Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, situations, etc. are the property of their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended.
Beta'd by SunflowerFran.
Mistakes are my own.
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
The Uses of Sorrow
It was half past five when I finally found it – hidden behind the moss on an overgrown Oak tree. It was pure luck, too; that in that moment, the wind picked up, blowing the branches, and allowing the sun to break through, casting a glare off of an old, rusted mailbox.
Pulling off to the side of the road, I came to a bumpy stop to take a surveying glance around.
The ad had said secluded; secluded and quiet. And seeing as the closest neighbor was about three miles back, there was no reason not to believe that when the realtor had referred to the grounds as quaint, she hadn't actually meant condemned.
But still, looking at all this unexpected shrubbery, I had to wonder.
Breathing in another good lung-full of fresh, dewy air, I slowly blew it out; rolling up the window, before taking a chance, and blindly turning into the overgrown greens – only relaxing once they parted, opening up to the tracks of a well-worn path.
The further I drove, the thicker the gravel, the louder it popped under the weight of my tires. And it wasn't all that far back before I was pulling up to park beside a misplaced Cadillac Coupe Deville. Beautifully restored; I noticed the chrome, smooth and shining against the powdery-pink paint, before lifting my gaze up to find the wide, toothy smile of its waiting owner.
Cautiously opening the door, I held it tight against a careless gust of wind. I was already wasting her time; the last thing she needed was for me to put a dent in the side of that beauty.
"Hi, I'm Alice," the tiny whip of a woman greeted, creeping up on me, her cropped, raven hair hardly moving in the cool, whirling wind. I smoothed mine back and out of my eyes before taking her outstretched hand.
"Bella, I know." She winked, introducing myself for me, as she tirelessly shook my hand, proving her energy even more exhausting in person. "We've talked so many times on the phone, I feel as if we already know each other. Ya know what I mean?"
I smiled and nodded, knowing what she meant but not feeling that way at all. This woman could have talked about herself until she was blue in the face and probably would, but we still wouldn't know each other. Not really.
"Well, you probably want to see the house, huh?" She asked, finally letting go of my hand to turn and motion for me to follow, her mouth yapping all the way across the muddy lawn and up the front porch stairs.
"This was the Black's old place, Billy Black." Jiggling the keys, she pushed them into the lock, before turning to me, as if to ask if I knew him, which was ridiculous, seeing as I came from all the way across the country. With a questioning lift of my eyebrows, she started back up again.
"Anyway, Jake, his son, has been trying to sell this place for years – ever since moving to the city, poor kid," she sighed, the shake subtle from the back of her head, before continuing. "Lost his father so young, too young - only eighteen, but smart, real smart, got himself a full scholarship at that big college in Seattle…" Stopping, she turned, pursing her lips with a gesture of her hand.
"University of Washington?" I guessed out loud, and she snapped her fingers, the purse growing upward into a relieved smile.
"Yes! University of Washington…U-dub!" She snapped again, pointing to the ceiling, before whirling back around to lead me through the front door with way too much energy. Ten minutes with the woman, and I already felt like I needed a nap.
"He was a good one, too. Came home every weekend, kept it up the best he could, until he met a girl, at least. Nessie, I think it was." Nodding, she hummed, "Yeah, Nessie. Weird name, if you ask me." Her voice wandered off as she pulled the white sheets from the coffee tables, the worn, leather chairs, and then finally the brown and yellow plaid couch.
"Furniture's not the greatest, but it's better than the floor, I guess." She shrugged, sounding as if she didn't believe it either.
"You got any kids?"
Looking up briefly, she threw aside the dusty fabric.
"Me either, but we've been trying. Can't wait to have 'em, ya know?"
I didn't. And I was thankful when she just continued unmasking the horrid furniture, jumping to the next question without really waiting for an answer.
Looking back up from needlessly fluffing the pillows, she placed her hands on her hips, waiting this time, seeming especially interested. Crossing my arms, I just stood there, having never felt more exposed by being asked so many personal questions in a given day.
What did she care? We weren't friends. And I didn't need one.
Clearing my throat, I decided not to answer, taking it upon myself to look around the rest of the house, the clicking of Alice's heels following closely behind me.
"Well, the house was treated for termites last summer, so you have a good four years before you may have to do it again. But, my husband, Jasper, he's a contractor," she yammered, using her hands for emphasis. "And like I said, Jake was a good kid, so he replaced the insulation, doubled up on it I think, and that was all for free. So, if you're needing any help on the restoration, he's always available, twenty-four seven, no questions asked."
The way she rambled made me wonder if it was even necessary for her to breathe. I'd never heard someone talk so much. Never. Not in all my twenty-eight years.
"Oh shit, and here…" Pushing her way around me, she turned on the kitchen sink, showing me how brown water spewed from the faucet, spitting and sputtering onto the dingy, white porcelain. "You need all new piping." Biting her lip, she held out a hand, as if to stop me and say she knew what I was thinking.
"I know, I know, just hear me out," she pleaded, turning off the water before making her way over to stand in front of me. "Jasper can fix that too, no problem, top of the line material at the lowest price, may God strike me dead," she swore, raising her right hand, her eyes wide and desperate. It must have been a miracle for her that I was even here. The only one stupid enough to put a down payment on property they hadn't even seen.
Sighing, I shook my head, knowing full-well that this was going to happen. But then again, it was kind of what I was hoping for; a distraction. I needed one, so it was pretty pointless to complain when she was offering a big one.
"All right, so when can Jasper come over and how long will this take?" I asked, wondering how long it would be before I could enjoy a nice, warm shower. Something I did almost daily.
Squealing, she pulled me in for a hug, and I stiffened in her arms.
"First thing tomorrow, as soon as the sun rises, three days, tops, promise."
Even with the honest spark beaming out of those bright, green eyes, I still trusted her about as much as I trusted her contractor husband.
Three days, my ass.
But I agreed, none the less.
"Okay, tomorrow as soon as the sun rises."
She fervently nodded her head. "Yes, absolutely, and I want you to come over for breakfast while they're working. You can shower and eat and we can get to know each other better." Giggling, she squeezed me tight, before finally letting me go. "You won't regret this, Bella, I promise you that. You won't regret anything about this - nothing."
Standing there in the center of the dilapidated, old house, I wasn't so sure that I wouldn't. And after Alice had me walk her out to the car, I was positive that I would - regret this, that is.
"Oh, and one last thing…" Holding up a finger, she twisted to dig around in her backseat before handing me a pile of directions, a lantern, and a tight smile.
"There's no electric."