Friendship Sad

“Welcome to the Eaton Estate,” Kaya said as her heels clicked on the marble of the entryway. “This mansion is the foundation of our town, and home to the founding family who helped to make us into what we are: an evolving community. It’s been a site of intrigue for generations, hosting the annual Halloween festival, but is it really haunted? The family invites you to explore its history and consider the future of this historic home as the foundation of our community.”

She spun around the large center room at the base of a wide staircase, staring at dust motes and spiderwebs creeping across the crystal chandelier in the late afternoon sunlight.

Kaya dropped her arms and leaned against the creaky banister. How was she supposed to do this? A mid-life career change into real estate seemed like a good idea a few years ago, but now her first big chance at selling a multi-million dollar property was a place where she spent most of her childhood and some of her early adulthood years. She had been best friends with Emma Easton all through school and into their early twenties before they drifted apart with work, relationships, and family. Kaya never imagined when she last saw Emma at Mr. Eaton’s funeral a year ago that she’d be selling the place once the probate cleared. Now she had to lay aside her memories and consider selling points.

Somebody had nailed a spray-painted sign over the “For Sale” yard posting that said “Probably Haunted.” She thought about pulling it down before deciding to walk into the place to see if the graffiti was something she could use. Mr. Eaton did host lavish Halloween parties during her formative years. She remembered the fun atmosphere and adventures that she had with Emma and her twin brother, Eli, both in the mansion and the surrounding woods. Fall was their favorite time.

The mansion did look mysterious with the surrounding woods. The nearly 200-year-old home had a long history, but not a gruesome one. Despite appearances and local legends, it was the most ordinary, boring place she had ever known. People lived there. Old generations passed it on to younger ones, until now. Eli and Emma had built a thriving tech company, and their mother decided to downsize after his passing. “It’s time to accept change, and move into the future,” she said at the initial walkthrough a couple of weeks ago.

Kaya walked into the den and through to the kitchen. It has been renovated to include an island and bar area. How many hours had she spent in here, eating popsicles after swimming in the pool, popcorn at sleepovers, pizza after high school football games, sharing a bottle of wine while lamenting the trials and tribulations of adulthood transitions and relationships in college and their early twenties? She could practically smell the cooking and hear the laughter (or tears) resonating in the air. Did Eli and Emma do that after everybody left the day of their father’s funeral?

Kaya jumped as she heard a thump. She looked around, then sank on a bar stool and took a deep breath. It’s an old house, and the weather is cooling. Of course, boards creak. I’ve heard it countless times. It’s just been a while.

How did she and Emma drift? It just happened. Emma married and had a baby. Then Kaya married, then divorced, then changed careers. Life took them apart over the past twenty years. Maybe she should have tried harder. She had hoped they could reconnect after Mr. Eaton passed but somehow failed to follow through with that intention.

Another noise. This time, it sounded like footsteps. Kaya stood. “Hello? Is anybody here?”


Kaya sighed. So much for her plan to do a dry run for the open house on Sunday. Suddenly, the script she prepared seemed inadequate. She might as well leave and try to come up with something at home. It was nearly six o’clock on a Friday, and she didn’t have any other showings.

A thump made Kaya jump. She spun around. She was not alone in this house.

“Is somebody there? I’m calling the police!”

“Don’t,” a voice said. A small woman walked out of the mud room in the back of the kitchen. “I belong here, at least for now. I knocked over a broom.”

Kaya stared at the woman. “Emma?”

“Hi, Kaya.”

Kaya rushed across the room and hugged her friend. “I didn’t know you were here! I didn’t see your car out front.”

“I took a ride share. I didn’t want anybody to see my car here.” Emma stared around the empty kitchen. “I wanted to see the place one last time.”

Kaya frowned. “I’m sorry. I know this is hard. Why –“

“Why is Mom selling?” Emma sighed. “The family is too small, and this is too much. We can’t do this anymore. The tech business has us financially sound, but we couldn’t keep up Dad’s business and this place too.” She swallowed. “The attorney doing the probate recommended liquidating and downsizing. So she did.”

“You and Eli didn’t agree?”

Emma looked down. “Mom is getting older and is alone now. What is she going to do with all of this? Eli and I can’t do it. Eli isn’t married, but his hands are full with the business, and I help all I can, but Jessie is graduating high school next year, and then we have to plan for college and whatever comes next. It’s not practical.”

Kaya shook her head. “I can’t believe your son is graduating in the spring! It seems like he was born just yesterday.”

Emma swiped a tear. “Time flies, doesn’t it? But he’s the only grandchild, and he isn’t interested in this. He wants to forge his own future, and who am I to deny that?”

“That’s a healthy perspective, but breaking the family line isn’t what you want, is it?”

“Who wants a dream to die?” Emma looked at Kaya, tears brimming in her eyes. “My childhood is history. Dad is gone, Mom has moved, and this place will be gone soon. There’s nothing left. It’s too much.” She sniffed and swiped her eye with the sleeve of her shirt. “I just wanted to see it one last time and say goodbye.”

Kaya hugged Emma. “I’m sorry. Would you rather somebody else handle the sale?”

“No,” Emma mumbled against Kaya’s shoulder. She pushed back, holding Kaya’s shoulders and staring her in the eye. “If this has to be done, then I can’t think of somebody I’d rather have do it. I trust you, and know you’ll find the right person for this place.” She looked around the fading light of the room. “And the right path for it’s future.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“That’s all we want,” Emma smoothed down her shirt and wiped her face with her hand again. “I guess I better go. You have work to do.”

“Actually, I was hoping you could help with that,” Kaya said. “It’s late, and I don’t have any appointments tonight. Why don’t we go out to dinner, and you can tell me some stories about your family and this home? It might help me to find the right person for the place Sunday afternoon.” She gestured around the area. “Nothing connects people with a place like stories that they can build on for the future.”

Emma smiled. “I’d like that.”

Kaya put her arm around her friend and walked her out of the front door as the yard light flickered on in the descending twilight.  

September 27, 2023 11:48

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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