I’ve come to the conclusion that she is not coming back. The halls have been void of sound for a while now, once the skittering of mice as they hunt for any type of sustenance was a welcomed distraction but they have moved on now. They had picked through what had remained, realizing quickly that the food would not be replacing itself like it used to and just as they realized, the last inhabitants of the house were gone. I wish I could follow them.
The quiet has become comforting now, it was a certainty, as natural as the sun rising and setting with each passing day. Dust has started to accumulate on the banisters and table tops, caked on like a sheet covering the once lively manor. She would have never let it get this dirty, my girl was too good at her job for that. Having kept up with the housework for so long, I doubt anyone had remembered the house could get dirty, that the wallpaper could fade and peel. I remember now. The house has fallen apart without her… I have fallen apart without her.
I’m starting to forget what she looked like, I reach into the deepest depths of my memory but I still can’t picture it. Her face was bronzed from the long days coming in and out of the sun and her eyes were hazel, with specks of grey. No wait, specks of green. Were her eyes far apart? Or did they meet more in the centre? They crinkled when she laughed as rare as it was, a smile that only I got to see when she was falling asleep by my warmth, but what did that smile look like? I wish I could remember. Was it a row of pearly whites, face scrunched up, barely able to contain her joy? Or was it a Mona Lisa smile? Lips pressed together in a smirk, laughing at a joke no one else had privy too. I hope she smiles a lot more now, wherever she is, happy and content in a way she hadn’t been since she was a child. That would make this easier to bear I think, knowing my girl was happy out there. Anything must be better than still being here.
Her birds have come back from their winter getaway. Their pecks at her window jarr me from the quiet that I have become used to. They peck away for the food she would’ve given them, but my girl doesn’t answer. Neither does the mistress of the house, who hated those “damned birds from hell” as she used to call them. No, their chirps are heard from no one but me. I try to shift in the draft, wind coming in from a crack in the window. I’m desperate to see something other than the empty manor and the ghosts of my memories. They do not see me though, I am but a shadow in this long abandoned house. With time, they give up on their quest to get her attention, just like the mice. Once again, I am left alone in my solitude.
The cold has never been this prevalent before. It seeps into my being in a way I have never known, a tidal wave of ice receding but just coming back again stronger. My girl has not lit these fires in a very long time. I have given up trying to remember her face, it is too difficult for me now. Her memory that once brought comfort only brings longing now. Who knew someone like me was capable of having good old days?
Anger. It is all I have been feeling recently, a match against the cold of her absence. She left me, like I was nothing. The nights spent lulling her into slumber, the evenings I spent comforting her as she cried. Every morning, I would be the first to say hello and the last to wish her goodnight. Apparently, that does not mean anything to her. I know I am not human but couldn’t she at least visit? Anything to distract me from these creaking floorboards and rotting wood. I suppose it’s too much for her though. She probably has new friends now, she’s probably forgotten all about me. An afterthought to her, but meanwhile she is everything to me. My grief turns to rage, as it is easier to bear.
I miss her.
My head is so fuzzy nowadays. Even the slightest of thought seems too much to process. Wind has broken its way into the walls, the windows, the floor, and ceiling. It pushes me around the manor, empty rooms that remind me of her. I swear I could hear her voice call out the other day, I think I’m finally starting to go. The door is creaking open, as it often does without the frame to hold it back, but there is another sound now. A footstep. I try not to get my hopes up as I hear more, knowing that whoever these people are, they will leave too. A giggle reaches me as the ground creaks with the new weight, “Careful Madeline, this house is very old, even older than me”, a voice warns the disembodied giggle.
It couldn’t be… there is no way. “How can it be older than you, mummy?”, the voice of a little girl echoes through the house.
“Hey! Your mum’s not that old, besides this used to be my house. It was built for my mum, your grandma, by my dad, your grandpa. Unfortunately grandma didn’t live in this house very long…”
That’s true, the original mistress of the house, not the mean one that came later. I remember now, she was… kind. However that detail hardly seemed to matter as the two voices came around the corner, by this time I already knew who it was. My heart sang in anticipation. There she was, standing in the doorway like she always used to. My girl, still beautiful as always. “I want to show you something Madeline, an old friend of mine”, my girl said.
“There’s no one here though?”, confusion was evident in the child that held onto the skirt of my girl.
She looked just like the little girl I watched grow up in this house, the girl who has come back to me after all this time. “Well, my friend isn’t like you and me. I’m afraid they’re a bit different. But they are my friend none the less, mummy’s first friend in fact”, my girl said.
I don’t know how long I have waited for this, her words, her smile. She crouches down, right next to me like she always did and runs her fingers over me. I attach myself to her, her fingers and her dress. This time I will hold on and not let go. We will be together again, I promise. My Cinders to her Ella. Just like the story goes.