Spring, 1920. Christina Robinson is looking back on her life so she can begin to face her future.
Spring is a time of rebirth, regeneration. A time of new beginnings. But to begin again, you have to let go.
The house looks different to when I saw it last. I want this to be the last time I come here. I have to leave it behind me. Not forget. Never forget. But accept, and move on. It should be easy. But right now it seems to be the hardest thing on earth.
My hand rests lightly on the gate, the white paint so old it is barely visible. Should I go in? I love it just as much now as I ever did. More, perhaps. It has so many memories associated with it.
I push gently. The gate offers only a token of resistance before opening with a low groan. The garden is overgrown and tangled with weeds. Grass pokes up between the flagstones leading to the front door. Brambles curve like snakes. A few resilient wildflowers stand among the weeds, slender stems bobbing in the slight breeze. They offer an abundance of illegitimate colour - dusty pink here, a patch of blue there. A butterfly sits peacefully, bright wings open to absorb the sun. I could look for ever, but my eyes drag themselves back to the house that I know so well.
The bricks are still a faded red colour, the colour of that lipstick my mother was so fond of. The ivy I remember so well still winds its way over the walls, although by now it has taken over, climbing up onto the roof and through the broken glass of the windows. The rooftiles, now broken and chipped, were once orange, I remember. You can still see the remains of two of the gabled windows that poked sleepily out, but the third - the centre one, right over the front door - has vanished inwards, erased by time. The roof of the house collapsed sometime last year; it looks sad and dignified, all at once.
The porch over the front door was looking rickety the last time I came here; now it is barely standing. I remember sitting on the step below and watching Tilney paint the porch, the smell of the paint thick in my nostrils and mouth, making me cough.
The front door, once green, hangs off its hinges. I wonder if it still creaks like it used to. The brass knocker is so rusted it won’t move - it was like that last time, as well, so I don’t try it again. Inside, it doesn’t smell like it used to. The first time, it was the smell of home. The second time, it was the smell of happiness. Now it just smells of nostalgia.
The stairs have all rotted away and broken in. It would be dangerous to attempt going upstairs now, but it was the same the last time I was here. The floorboards are rickety, so I try to spread my weight and not step too heavily. The library is empty, taken over by mice and other small creatures. Instead I turn right, and enter the drawing room.
The glass in the bay window is mostly gone, the jagged edges glinting in the small amount of sunlight that manages to filter through the ivy that climbs up the front of the house. The walls are damp, and light from a hole in the ceiling reflects floating dust particles like fireflies. The mattress is still on the floor, right where we left it, a faded and holed blanket flung over it. A few cigarette ends still lie scattered around. An empty wine bottle has rolled into the corner, the label peeling off.
The piano still stands. I half expected it to be gone, after all this time. The stool must have given in to rot years ago, so I daren’t sit on it. The lid of the piano has cracked inwards, and a few of the ivory keys are out of place, but…
Tentatively, I try middle C. I’m rewarded with a little cough of dust - the piano clearing its throat. I try again, and this time I hear an answering note, weakly, but definitely there. It is so out of tune it sounds more like a G, but that always added to its charm.
A sob catches in my throat. What am I doing here? There is nothing for me here, not any more. I take a deep breath. Turn. Leave.
At the gate, I pause to take one more look at the house. There is something beautiful about it, almost as if it has been captured in time, despite its dilapidated appearance. Things change, but this house is immortalised in my memory.
The old sign beside the gate is broken, lying on the ground, too dirty to read. But I know that is declares ‘Fairview House’.
I crouch by the gate, tracing my fingers over the top spar. Flakes of the old white paint remains in the thin grooves we made. It feels somehow right that they are still there.
I turn and leave. I don’t expect to return.
It was called Fairview House, but I will always think of it as the House of Make Believe.