The tale of an old house and the occupants who never left
Adelaide put another stick of wood in the stove and closed the door, feeling every one of her 80 years. She filled the kettle and set it on the flat blacktop. Tomorrow, she would not have her evening cup of tea here.
They were coming to take her away.
To a home “friendlier to someone your age” they’d said.
But she didn’t want to live anywhere else.
She turned and ran her fingers over all the marks she’d made on the doorframe. The right side held the records and memories of Grayson’s growth spurts, years written beside each dash penciled in. The left side of the doorframe recorded a life interrupted.
Little Julia’s upward dash, halted so suddenly at the tender age of five.
Her beloved Bradford’s portrait hung in the hall, as it always had. She could still hear his voice, advising his young bride how to operate the woodstove. She had forgotten the damper so often, filling their house with smoke. He had never complained as he opened the windows. Eventually, she learned all the little tricks to cooking with the stove. Bradford used to tell their dinner-guests how proud he was of his wife — so far from what she’d known, and yet so talented in the kitchen and skilled with a needle. His praise and patience had been the foundation for a long and happy marriage.
He had told her again how proud he was when she gave him a son with the same vivid blue eyes and dark hair as his father. Bradford doted on the boy, happy to let him shadow his every step unless he was on a business trip. They built a treehouse together in the branches of the oak tree, then turned their attention to a nursery when it became obvious Adelaide was pregnant once more. Twelve-year-old Grayson never hesitated to help his father, whether they were trying to build a cradle or a hobby horse. Days after he turned thirteen, he became a big brother to a quiet, watchful dark-haired baby girl.
Adelaide could still hear their happy laughter as Julia had grown into an inquisitive child who liked to chase her brother through the rooms of their home. The shrieks of delight when they would play hide-and-go-seek on the rainy days they were forced to stay indoors. On very still nights, Adelaide was certain she could hear Julia chattering away to one of her dolls. Sometimes, she could make out the fading, final notes from Bradford’s violin as he would finish playing to the children at night.
As she slowly climbed the stairs, gnarled fingers gripping the oak handrail, she could hear raised voices, too, as Bradford and sixteen-year-old Grayson debated his future. Bradford trying to talk sense into their son as the young man pleaded to be allowed to fight for their country, to fight for freedom. But his father was unmoved and forbid his son to enlist. Adelaide could still hear the sharp and sudden slam of her son’s door as the argument came to an abrupt end.
He slipped away sometime in the night, like a thief stealing away a family’s happiness. Little Julia wept all day for her absent brother. Bradford had gone to town to see if he could find Grayson and interrupt his foolish death wish. But it was too late. Twenty-five young men had enlisted and shipped out on a bus, their idealistic son among them.
Adelaide stood at the top of the grand old staircase for a moment to catch her breath.
The house that had held such joy and promise echoed with the coughing fits that would rack Julia’s little body. No matter what the doctor tried, their little girl seemed to fade until she was as white as her bedclothes, except for the dark hollows under her eyes…
Part 2 coming tomorrow morning!