Photo Source: Flickr
They come and go. We had enjoyed months of peace since the last man passed away. No-one to wake us in the middle of the night; no-one to struggle through the house, tripping and leaving things in disarray. Really, we ought to have felt sorry for the man. It wasn't his fault he was elderly. It wasn't his fault he was ill. But we knew exactly where he was going. And we knew he'd be better off when he joined our side. We knew when he'd reach our side too.
He hadn't lived here long, but the house was never really his anyway. It never belonged to the family who lived here before him either, or the lady before them. They all seemed to think it did, but it didn't. And it definitely doesn't belong to the new stranger now. He only moved in two weeks ago, but we'll get to know him very quickly. We always do.
We watched the stranger arrange his furniture - quite differently to how the last man arranged his. The last man wouldn't like the stranger's tartan sofa; he liked leather because it washes easily. People came to the house to take away some of the stranger's furniture. They talked about not being able to fit it all in after the downsize. The stranger hasn't got any rugs to put over the threadbare rips in the carpet. The last man had patchwork rugs; they clashed with his floral curtains. We didn’t mind too much, although the house was at its nicest when we lived here.
We watch the way the stranger cleans the kitchen, gingerly wiping his cloth around the toaster and not cleaning underneath it. He thinks he can get away with it; he doesn't realise that we can see him. We watch each day as he comes home from work at the same time and makes a milky cup of tea. Two sugars. We notice that he leaves the milk on the side instead of putting it back in the fridge. Sometimes he even leaves it out overnight. Another bad habit.
But every evening we watch him sit in the same chair, alone for hours. We have never seen anyone climb the stairs so slowly. There used to be talking in the house, but now there is only silence. Each night, as he takes a photograph of her out from underneath his pillow, we are watching. He hid it there the first time he came to the house. He holds the photograph closely before he turns off the light. Sometimes he stares at it, as if he's willing it to be more than just a scrap of paper. Sometimes he cannot look at the photograph; he holds it face down and locks his fingers around it as if he means to never release it again. But when he can bring himself to look, we know he's looking at her. We know he's wishing she was here. But she's on our side now.
Charlotte McCormac, age 21, is currently completing her degree in English at Birmingham City University. She has previously been published by Fantasia Divinity magazine and The Curlew literary journal, as well as shortlisted by The London Reader and Writing Magazine. She also blogs on her handmade scrapbooks at www.thefairyscrapbooker.co.uk.