I didn’t know what to expect when I said I wanted to come back here, but it wasn’t this. The house is black and burnt is most places but it’s still standing, and that’s all I need. At least the fires didn’t destroy everything.
I said that I’d catch up to Reg, Chase, and Mace in a few minutes after I checked on my house first. I’m sure Reg knew I meant my dad’s house and not the apartment I’ve been living in for three years now, because he wanted to come with me. I had to assure that I’d be fine, and he needed to go check on his own family’s home.
The whole town is burnt and some places are charred. The door of my dad’s house creaks, just as it always did. I haven’t been here in at least three years, whenever I got enough money to start paying for my own apartment.
Memories hit me like a tidal wave when I step into the living room. This house used to be loud and full of music. I’ve never hated silence so much.
Mama played the piano, and she was amazing. She taught me and Amelia, my little sister, to play, but neither of us were nearly as good. Mama and Dad would dance around the living room with each other, laughing, as Amelia and I banged randomly on the keys. Mama called our music masterpieces, and they were different each time. Amelia played the flute and I learned violin, and we were going to be world famous musicians.
I miss those days.
Dad taught me how to dance. He taught Amelia too, but she mostly stood on his feet and they twirled around. We would all sing and laugh, an overall musical family.
Those days were gone when Mama and Amelia were diagnosed with the same virus that took both their lives. The piano has been covered in a black cloth, and no music has been heard from this house since. Dad became depressed and threw himself into his work. Any attempts I made to make him smile again didn’t work, and I gave up.
That’s how I met Reggie Darnell.
I started spending more time around town and reading books. One of my favorite spots was a tree stump on one of the river banks on the far side of town. It was Reg’s favorite place to skip rocks and get away from all his little siblings. We became fast friends at age fourteen and bonded over wanting to get away from home. He told me he was going to join the army just like his dad, who’d died two years prior.
I was invited to his house for dinner one night about a year after that. I knew Franky, because he had come to the river some days and we talked about different books. I had met the three younger kids once, but I didn’t really know any of them. It was bound to be an interesting night.
“Ooh look it’s Reg’s girlfriend.” An nine year old Mace teased as soon as we walked in the door. Reg had met me in the square so we could walk there together. Mace made Ave, who was sitting beside Franky, start giggling.
“Knock it off Mace, we’re just friends.” He told her as we both blushed a little.
“Yay, Reg’s home. Now we can play the game.” Chase said.
“Not at all a good idea.” Franky said.
“Yeah, we need someone to help us, but Franky won’t. And Mom said we can’t do it.” Mace explained.
“That means you can’t do it.” Reg told them.
“Oh come on! It’s just you throwing us onto the mattress.” Mace huffed.
“You know what? I changed my mind. Ready?” He didn’t wait for a response as he lifted Mace up by her armpits and threw her onto the mattress in the far corner of the room. The little girl dissolved into a fit of laughter.
“Is Reg home?” Elina called out from the kitchen.
“Yeah, Mom, I’m back.” Reg took me into the kitchen to meet his mother. She’s the sweetest woman ever, and always insisted I call her Elina. I felt so bad that night because I knew the Darnell family barely had enough food to feed themselves, and Elina had invited me over out of the kindness of her heart. I miss her.
“Anna?” A voice calls out. It snaps me out of my flashback, and now I’m sitting on the old couch, weeping. It’s Reg. I wonder how long I’ve been here like this. “Anna? Where are you at?”
“I’m in here.” Is all I can manage to say. This place feels haunted, and I knew that when I decided to come, but I wasn’t prepared for my mother and sister’s ghosts to be here.
Reg sits down next to me, and puts his arm around me. I lean into him, “Where’s Mace and Chase?”
“They wanted to check some other houses, see if anyone didn’t make it out.” He says softly. “Why’d you come back here?”
“I wanted to see if there’s any salvageable pictures or something.”
“Did you find any?”
“I barely made it in the front door.” I say miserably.
“Do you want me to help you look?” I nod weakly.
We don’t look around downstairs too long before heading upstairs.
“Sing me something.” I mutter.
“I miss the noise. The wonderful music that used to be here.”
“Did you dance?” He asks, spinning me around. I smile a little.
“Used to. With my dad.”
“I think Ave and Mace were dancing one night, and Mom came in to show them how it’s done. Then all of us got roped into it, but Mace and Chase were just trying to see how dizzy they could make themselves.”
“So you learned to dance from your mom?”
“Why, yes. I did.” He puts his hands on my hips, and I put mine on my shoulders. “The trick is to talk to them, so they don’t realize that you can’t dance.”
I laugh, before pulling away, keeping one of his hands in mine. In my old bedroom, I find a necklace on the dresser.
“What’s that?” Reg asks curiously.
“I have no clue.” I pick it up, and see the clasp. It’s a locket.
And inside there’s a picture of Mama and Dad, and another of Amelia. Tears fall down my face. I haven’t seen her face in so long, and she looks more beautiful than ever. I’m referring to my sister, but the same could be said of my mother. Something made Amelia laugh while they took this of her, because she only looked like this when she thinks something’s funny.
“I love this.” I pull it over my head. “How do I look?”
“Amazing.” Reg smiles. “You look gorgeous when you smile.” I blush.
“We can go. This is all I need.”
I nod. Now a piece of the music will always be with me.
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