I try to finish every story. I know this one is blocky; the sentence structure/syntax needs fixing, and the dialogue broken up. It doesn’t flow and “tells” more then describes. I will try to come back and clean it up.
On a tree lined street full of ordinary houses, one sits empty. Inside that home light slipped past drawn blinds. Nothing moved except the swirls of dust which hung in those few strands of light. Its walls had absorbed over thirty years of memories. Some of those memories were like a contaminant, leaching something caustic into the air. A sensitive person could feel it as it made the air seem heavy.
Any given day a barely audible sound would penetrate that vacant house. A sound faint and yet it reverberated through each room of the home. It originated out in the backyard; out in the shade underneath an old willow tree. Out where there was a patch of bare earth that the sun never touched. There in the shadows and soil, emanated a quiet sobbing.
Anthony’s was a little Italian restaurant and pizzeria, located in a strip mall. Most of their business was delivery or take out. They had only a few tables for the occasional dine-in guests. It wasn’t a fancy place. However it was perfect for John and Jean; they had quick service, served wine, and were close to home.
John couldn’t remember the last time just the two of them had dinner together. He reached across the table to put his hand on his wife's. “I am really sorry we don’t do this more.” Jean replied with a smile, “John you need to make time for Maggie too, she needs her dad.” Jean maintained her smile, attempting to hide the weight behind her words. “My boss is looking, once we hire a new guy I should have my Saturdays back.” Jean frowned...she had been hearing that for months. It was a sore subject and she wanted to talk about something else. “I am going to view another place tomorrow.” Jean hoped for a hint of enthusiasm back from John. “That’s great, tell me about it.” John replied taking his hand back and reaching for his glass. He seemed attentive, Jean thought, so she told him what she knew from the newspaper listing.
They had been looking for their first home purchase for over a year. Finding a property they liked and getting an acceptance proved to be a lot tougher than they had expected. John’s job didn’t help either. He worked for an engineering firm that took on more than they could handle. His work left him with little spare time even on the weekends. To speed up the search they decided Jean would do all the looking. If she found something she really liked, then John would view it too.
Before Jean could poke a fork into her pasta, she heard the dreaded sound of John’s cell phone. Some urgently needed files back home on his laptop meant dinner would be rushed. The dinner conversation moved from pleasantries to a stern silence. Back at home while getting ready for bed, John did his best to convince Jean things would get better. Giving him a kiss, she told him she “hoped so” before turning out the light.
This side of town was a bit older Jean thought, while she drove past ancient looking trees. It was still a family neighborhood though. On the way over she noticed a plastic slide and other evidence that children lived on the block. Maggie got excited when her mom pointed at the toys in yards. She was very outgoing for a six year old and always smiled at the prospect of new kids to play with.
Jean pulled into the driveway. The ad had said, “Charming single story with three bedrooms.” Jean didn’t feel “charming” as she glanced around. She wasn’t sure what she felt looking at the plain beige stucco facade. “This one’s got a big backyard Maggie” she mentioned, enticing the tot while unbuckling her. “Can we get a doggy now” Maggie responded. She said it as though some conditions of a past deal had been met. “Let’s see if we like the place first, sweetie.” Jean said helping the little girl out of the car. They walked to the front door where Jean pressed the doorbell. A pretty chime rang not like the jarring buzz of their old place.
An older woman with short hair, wearing a pantsuit answered. Her transition from serious to big welcoming grin was too noticeable. “You must be Jean, I’m Martha” she said extending her hand. After shaking Jean's hand Martha bent down and gave Maggie an obligatory “why aren’t you just the cutest?” she then invited the two in to show the property.
Jean had come to learn; six year olds are not much help when looking at houses. Confirming with Martha she couldn’t get into any trouble, she let Maggie go explore. Maggie went running through the house. It was the middle of the day and Martha had opened the blinds, but the house was still quite dark. The previous owners had planted lots of tropical plants and trees around the sides of the house. Those plants had grown large through the years cutting off some of the natural light.
Maggie found what she was sure would be her bedroom. Loudly she announced her discovery to her mother who yelled back from the living room “that’s great honey.” The little girl was looking at the perfect spot for her doll house when the room became very cold. Turning towards the closet door, the mirror caught her eye. In the reflection she saw something that wasn't there before. It looked like a small figure standing in the hall. She didn’t move, trying to focus on what it was. It looked like a person but their features were missing, blurred. She turned around to see it better but nothing was there.
Maggie wasn’t sure what she saw and went to tell her mom about it. Stepping into the hall a feeling came over her. She felt she had to get out of the house fast. The panic made her feet feel heavy and the hall seem longer than it was. She ran into the living room where her mom and Martha where coming in from the back yard. “Sweetie, go see the back yard it’s huge.” Jean left the glass door open for Maggie and stepped aside. Both women watched with amusement as the little girl bolted out the door.
Outside wasn’t much better as she still felt a need to escape. The sides of the house and borders of the yard were a shady blue from the high plants and fence. She walked out to the middle of the grass were the sun hit the yard. It felt ok there and she waited. Maggie stayed in that spot for over twenty minutes, afraid the whole time to even look back at the house. Maggie was about to start screaming for her mom when she heard her call, “Come on Maggie it’s time to go.” Inside Maggie couldn’t wait for the grownups to say their goodbyes.
Maggie’s screams made it hard for the other two to talk. Jean excused the child’s behavior by telling Martha it had been a long day. Martha nodded with a false understanding. She told Jean as she saw her out there were others interested, and she better make a decision quick. Jean half heard Martha through Maggie’s yelling to leave. She told Martha she needed to talk to her husband and would be in contact. Maggie settled down as soon as they were back out front. On the way home Maggie sat in her car seat unusually quiet.