedding shot, a younger couple, standing tall together, glowing from the inside out with pride and happiness.
We leaned in closer to absorb the last of the fine details that were spared by time. Confusion struck me like a lightening bolt between the eyes and I looked at Richard, who looked as confused as I felt.
“Richard, she looks exactly like your mom.”
He pulled the album from my hands and looked at it a moment before snapping it shut, standing, and stuffing it in the pocket of his jacket.
“We need to go.” He said briskly in a tone that I had never heard from him.
“But aren’t you curious?”
He thrust his hand out to me and shook it, urging me to take it.
“Yea, of course, but we have to go. Come on!” He almost yelled, and suddenly I understood, he was scared.
He was scared of the house, the bedroom, the family, the album, and the picture of the young couple that may or may not have been his ancestors, but mostly he was afraid of the stories we had been making up. What if one of them was true?
The wheels were turning in his head and the longer I didn’t take his hand and leave with him, the more worried and frightened he became. So I placed my hand in his and allowed him to pull me to my feet.
“Alright, let’s get out of here.”
We walked out of the bedroom, down the stairs, and out of the house. As we left, I turned around and couldn’t help but feel that I was leaving some place that was truly important.