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“This is it,” Sylvia whispers into the empty living room. She bites down on her index finger to halt the tears she knows will come.
Her realtor, Joseph Wiseman, is indeed that: a wise man for knowing exactly what she’d been looking for. 1,500 square feet, two or three bedrooms, central air, and some land. Not too much acreage—just enough to dig a garden and play with her five-year-old daughter, Grace.
“Coming, Sylvia?” Joseph asks, reopening the door to the backyard. Then, he pokes his head inside and says, “I think you’re going to love this view of the Catskills.”
Sylvia inhales deeply and follows him, practically floating. Grace had wandered off somewhere while exploring the house.
“We’ll be right back, Gracie,” Sylvia calls out, voice echoing.
“Okay,” Grace replies.
Sylvia steps outside and takes in the mountains, the meadow past her future property line, and the cloudless blue sky.
“What’d I tell you?” Joseph says with a confident smirk.
“It’s. . . breathtaking.”
“It sure is.” He pauses. “Take your time. If you need anything, I’ll be out front by my car.”
“Great—thank you. I’ll only be a minute or two.”
Sylvia walks to the edge of the property line and spots a fruit-bearing tree near it. A peach tree? Yes, it is—she smells them and notices plenty on the ground that have already fallen. She envisions herself planting lines of them, pruning the branches, harvesting the sweet, fuzzy fruits. . . baking pies. Cobblers.
She turns around and walks briskly toward the backdoor. The orchard dream swirls in her mind.
Forget cherries, she thinks. Throw a peach on top of this sweetest of deals.
Sylvia’s in the house again, wandering from room to room—cheeks aching from smiling. She looks into the future and sees herself at closing, signing document after document, blindly, madly, not really knowing what the hell she’s in fact signing. But it doesn’t matter because this house will be hers, and it will be a fresh start away from the city.
A fresh start for her little girl.
“There you are,” she says, finally spotting Grace. She’s out front on the screened-in porch. Oddly enough, there’s a lone wooden rocking chair sitting next to a small, oval-shaped glass table. The previous owner must have left these pieces of furniture behind for some reason.
“Hi,” Grace says. She steps shyly away from the chair and table.
“Everything okay?” Sylvia asks.
“Yeah, it’s fine, Mommy,” Grace says, dropping her voice to a near-whisper. “She just doesn’t want to scare you.”
Sylvia’s smile vanishes—her short-lived dream, too. “Who?” When her daughter doesn’t respond, she adds, “What are you talking about?”
“The old lady. She says she doesn’t want to scare you.”
“What old lady?” There’s a sharpness to Sylvia’s voice now. An edge. The hair on her arms stands on end.
“In the chair. She’s working on a blanket or something, but she says we aren’t bothering her.”
“You’re scaring me, Gracie. No one’s there.”
Before either of them speaks another word, the chair rocks back; the glass table slides sideways.
Sylvia screams, grabs her daughter by the hand, and rushes out the door, letting it slam behind her as the two catapult themselves down the steps.
Joseph ends his call and pockets his phone. “What’s the matter?” he asks wide-eyed as Sylvia sprints past, half-dragging Grace. She flings her daughter into the car, straps her in, and then drives away without another word. Her Prius kicks up gravel and dust as she swerves onto the road and accelerates.
“What the hell. . .” Joseph says, watching the sure deal speed off until she’s out of sight. “Was it something I said?”
Behind him, on the screened-in porch, the lone chair rocks ever so slightly: back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. . .
I hope “House Hunting” did the trick for you today. Thanks so much for reading it and for being here at Along the Hudson.
And thank you to those who stopped by the “fire” this past weekend. There were so many incredible fifty-word stories, poems, and works of CNF. If you missed it, and want to read some Fifties by the Fire, please click here.
I hope you all have a wonderful week.
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