She doesn’t know it, will never know it, but there will be stories that she misses, scraps of newsprint that will fall into drawers, slip behind furniture, fall prey to damp or the nibbling of insects.
When, in 2 or 3 or 4 days time, she stands at the front door, car carrying an additional box or 2 of items she is choosing to take home to her other life, her real life, last charity shop run completed, a few, a very few items of furniture labelled “keep”, everything else left for the clearance men, she will think that she has found all the stories, interrogated them, made some sense of this nonsense scavenger hunt, but she will be wrong.
The house will fall back into silence, waiting and only the house will know the full story and it will say nothing.
The clearance men, the professional cleaners that follow them, just before the estate agents, all chattering phones and clattering heels, they are used to picking up the pieces, will be far more through than she was. They will find the remaining tiny pieces of paper, drop them into refuse sacks, move on, leave a house empty of history, empty of any stories at all.
They will notice nothing at all.
The house will become something else for somebody else, new again, fresh paint, new windows, a different color scheme.
Other furniture will learn its place, leave its mark on walls, plant its feet on other carpets, settle in.
New people will use the house differently, navigate a new map of movement, learn different dance steps as they move around the re-modelled kitchen.
They will learn to walk easy on the 3rd step, will learn that the airing cupboard doors will, on some nights, for no reason, swing open, will learn that nothing can make the dining room a joyous place.
And she will take home the little pine china cabinet and place it in her hallway, but somehow, it will never sit happily there, will always look just slighty out-of-place, marginally too large for the space it now occupies.
The good china will jostle for shelf room, she will, self-consciously try to use it for high days and holidays, will make efforts to take care of them, wash them by hand and more and moer will wonder what will happen to them when she too is gone.
Eventually, these objects, even the china cabinet will become part of the landscape of her own home, no longer remarkable, not even really noticed.
But, the Christmas baubles, each one wrapped in tissue, ceremoniously revealed one by one each Christmas eve, these will never lose their strength, their ability to place her back in childhood and when, as will be inevitable over the years, they crack and break, she will be hard pressed not to cry.
But all of this is in the future, now is now.
A neat woman, toe nails painted a surprising rock chick purple is sitting on the sofa reading the latest story, wondering when it wandered away from her, when it became, not the mildly erotic narrative she was hoping for, but another story of loss and loneliness.
She sits for a moment, eyes half closed, seeing the strong man, imagining her hands on him, the sense of strength in his core and then shrugs, smiles.
She should have known it would be impossible to write anything about sex in this house.
She remembers, remembers clearly, the day she realized that parents, her parents had, at some point at least, had sex.
No earth shattering formative experience, just that sex education film in top juniors, the one they showed just before you went to big school. The one with the cartoons and the women really giving birth and her sitting in the big hall, the one they used for dinners and music and movement trying to imagine her parents, people she had never seen with no clothes on, never seen touch each other, actually doing that and somehow, more horrifyingly with each other.
Over the years, she had tried, in some cases, tried quite hard, to have sex in this house, but somehow, it, that act, had always seemed too noisy, too messy, actually simply too joyous.
She sits for a moment longer, day dreaming, wasting time, knowing she should get on, but luxuriating in this idleness.
She remembers her panic about not working full-time anymore, her nighttime terrors of only a few days ago and wonders, in the clear light of this winter morning, why that thought had scared her so much.
She can view it quite differently now, leisurely breakfasts, time to make her house nice, neat as a pin and even the phrase makes her smile, reminds her of her mother, allows her to edit out the frantic cleaning of bathrooms with even the threat of visitors, the rushed hiding of any sign of life in any room, the plumping of cushions and the lips tightened as the door bell rang.
Maybe this future will be less bleak, less empty than she has imagined it. She is not her mother, she is comfortable with other people, likes to share her space, likes to leave traces of projects, unfinished tasks on tables and chairs.
She is not her mother.
The house is transitioning, mid-point between home and shell, still hiding the stories that she will not write down, will not know about, the stories that will not become part of the moleskin note-book.
The house has hidden the next narrative, fallen behind the silent washing machine, lying still, crumpled beside the dust bunnies of shame.
If the house could speak, it would tell this story, a clipping from page 12 of a faded, brittle newspaper.
A slight story, even amongst those other slight tales.
The story of a man who went away and came back and what stayed the same and what was changed.
The next narrative – The return of the hat rack man