Eventually, the cab pulled up a long gravel driveway, flanked on either side by steep, rough rocks patched with dried lichen; the house huddled in the untidy shrubs at the end of the drive was lilac with pale green shutters, and had a rounded, red door. The paint on the house was peeling off, and flakes of the paint littered the ground like discarded confetti. The windows, which were placed awkwardly high on the house, were caked in dirt and cracked, and just behind the glass, layers of newspapers had been taped on the inside frames. A stone pathway led to the front door, then branched off and disappeared alongside the house, leading to the beach.
I took my time paying the driver and collecting my belongings, then made my way up to that red door. Slowly, I reached my hand out to grab the door handle, but stopped myself before touching it. Apprehension had suddenly settled in my stomach.
“Shit,” I muttered, bringing my hand back and running it through my hair instead. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, urging my stomach to settle down. Sudden warmth blanketed my shoulders, as if someone had placed their hands there.
“Not feeling well again, sweetie?” It was a woman’s voice, smooth and clear sounding, like water spilling over rounded stones.
My eyes still closed, I nodded.
“My poor little sea lion,” the woman soothed. “How about I sing you a song? A magic spell for when you’re feeling unwell?” the woman asked gently, but her voice had trailed off, disappeared with a small, shivery echo, taking the warmth on my shoulders with it.
I opened my eyes, and it was just me, standing in front of the door alone, standing in front of the house with the peeling paint.