The house at 213 Myrtle Street wore an enchantment that could obscure it when it so desired. This was a handy skill, particularly when salesmen roved the streets or teenagers skulked about after dark, eggs in hand.
Now there was a realtor at the gate. The smell of dozens of strange, foreign houses clung to her clothes.
The house ached in its abandonment. Mrs. Leech was gone. A stranger had to lock the door behind Mrs. Leech when she last left the house, still asleep as she was rolled along on a strange wheeled bed. They shared a comfortable existence together, woman and house. Mrs. Leech had been a mere slip of a girl when her family moved into 213 Myrtle, the place still ripe with fresh paint and cut lumber. Her parents left, then her husband, but Mrs. Leech stayed. Her bones creaked along with the settling of the pipes at night.
The house did not want a new owner. It did not like the thought of condemnation and rot, either.
Mrs. Leech just needed to come home. The porch needed sweeping.
Therefore, when the realtor arrived, 213 Myrtle Street hid. The woman strode up the front walkway, heels clicking a powerful rhythm, and she stopped.
“House, you’re not going to play this game, are you?”
The house was indignant that this person saw through its glamour so quickly. Certainly it wasn’t losing its skill? 213 Myrtle waited. The woman waited, too. The soles of her right shoe went tap-tap-tap. Finally, grudgingly, 213 Myrtle acquiesced. Its powder blue wood-paneled exterior emerged. The front steps creaked as the realtor hopped up to the porch.
“You old houses can be so temperamental,” she said, fondness in her voice. “Enchantments like that add to your value, you know. Goodness knows, I wish my condo could hide, but no one would believe the illusion.”
The house was quiet. It’s not as if it could speak or answer, not as a person would, but it was quite adept at conversation. Mrs. Leech would chat with the house for hours.
“Now,” said the woman. “I have to look you over to prepare you for sale. All the money’s going to go towards the Children’s Club.”
Mrs. Leech had taught for fifty years and mentored well beyond that. 213 Myrtle Street was accustomed to being an after school destination. As a rule, the house did not like children, especially young ones who scribbled on walls, but Mrs. Leech had always made sure her charges treated the household with proper respect. The house had to admit it enjoyed the extra wear of feet on its veneered floor and the buoyant laughter that floated to the rafters.
The woman placed the key in the lock, the same familiar key the house had known for years and years. The house clenched the door frame.
“Now, house,” she said. “Please.”
There was something comfortably soothing about her voice and manners, but the house hesitated. This was a realtor. The house did not intend to be sold.
213 Myrtle could burn down. It would be very easy. The old wires itched in the hollow spaces between walls. Yet the house hesitated. Was that really what it wanted, the complete death of its timber and memories? Was that truly preferable to new residents or — Wright forbid — renters?
Mrs. Leech would come back. She would need a place to sleep. The house couldn’t burn.
The woman rested a hand against the doorframe. A memory trickled through the layers of paint and aged wood. It understood: this was a good hand.
213 Myrtle Street relaxed. The door unstuck.
The realtor’s footsteps echoed. 213 Myrtle Street felt the reverberations. It had been an awful day last week when all of the furniture had been moved out. The house had tried to hide then, too, but movers were all too familiar with the wily ways of old and enchanted houses.
Where would Mrs. Leech sleep? Where would she sit?
“My goodness. So empty.” The woman shook her head, then pulled out her phone to begin jotting down notes. The house heard her whispers. “Bay window with bench seat. Kitchen with 1950s appliances, in perfect repair…”
She walked onward, a scent of jasmine trailing in her wake. It reminded the house of the scent Mrs. Leech used to wear, so long ago, when Mr. Leech lived there as well. He would come to the door in that khaki uniform. The happiness of Mrs. Leech’s rapid footsteps used to make the household quiver in anticipation.
Sadness ached in its support beams. The electrical wires pulsed.
The realtor laid a hand against the wainscoting in the dining room. The body warmth soothed the glossy paint all the way to the primer.
“I have so many good memories in this room,” said the realtor. “We’d all gather around the table. Mrs. Leech always had cookies, and we would sit there, do homework, crafts.”
The floorboards creaked. The woman’s weight was different, the shoes new, but the house suddenly understood. Knew this as a child, grown.
“Mrs. Leech loved this place. Before she passed on, she made me promise to find good, new owners for you. People who would love you as much as she did. You can have a family live here again.” She patted the paneled wall.
213 Myrtle Street felt the touch all the way to its disused pipes. This girl’s fingers had dragged along the walls, so many years before. This realtor was not such a bad person. The house wouldn’t hide from her, or the guests she brought. And having a family here was a good thing. They could bring new furniture, new footsteps. Besides, Mrs. Leech would love the company when she returned.
213 Myrtle Street nestled against its concrete foundation and waited.
Beth Cato is an active member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. She’s originally from Hanford, California, but now resides in Buckeye, Arizona, with her husband and son. Despite how often her husband’s co-workers beg, she will not quit writing to bake cookies all day long. Information regarding current projects can always be found at bethcato.com. Sometimes those projects do include cookies.
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