Katie stepped out of her car and looked at the house. It stood out from the other modern sleek houses on the street with its retro structure and cozy vibes. It looked one of those classic homes you see in old movies with its wide porch and simple exterior. The blue and white paint on the walls was beginning to chip off and one of the posts on the porch looked it was ready to fall over. It had seen better days, but that was the least of Katie’s worries right now.
She started walking up to the house, the gravel and leaves making a satisfying crunch under her shoes. She glanced back at her car, making sure she locked it, before taking an old, slightly rusty, key out of her pocket and sliding it into the keyhole. Katie turned the key and shoved her shoulder against the door, remembering the hinges hadn’t been oiled in years.
Katie stepped inside, set down her purse, and looked around. The interior was cozy and inviting with comfy chairs littered around the rooms and the walls were covered with floral wallpaper. Katie smiled at it all. The house was hers now, thanks to her Grandma’s will. She had passed recently, leaving her lawyer to divvy up her will to the family. To Katie’s surprise, she got the house. She was aloud to whatever she wanted with it, under one condition: She had to see it and look around for a little bit before selling.
Katie wasn’t sure why her Granma put such strange rules on her will, but it made no difference. Katie planned to walk around, pick up the items that belonged to her other family members, and then get the house ready to sell.
Mary-Anne and her newly wedded husband, Robert, crashed through the door of their new house, Mary-Anne laughing as Robert almost dropped her on the tile floors.
He set her down and said, “Welcome to our new home, Mary.” He leaned down and kissed her.
She laughed again and smiled her biggest smile yet. They had just tied the knot a few hours before and she was still in her wedding dress. Her blue intense eyes looked around the small, cozy room, picturing where all the furniture would go when the movers arrived. “It’s beautiful” she said, hugging Robert.
“It is.” Robert hugged her back.
Katie made her way into the kitchen picking up the odd cup here and there. Her Granma tended to use a cup or mug and forget about it. Katie wasn’t sure how her dad had grown up here with out losing it. He was a giant neat freak and random scattered mugs would have annoyed him to bits.
Katie sighed and rolled her eyes at the thought. Her father was controlling and organized, making the perfect company CEO, but a crappy dad. He was always trying to live her life and make her the perfect mini him. So, when she didn’t take over the company and became an airplane stunt pilot, he stopped talking to her all together. Katie hadn’t talked to him in years and saw him for the first time at the funeral. He didn’t acknowledge or even look her way, but it didn’t matter now. She had the house and she knew her dad was pissed about it.
“Shush, shush, shush.” Mary-Anne whispered to her new baby, Alexander.
Alexander kept on crying and screaming, no matter what Mary-Anne did. By the time Robert came home, she was next to tears from shear exhaustion and frustration. When he saw the state Mary-Anne was in, he rushed over and took baby Alexander from her arms.
“Has he stopped crying since this morning?” Robert asked, rocking the baby back and forth.
“Yes, but only for an hour or two before starting back up again. I tried everything from changing to feeding to going funny things to get him to laugh! He won’t stop.” Mary-Anne said. She felt a stray tear fall down her cheek against her wishes. She just wanted to sleep.
“Hey, look at me.” Robert grabbed her chin and turned her face towards him. “How about you go take a nap while I look after the baby?”
“But I haven’t finished making supper!”
“It’s fine. We’ll just eat out or something. There must be a microwave dinner somewhere.”
“Okay.” Mary-Anne nodded in a daze. “Okay.”
Robert smiled and nudged her toward the stairs. “Go on, get some rest. I’ll wake you up when dinner’s ready.”
Katie searched the living room, lifting couch cushions and glancing under tables, trying to find the remote control for the TV. She finally found it perched precariously on a lamp and sat down, turning on the television.
The TV was old and dusty, like everything else, but what stood out about it was the vintage movies in the DVR. Katie chooses her favourite from growing up, Mary Poppins. The story of a nanny that changes the lives of a wealthy family always made Katie feel happy. After hours of watching it when she was little, she new each line and every song like the back of her hand. Katie started singing along and mouthing the words right along side the characters.
She would’ve stayed and watched the whole movie if she didn’t have other thing to do. Katie sighed and turned off the TV. Now she had to go check the bedrooms.
Mary-Anne straightened the bow on her youngest daughter, Janie’s, head. When she finished, Mary-Anne turned her toward the golden framed mirror that her own mother had once helped her dress at.
“My, my, my, don’t you look like the prettiest princess ever?” Mary-Anne said with a smile. She smoothed the back of Janie’s head, waiting to see what her daughter thought.
“You really think so, Mama?” Janie turned back and forth, trying to see the floral dress from all sides.
“Of course, honey.” She picked up a necklace and tied the chain around Janie’s neck. “You’re first dance is going to be amazing. I remember my first dance. Johnny Essington, the cutest boy in my grade, asked me and when ended up sharing a kiss at the end of the night.”
Janie sighed. “I hope Bobby Van David kisses me.”
Mary-Anne raised an eyebrow. “You haven’t mentioned him before. Is that Susy’s son?”
Janie blushed. “Yeah.” She mumbled.
Mary-Anne smiled. Her little baby was growing up so fast. “I hope you get your wish, too, honey.” Mary-Anne kissed the top of her head. “Come on, you don’t want to be late for the dance!”
Her Granma’s room was the same as it always had been. The bed was right next to the window, letting a healthy dose of light steam in onto it. The curtains where old and colourful with embroidered flowers along the seams. In the corner stood a golden framed mirror. The glitter of the gold in the sun caught Katie’s eye, so she decided to investigate further.
The mirror was dusty and ancient looking, with little jewels littering the frame. Katie trailed her had along it, feeling the dust coat her fingers, and noticed words engraved on it.
She traced the curly letters as it spelled out: All who look upon the mirror shall see a princess smiling back.
Katie glaced at her reflection, trying to see if the inscription was right. Her skin was the colour of warm chocolate and her dark frizzy hair fell in short curls. Her intense blue eyes where sharp contrast to her dark complexion and she had heard both praise and criticism for it. She turned and tugged at her cloths. She was quite beautiful when she wanted to be, but not princess worthy. It was a sweet saying, though it wasn’t true.
“Mom! Stop moving stuff! I can pack up myself.” Alexander acclaimed as he grabbed the cloths Mary-Anne was beginning to pack out of her hand.
“I know, I know. I’m just trying to help.” Mary-Anne said reaching for a pile of books. Alexander shooed her hand away.
“Mom, I got this. I’m eighteen for gosh sakes. I think I can pack up my room myself.” He turned his attention back to the posters he was taking down.
“I know, honey. I always forget that you’re a grown man now. You don’t need you mama’s help.” Mary-Anne patted his cheek.
Janie poked her head into the room. “What’s this I hear about little Alex being a man?” She asked.
“Shut up, Janie.” Alexander snapped.
Janie stuck out her togue at him.
“Be nice to your sister, Alex. And Janie, don’t do that. It’s rude.” Mary-Anne scolded. Deep down, though, she was going to miss the silly fights they had. Now that Alexander was going off to collage and Janie was with her friends, the house was getting very lonely. Luckily, she still had Robert to fill some space, but it still wasn’t going to be the same once the kids moved out.
“Aw, come on, Mom. You know I was just kidding.” Janie whined. “I need to get as much teasing in as I can before he leaves. Other wise, I failed my job as being a little sister.”
Alexander flung a pillow at her head. “Don’t you have a boy to go gossip over or something?”
“Why you little-”
“Kids! That’s enough! Janie, go do your homework. Me and Alex need to finish packing up.” Janie looked ready to protest, but Mary-Anne crossed her arms and gave her the Don’t-mess-with-me-I-am-your-mother look. That made Janie re-think arguing and she dashed to her room before her mom started yelling at her.
“You’re still not helping me pack up.” Alexander said.
Mary-Anne sighed. “Okay, fine.” She walked out of the room. Maybe the kids leaving wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Katie strode into her father’s childhood room. It looked just like how she pictured the inside of his heart: almost fully bare and perfectly clean except for a thick layer of dust from lack of use. The room probably had more stuff in it once, but not much. One of her father’s main rules was anything that didn’t have any use was pointless to keep.
Katie looked through the drawers, trying to find something even slightly interesting from his childhood. Of course, there wasn’t anything. According to this room, her father lived like a sad boring adult, which didn’t surprise her. What did surprise her is how could he became who he was when he had her Granma and grandpa as parents. They where the nicest, most amazing people ever and yet their own son was the exact opposite.
Giving up on finding anything, Katie moved on to her aunt’s room. It looked like the dream room of a girl in the 70s. The walls were covered with posters and pictures of actors, artists, and fashion models from then and fluffy carpet littered the floor. The whole room screamed “TEENAGE GIRL” especially with the old diaries hidden in a drawer Katie found under the bed. Katie skimmed one of the journals before setting them in a pile, planning on giving them back to her aunt.
Katie started to get a migraine from all the bright pink, so she made her way downstairs. She was greeted with the sudden sharp pain in her shoulder as she crashed into a book self placed a little to close to the door. She rubbed her shoulder and cursed, trying to not include her dead Granma in it. Once the pain eased, she crouched down and picked up the books that fell.
Her heart stopped when her eyes fell on flowered covered book with “Family memories” on the cover. A photo album. When she was little, she would look through it all the time with her Granma and listen to her tell the stories that went with each photo. Katie picked up the album and brought it downstairs with her.
The sky was setting to a light purple as she went outside to the porch and sat down in the comfy rocking chair. Katie opened the album and started leafing through the photos. They where some of the house in the old days. One was of what looked like her father and grandparents when her dad was just born. Another a wedding photo of her Granma and Papa. Another of what look like her aunt in a frilly dress when she was about eleven and there was even one of her fathers packing up his room, probably getting ready for collage. They where mostly just photo of a life before Katie. She was about to close it when one of the photos made her freeze. Katie drop the album.
There, in the photo, was her Granma, sitting in the exact same chair she was, holding a baby with the same blue eyes as her. Under the photo was it said, 1992: Meeting my beautiful granddaughter, Katie, in her Granma’s curly handwriting. Katie felt a tear slip down her cheek as she picked the album back up again. She had tired to pretend that her grandma’s death didn’t hurt her too much when around her family, but it really killed her. Her grandma was always there, more than her dad ever was. She showed up to her flight school graduation and she was the one who always said she was proud of Katie.
Katie got so lost in the happy memories of her grandma she almost didn’t notice the note that had fallen out. She reached down and lost it when she saw it was addressed to her. She opened it and began reading the note, feeling more tears roll down with every word.
My Dearest Katie,
I knew you would look in here and find this letter. You where always such a smart girl.
I also know that if you’re reading this, it means I didn’t come home from the hospital. I hope where I am now it’s peaceful and Robert is with me. My days have been numbered for years, but I’m glad I stuck around long enough to see the wonderful, beautiful, intelligent women you’ve become.
You are probably wondering why I left you the house instead of your Aunt Janie or your father. The reason is that your aunt and father wouldn’t understand the meaning of this house. It may look old (and very dusty) to most, but to me it’s the place I started a family with the love of my life, watched my kids grow up and become the people they are today, and it’s full of so many other special memories. And it was also the place where I first met you.
I was sitting right on the very porch where I am writing this, in the same chair. Your father brought you over to me and set you in my arms. Your beautiful, intense, blue eyes (the same as mine) where full of laughter and curiosity and you gurgled with delight as a held you. It’s one of the happiest days of my life.
I know you would see all these things and how much it meant to me if you looked around. You would understand why I couldn’t give it all up, no matter how much you father tried to get me to sell it and move into a home. THIS is my home. You can’t just walk away from the place you created with your loved ones.
That’s why I gave it to you. You’ll know what to do with it without just thinking about the money or the land use.
I love you so much, Katie. I hope whatever you do with the house, you’ll do it with your heart.
P.S. The photo book is yours, too. Keep the memories alive.
Katie wiped her blue eyes, the ones just like her grandma, hoping to slow down the waterfall of tears, but failing. She missed her so much. She pressed the letter close to her chest and closed her eyes remembering every moment she had with her, from the beginning to end, preserving it all.
When she opened her eyes again, she felt more at peace than before. This letter had finally given her some closer. And answers to what to do with the house.