Not In This House
Melissa R. Mendelson
The hallway pulled back, almost as if it were denying her entrance. Shadows dared to swallow up her feet, if they moved inside. The sun graced across her shoulders but slipped away before reaching the door, and no sound was heard in the house. Not one breath, but her parents were in there, waiting for her.
I didn’t want to come back.
Jesse stepped into the house, and the shadows closed in. But she cut them short by closing the door, and the darkness surrounded her. It was almost laughing as if the house were saying that she would never leave again.
Her parents sat in the family room, in the dark, almost hidden from sight. Their bodies folded into the furniture, their skin worn and pale as if denied sunlight, and their eyes shifted from one another toward her, piercing her with an ugly, sharp stare.
These were not the people that she had left behind.
As they rose from their seats, their bodies creaked and cracked, reminding her of the sound wood makes as it burns. Their bodies were so thin, her mother’s hands like twigs as they reached for her. But she stepped back.
“Welcome home,” her father gasped.
“Your room is just as you left it.” Her mother’s voice was the same, always carrying that judgmental tone. “You can come and go as you please. You are an adult.” She moved away but then stopped. “We have one rule, one rule that can’t be broken. Not in this house.”
“What,” Jesse asked.
“Don’t change anything,” her mother replied.
“Nothing,” her father gasped.
“Okay, I’m not going to change anything, but why?” Her parents moved away from her. “Where are you two going?”
“The backyard.” Her mother sounded annoyed. Maybe, she didn’t want Jesse coming back home, and maybe she shouldn’t have. “We’re going to enjoy the sun out there and do some gardening.”
Jesse laughed, and her parents looked at her. “Okay. I’ll unpack,” but then she remembered that she didn’t bring anything with her. She left everything at his place, and she wasn’t going back there.
“You do that.” Her father walked away.
“Not one thing.” Her mother lingered long enough to say that before following him.
What the hell happened to her parents?
When she left years ago, they were more alive, but they were angry, angry with her for the things that she did, things that she could not even explain. She kept in touch with them in the beginning, but then she didn’t.
She still stood in the hallway between the family room and living room. Her parents had exited out the living room into the backyard. The kitchen was to the right, and the stairs behind her led up to the bedrooms. And that’s when she felt it, a sharp, penetrating stare coming from the family room, and she walked past the chairs that her parents had sat in over to the window.
Almost covered in shadow was a statue of a half-naked woman holding a jug in her hands.
The statue met her gaze. “Jesus.” She jumped back, half expecting it to attack her, but it only smiled.
Instead of going upstairs to her room like she said, she hurried into the living room. She looked out into the backyard, watching her mother garden, but her father just stood where he was with his eyes closed, soaking in the sun. It was chilling to watch, and she could feel the heat from the sun despite being inside. It was almost eighty degrees out there, which was strange for December.
She returned to the family room, telling herself that it must have been her imagination playing tricks on her. When she approached the statue, it didn’t meet her gaze, almost like it was deliberately looking away from her, and she should have left it alone. But she removed it from its pedestal. It felt like she was holding death in her hands, and she placed the statue back on the pedestal. But the surface was slippery, and the statue slipped and fell to the floor.
A scream filled the room, but not from her. It wasn’t from the statue either, who was still smiling. No, the scream was more like a freight train rushing through the room, and the temperature dropped. The room grew darker, and she looked out the window to see gray skies. And snow was falling, covering the ground.
She hurried into the living room, finding the door to the backyard still left open with an artic breeze whipping around her, and snow was coming into the room. When she looked outside toward where her father had stood, a small mound was seen instead, a wedding ring rested on top of it.
“Dad!” She hurried outside and slipped on the snow, falling to the ground.
“Told you not to change anything.” Her mother’s teeth rattled as she hunched down toward the ground. “But you broke something. You broke us when you left.” Her body froze in place and then shattered into dust and bone, and snow quickly covered it up as if to hide that she was ever there.
“Mom, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” She quickly moved to her feet and hurried back into the house. “Don’t worry, Mom, Dad. I’m going to fix it, I promise.”
Walking into the family room, she picked up the statue. The jug was shattered, and the hands were broken off. The rest of it was still intact, and she carried it into the kitchen, finding glue in one of the drawers. All she had to do was glue the hands back on, she didn’t need the jug, and one hand fit back into place perfectly. The snow stopped falling outside, but when she tried to fix the other hand, it crumbled in her grasp.
“It has to be enough.” She hurried outside to see her father dusting himself off, but her mother was not there. Only the small mound covering her dust and bone remained. “Mom?” Her father walked past her. “Dad?”
“You should have listened to your mother.” His voice more solid now. “But it’s too late. You should never have come back home.”
“I’m sorry.” She flinched when she moved her right hand. Did she cut it when she fell or slice it open with the broken pieces of the statue? She glanced down and saw that her hands were tattooed with the same markings as the jug before it shattered.
Part of her right hand was gone like it was never there, and somewhere inside the house, the statute was still smiling.