30 Day Challenge: Day 16 – Cold Tea

 

 

I walked up that familiar, winding road on a day not unlike today; the sun was trying to break out of the clouds and I could just feel the warmth of it on my skin, yet the road glistened as the puddles of muddy water soaked through to my socks. I had been to this house only a few times as a child but I held a vivid memory of it. I had expected it to be different; to seem smaller than I remembered or to look older; more jaded, but somehow my memory of it and the scene I saw before me matched perfectly.

I arrived at the gate I used to have to climb over in order to unlock but this time I reached over with ease flicking the bolt out of place. The rusted hinges groaned as I pushed it open and seemed to shut without my help, generating an ugly, dull sound that scared a small bird out of its nest in a tree a few yards away. I walked up the pathway listening to my footsteps recreate the crunching noise they used to make on the stones as I ran my hand through the lavender that lined the path; the petals fell into my hand without much encouragement. The house itself looked harsh, sharp and unfriendly, built out of dark, chipped stones that were only interrupted by the tall, murky windows and a front door, so tall that opening it felt like you were giving it permission to crush you. I reached for the door knob; its cracked golden metal glowing cheerfully, though its coldness burned to touch. Still, I opened it.

I entered the long, thin hallway and almost instantly my eyes began to sting as the iciness of the room harassed my vision. The door slammed shut behind me, violently whipping the wind through my hair and then darkness eclipsed the room. The gaps between the door and its frame ahead created a sharp slice of light that highlighted the flying particles in the air. Though visibility was restricted, I could just make out three other doors; two to my left and one to my right, as well as the staircase that stretched to the second floor. I swept my hands across the walls searching for the light switch but instead they found themselves trapped in cobwebs while the flaky, milky-green wallpaper edged its way up my fingernails. Finally I found the switch. The light bulb hummed a quiet song and flickered on and off a few times before maintaining a pale brightness that lit the hallway but refused to invade the corners. The light exposed an old man’s boots lined up precisely along the wall; at least six of them, yet only one pair seemed to have embraced the outside world. The others lay neglected, dusty but not dirty, still waiting for an adventure that would never come.

I followed the beam of light to the door while the force of my breath untangled the floating specks in front of me. I searched for the door handle, half expecting it to burn my skin but upon inspection, I realised there was no door handle; just a square chunk extracted from the place it should have been. I pushed the door instead and though initially it fought me, eventually it gave in only crying out a high-pitched scraping whine in protest as it juddered into the kitchen.

The white glow from the six floor-length windows and glass door making up the entire opposite wall flooded my eyes; it exposed everything in the room leaving nowhere for imperfections to lay undiscovered. To my left were wooden kitchen counters with black marble-effect tops; they looked new in contrast to everything else in the room, yet were tarnished with deep scratches of sharp knives and burn marks of several siring hot pans. A misty silver sink was embedded in the third counter; water stains blemished its surface while murky yellow limescale wrapped itself around the taps as an ivy bush wraps itself around a telephone pole. In the corner of the room was a dark brown agar; one of its doors slightly open releasing the sweet smell of freshly baked jam tarts while a stovetop kettle hissed and vibrated furiously hinting in no subtle way that it was ready. The steam from the kettle had collected on the saucepans hanging above the agar and they appeared to be sweating as if the hooks holding them up where keeping them there against their will.

The rest of the room was fairly plain; the walls were painted in a restrained yellow while the tiles blended into one another creating a dark mess on the floor. There was a large rectangular wooden table in the middle of the room with five chairs. The sixth was stood in the corner shamefully broken, while the others, haphazardly fixed with duct tape, sat proudly around the table. There was a small vase of synthetic flowers stood perfectly in the centre of it as if measured to be so accurately placed, yet tea coasters were left abandoned in no particular order. Two mugs sat on the table; a delicate lilac one on a coaster with the red stain of a woman’s lipstick smeared around the top, while the other, a chunky white, slightly chipped mug was placed almost deliberately not on a coaster; the remains of tea dribbled down the outside of the mug immersed into the layers of the wood.

The door whined again and I turned around. There stood my great-grandmother. Ten years had passed but somehow, like the outside of the house, she looked the same.

“I never thought I’d see you here again.” She drew her words out slowly, with a low, dry tone that still terrified me. She stretched out a shaking hand for the lipstick stained mug on the table and sat down clumsily while sipping what must have, by then, been cold tea. She glared at me impatiently. “Aren’t you going to sit down?”

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