Short Story: The Yellow House
In the middle of the countryside, where the meadows extended far beyond reach and the daffodils took over the landscape in an attempt to grow in between spaces left by poppies, there was a yellow house at the top of the hill. The house was big and wide, with some white pillars around to support the roof, like those Greek temples in ancient times. The yellow on the walls was neither bright nor pale but lemon. In the Summer, if you’d go around the house you could smell lemons and olives, too. There was an olive tree in the garden, next to some daisies and petunias. Before you got into the house they had to go up this stairwell made of bricks decorated with some nice flower beds on the side, greeting the ones who slowly went up the stairs to wait at the door outside. The door was made of wood from oak and people would have to use the knocker that looked like a rope intertwined in a sailor’s knot to knock before getting in. The decoration of the house was very rustic. There were a few paintings on the walls that reminded me of the 14th century and the sailors, the historians and conquerors that went overseas, who craved adventure and wanted to discover the world. There was a big tapestry over the wall that looked like an old map where the globe looked so different from the one on the maps we see today. The kitchen was covered in white handmade tiles and some of them had rabbits and scales or fishermen and peasants painted in blue, and in the living room, the fireplace kept the house warm over the winter. On top of the fireplace, there was this long wooden mantle shelf going around the chimney and here my mother used to have her collection of tiny little boxes, and old photographs from people who died before I had time to meet them. Each room had a wooden floor that would creek announcing the arrival of whoever came in and the smell of wood coming from the wooden floor, the wardrobes and the doors and the shutters that would tremble and scare me away when the wind outside blew strong. When the powerhouse cut the energy during stormy nights, everything went dark and the house felt too big and empty, during those moments that same smell of fresh wood, the oak tree would wrap me in a sense of peacefulness and quiet as if the house itself was a live forest. It almost felt like the house was alive.
On the top part of the house, there was this big room with several wardrobes standing against the wall and its wooden doors that gave access to my clothes and shoes, except for one. This one door would lead you into a kind of secret chamber following another, rather smaller, wooden door leading to the attic. The attic was a large space attached to the room, where I used to sneak in as a child and spend some afternoons exploring the container of lifelong memories, abandoned objects of sentimental value, like my baby clothes and my father’s golf rack that belonged somewhere in the past. Outside this room, there was a balcony overlooking the sea and a lighthouse beyond. On sunny days, when the sea was agitated, you could see the waves at a distance that looked like some little white dots and the white sails of boats in the vast blue ocean sailing further and further away into the horizon, at the point where the line between ocean and sky merge and become one. As a child, I used to fathom what part of the world lay beyond that line, that curtain, the fog that came with evening and I dreamt about New York and the city lights. Sometimes, when the sun was too strong and bright, the light reflected on the water and a mirror was created. But so did the full moon during the hot summer nights, when everything went quiet and you would look ahead and see the moon over the water, under the stars. Then there was the lighthouse, this mysterious creation that kept quiet and still during the day but came to life during the night and guided the boats through the dark. As a child, my mother used to read to me every night and every night I liked to believe the lighthouse would beckon towards me and my child-self, to let us know that some stories do come out of the shelf at night into the ocean and are seemingly redirected by this light towards the sea, beyond borders.
One day, I was searching for the box of things I used to keep for myself like letters and old notes. Instead, I found a little girl sitting in a corner in that room. She seemed surprised to see me there but she didn’t flinch. She just kept still starring at me attentively and I starring back at her. She had big brown eyes and curly hair, her face was kind of chubby and she was probably around twelve. Next to her, I noticed this rectangular hand-painted white box decorated with some blue details and the painting of this Mediterranean-like window with a flowing curtain. That was the box I had been looking for. I got close to it and the girl kept looking at me, paying attention to my movements until she ended up saying, “you should look inside.”
I didn’t look at her, not directly. I was trying to figure out how to open this box.
“Why is that?”
The girl finally got close to me and whispered in my ear.
“He left them for us.”
Before I had time to turn to look at her, the wind outside blew wild, the shutters banged violently and the window flew open, the curtains were flowing just like the painting on the box and the girl was gone. I, finally, managed to open the box and inside I found the letters my grandad wrote to me when I was little. I sat down on the floor and dedicated the rest of the noon reading these but I couldn’t stop thinking about the girl, “Who is she? What did she mean by ‘he left them for us’?” These letters were addressed to me and they were wise words from my grandad, what he hoped from me and my future and encouraging me to always look ahead and follow my dreams, to look ahead to the lighthouse and follow the beam I watch from my window every night. Suddenly, the wind blew strong again and the letters were pulled out of the box and started flying around the room. I got up and ran around trying to catch them but I couldn’t and I noticed some letters were escaping out through the window so I ran outside to the balcony and stretched my arm in an attempt to grab them but they were gone. I stood back and saw them forming a stream of paper and off they went with the wind into the distance, in the direction of the lighthouse.
I heard someone knocking at the door and the voice of my mum saying,
“Pack your things Lilly, it’s time.”
She walked in and came to the balcony.
“What are you doing in here?”
I looked up at her with a sigh.
She looked at me puzzled and put a string of hair behind my ear.
“Let it go birdy, you might not know it now but you’ll see in a few years time, everything will be okay and it’ll be worth it. I promise.”
“The letters mum, they’re gone.”
She held me and pressed me tight against her.
“I don’t understand why we have to go. Why do we have to leave?”
I followed her into the room and while I did, I took one last look at the lighthouse. As I waved goodbye, I remembered the stars and the moonlight at night. I grabbed my bags and before closing the door behind me, one last time, I looked at the now empty room. I took a deep breath in, hoping the smell of wood and mould, of daisies and olives in the summer, the smell of wet and damp stay because I didn’t really want it to go. I closed my eyes in an attempt to keep the sound of the floor creaking with every step and the birds chirping outside every morning and when I opened they were wet and I was at the gates, outside looking in and I saw her, the girl. It was only then, I realized, I was the girl who wondered, under the stars every night. The girl who got away with the stories about dead poets and conquerors and the other is merely a reflection of that. The other who thought she would always stay in dreaming about all that until the day, one had to go and leave the other behind.
I’m all grown up now but I’m still there somehow, except the little girl stayed and I left. I followed along with those letters to the lighthouse so I could become the light for the girl who stayed home, staring behind me.
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