Sue Vincent’s latest #writephoto prompt is
The old Lodge House had been on the market a long while when we bought it. Adele Johnson had lived there all her 95 years and it was, by the time of her death, a total wreck. The agent tried to enthuse us with its potential when he opened the reluctant front door but even he seemed overwhelmed by the melancholia that enveloped you as you stepped inside.
I didn’t like it but Tom isn’t exactly nuanced when it comes to emotions. ‘Wow!’ His first word on looking up from the entrance hall to the domed skylight two stories above told me all I needed to know. He saw sunlight, I saw sepulchral. I was heavily pregnant by then – Jason was born a month after we moved in. Tom did his bit; he even took a sabbatical from work which we combined with my maternity and set to with a will. In truth, I was happier in the garden; it was enormous and the view over Crocket Park sublime. I fell in love with that view and, especially for some reason the old tree with the low slung branch that children gravitated towards, climbing all over it. To me it looked like a smile.
One Saturday when Tom was at the diy store, discussing imperial rivets or something, I decided to brave the attic. We’d been up, obviously but it was cobwebbed and gloomy; that day, though, it seemed to welcome me. I was surprised to find light flooding in. I hadn’t realised part of the skylight illuminated the loft.
For what seemed like the first time, I felt we could be happy here. I began to imagine converting the space into a playroom for Jason. At the back, there was a cupboard, riddled with wormholes. It looked like it might disintegrate at the slightest touch. I tugged the door. Inside a man’s tweed jacket hung on the rail. As I reached out a draught caught it, tugging at the back flap. I fingered the material wafting in front of me. It felt odd, like the lining was too thick. It took a moment to realise there was something caught inside that lining.
The letter was yellowed with age, the addressee Adele Johnson. It didn’t appear to have been posted, let alone opened. I admit to hesitating but not for long. After all she was dead several years. By the time I finished reading it I was in tears.
My call up papers came today and I’m off tomorrow. I doubt I’ll have time to meet you by the tree so don’t worry about the lamp tonight. I’ll have that warm glow in my mind, calling to me through the fog, as I do my basic training. It’ll keep me safe, bring me home. I expect I’ll give this to your Pa so thank him for delivering it, won’t you? And don’t worry about me. I’ll be home on leave soon. Will write when I’m settled.
All my love
How long did Adele put out the lamp, waiting for Harry? Did he return as promised and they laugh about what must have seemed his mysterious disappearance? Why did her father not deliver the letter? From what I understood Adele had stayed in the same house, dying a spinster so it had to have a sad conclusion, didn’t it?
I sat for a long time, wondering, until I heard Jason’s cries. I took him down to the little snug room where she must have put her lamp and watched the light leech out of the day. Jason mewled and wouldn’t settle until something made me move the side table and lamp into the French windows. He quieted immediately and something breathed out, like the walls released a long-held sigh, taking with it the sadness.
I looked at the tree; was that a shadow, or a man, standing there? Maybe it was part of the tree, but to me whatever it was appeared to bow and turn away.
I’ve kept the lamp there, lighting it every night. Tom thinks me quaint, superstitious, silly even. But I’m sure we will only be welcome here while I maintain my nightly ritual.