Sophie had watched dozens of tenants come and go over the years. All of them enjoyed the warmth of her fires, the tidy premise she kept, and especially the absence of critters and bugs on the interior of her little cottage. Well, to be fair, she did let them in from time to time when it was cold or raining out, but they were always kept well away and out of sight of anyone there; and they were never allowed in the pantry. That was one rule Sophie was actually strict about. Though she would ignore the occasional crumb of the floor, just for the mice or cockroaches. Really, these “pests” had become her only true friends as of late. Despite their fondness for her, the tenants never stayed long. No one appreciated a magic house these days. It was awfully disappointing.
The last resident had been a lovely young woman and her husband. Well, young by comparison… Sophie herself had outlived most things. She’d seen that young woman born in one of her upstairs bedrooms, in fact. She returned after her wedding day, her husband having purchased Sophie’s property as a surprise wedding gift. The couple then raised their children and grew old together there. It had been lovely to care for such a family. The young woman remained after her husband passed and the children had grown and moved on – Sophie had considered her wonderful company. They were like two old hens that had settled into their own little routine – cleaning and reading, mostly, which they both enjoyed. Eventually, the children insisted the young woman come to live with them in the city. They’d rented Sophie out after that, until someone forgot about her.
There is a great difference between being a house and being home. Houses do not care for the people who live within them, for instance. They only care about themselves: fresh paint for their walls, patching holes in their plaster, regular sweeping, central heating and air. Many had a sense of entitlement – thinking that the people who resided within their walls were meant to care for them, yet they were not keen to return the favor except in the most basic of senses. Many modern constructions were like this. However, Sophie thought, she’d probably be of a similar disposition if she’d been crafted the same as them. So many houses these days were practically identical! Given no personality whatsoever.
The man who’d crafted Sophie had given her plenty of personality – beams that weren’t crafted perfectly straight, granite kitchen counters that came from the same earth as the trees that had become her floors and cabinets, and brass knobs and handles that had come off an old castle. Her front stoop was cobbled together from stones that had come all the way from two counties over, then he’d fixed her front door with glass shipped across entire countries in butter so that it would not break. Yes, she had more personality in her cornerstone than most houses had in their entirety.
A proper home, as Sophie considered herself, knew how to care for its caretakers: keep the sound out when they needed quiet but let it through when needed, remain cool in summer but provide warm comfort in winter and fall, guide breezes from one window to the next ever so gently, hold in just the right smells, etc. Simple tricks, really. Perhaps it came from the fact that she’d been handcrafted, but Sophie always considered herself a cut above the rest. This is why it hurt her so when she realized she’d been forgotten.
Feeling sorry for herself simply wasn’t her style, though. No way she was going to let herself sit around and fall to ruin. Collecting dust was for those houses – she was a home. After all, she had a an advantage most other homes didn’t: magic.
Starting with sun up each day, she’d sweep each room from top to bottom with the old sorghum broom that had been used as decoration in the kitchen. Then she’d wipe down all the surfaces in need of it, polish the silver, and clean the windows. Sometimes, in the afternoons, she’d bake a lovely pie made from the berries the squirrels would bring her from the garden and let it set in the window to cool. Passers-by enjoyed the smell and would take notice, often commenting ‘what a lovely little cottage – I’d never noticed!’ Though none would stop in. It had become such an impersonal world to live in.
On chilly evenings, Sophie would put a fire in her hearth and warm her old rafters. Winter mornings were a bit more difficult to get started, on account of her shivering pipes. Sometimes she felt a touch of envy for those modern homes with their central heat; but once the fire really got going, she knew there was nothing better. However, these fire-lit evenings became one of the reasons people started calling her a haunted house. The nearby townsfolk had caught on that no one was actually there, yet fresh pies would appear on the kitchen sills and fires would be blazing in the hearth in the evenings. Their accusations hurt Sophie’s feelings. Had they all forgotten about magic?
Haunted houses were always supposed to be dark, dusty and decrepit, with broken glass in their panes and paint flaking off. Sophie was lovely! She kept her dark wooden beams from fading in the sunlight and made sure the white paint of her plaster always looked quite fresh. The ivy climbing up her exterior was a lovely shade of green that perfectly complimented the thatch of her roof. Despite the damp weather, you’d be hard pressed to find a spec of mold growing anywhere on her, as well. Cobwebs did look fairly hauntish, she thought, but she only allowed those in the winter months – couldn’t let the poor things freeze to death! Haunted house, indeed…
Spring cleaning always made her feel better, though. It was her favorite time of the year! With the open windows, the fresh smell of garden flowers gave her new purpose. Dusting the cobwebs from her rafters and treating her wood-planked floors with a bit of white vinegar always made her feel as fresh as the spring rain (even though actual spring rain caused some swelling in her old joints and sometimes a door or two would stick – nothing she couldn’t handle, though). Yes, spring was a lovely time of year. And one year, after a decidedly rough winter, Sophie decided to make it even better for herself.
Clyde, the plump tabby cat that was her only consistent companion throughout these years, was snoozing in a warm patch of sun on the living room floor when she came up with the idea. She woke him gently by stretching a bit – her old oaken beams giving low groans, the floor boards creaking a bit, and a soft breezy sigh escaping through the open windows. The cat stretched himself as if to emulate her, opened its wide maw into a yawn, then pulled his paws in a criss-cross over his face and grumbled.
Whaaaaaaat…? He sleepily blinked his emerald eyes open as if it were the most impossible task in the world.
I’m thinking of moving, Sophie whispered on the wind. Her voice was always the most youthful in Spring.
Keeping with my commitments, I caught up on two other writers and discovered a third this morning!
The first was The Bookshelf of Emily J, which is one of my favorites. I always get lost in her pages, dreaming of all the things I should eventually read myself! The second was PritchettSarah’s Open Your Eyes. This writer has the commitment of taking time to truly observe what’s around her, and documents it in her blog. It has been a wonderful journey so far that has produced some beautiful pieces. I do highly recommend it.
The new writer I sought out today was Jacqui Murray – a published author – over at Word Dreams, which I’m still exploring! She offers writing tips, which drew me in, as well as book reviews and general thoughts.