It had been over ten years since I had last set foot in that
house, since I had walked out and vowed never to return.
Home. It's funny really but there is something about the house of
your childhood, the house of your parents, that is forever 'home'
in your mind, no matter what other home you might go on to make
yourself the house that saw you take your first steps and heard
you say your first words would always be something special.
As I stepped over the threshold I felt icy cold fingers travel
slowly down my spine, eliciting a deep shiver that made me look
around nervously. Taking a deep breath I felt transported back in
time, the aromas of the house, of my youth, filling my senses.
The familiar wax that polished the wooden floors mingled with the
scent of the lilies that stood in a crystal vase on the deep
mahogany sideboard. Beneath the floral bouquet I could detect a
hint of freshly brewed coffee that was percolating in the
kitchen, hidden away at the back of the house.
Ten years ago I had believed nothing would make me return to that
house but then ten years ago her death had seemed something too
distant to imagine.
I didn't cry when I got the call about her death, the
overwhelming emotion had been mere emptiness, nothingness.
The woman who had given birth to me had died but I felt no great
sense of loss, no need to grieve. People kept telling me that it
would come, that the tears would fall when they were ready, but I
doubted it. There had been little love between mother and
daughter, no friendship, no connection, nothing but some vague
bonds of blood.
I had been told that things were different once, that the baby I
had been had once been held by a loving, doting mother but that
all changed when I was barely 18 months old.
I had been crying and fussing all evening, letting out screams so
shrill that they tore at the nerves and drove my mother to the
end of her patience. In an attempt to calm his restless child my
father had suggested the well known technique of putting me in
the car and going for a late night drive. The motion of the car
would be soothing he had insisted and, despite the lateness of
the hour, my mother had agreed.
No one ever discovered what happened that night, the baby that I
was had been far too young to bare witness to the accident, but
it had been the night my mother changed. The death of her husband
made her shut down, closing off her emotions when the grief
became too much and she never allowed herself to truly feel
She never said it in words but a million different looks and
actions told me every day. She blamed me. A small crying child
had caused the death of the man she loved and she never learned
to forgive. I'm not sure she ever even tried.
I didn't realise I had been standing in the hallway in my silent
contemplation till the voice broke my thoughts. Raising my head I
saw a familiar, but greatly aged, face.
Mrs Jenkins had been my mother's housekeeper since before I was
born, and for a while she had been the substitute mother that I
had craved, and, as I stood looking at the grey haired elderly
woman who still possessed the brightest blue eyes I had ever
seen, I realised I had never known her first name.
Mrs Jenkins had cared for me and played games with me when my
mother showed no interest and leaving her had been my only regret
when I finally packed up and left, but she had encouraged my
departure, she knew that I needed to find a life beyond the
stagnant walls of my childhood home.
"It's good to see you," I said, I could feel the smile on my lips
as she moved towards me. Her kind face was deeply lined and there
was a tiredness about her eyes that I did not recognise, but then
ten years is a long time in anyone's life. "I'm sorry I never
kept in touch."
"I never expected it," Mrs Jenkins replied, her smile mirroring
mine as we both relived the games of my youth.
I looked down as Mrs Jenkins held out her hand, shivering as I
saw the object lying on her outstretched palm.
A key. A single key, much like any other, albeit of a large and
old styled variety, yet I knew instinctively which door that key
I had only ever tried to open that door once in my life. I must
have been about five or six years old when I discovered there was
a room that my childish interest had not taken me into. My hand
had barely gripped the door handle when my mother's voice had
screamed at me with such anger that I cowered away, trying to
melt into the wall behind me to avoid the blow that struck me
hard against the side of the face, sending me reeling as I
collapsed in a pile of tears and terror.
"Don't you ever go near that room again," my mother had hissed,
her dark eyes glowing with such fury that I thought I could see
the devil inside them. And I never had. Instead I would run past
the forbidden room in fear that my lingering might be taken as an
attempt to gain access.
I didn't move as Mrs Jenkins held out the key to me, my eyes
traced its shape against her pale skin, the dark metal seeming to
glow eerily in contrast to the paper white of her palm.
"It's time," Mrs Jenkins said, her hand reaching out for mine and
gently pressing the key into it, her touch soft and gentle as she
curled my fingers around it. "This house is yours now, all of
My legs hardly seemed able to support me as I began to climb the
stairs, my body trembling as I touched my hand to my cheek, still
able to remember the only blow I had ever received from my
The key scratched against the lock and it took a few attempts
before it finally slid home, my hand shaking uncontrollably as
the key turned the lock with a heavy metallic groan before the
catch was released and the door swung slowly open.
The air inside the room smelt stale and dusty and the furniture
was grey and dull, hidden beneath years of neglect behind a
I don't know what I had always imagined lay inside that room but
when I finally saw the truth my breath caught in my throat, the
dry dusty air clawing at my lungs, making me cough and retch but
unable to tear my gaze from what I saw.