Sarah skipped along the landing to her bedroom door when a clicking from downstairs drew her attention from her merriment. Moving along the railing, she stopped at the best spot to peer through railings to the front door and not be seen.
Two women came inside. One, she’d seen before and didn’t like much; besides the weird smell she could best describe as old fish sticks and mayonnaise, the woman had been too cheerful when she’d come to visit Uncle George, and had talked him into leaving, which wasn’t so bad most of the time, she could play and no one disturbed her, but it tended to be lonely in the house, even with her mother there.
The other woman was pretty with a kind face and eyes. Sarah liked her the moment she saw her, and wasn’t annoyed that she was there looking at the rooms, admiring each nook and cabinet carefully.
Her mother wouldn’t like her though, she’d call her names like she did with everyone that came to visit. Ever since her brother left, Sarah had noticed changes in the way her mother acted. She was more withdrawn, rarely coming from her room, and when she did, she sulked through the house to return inside where she’d go into a rage, stomping her foot on the floor, and slamming doors.
The words she uttered were hateful about him, screaming that he was an ungrateful creature. The rants turned to sobs mixed with her begging for his return. Her reaction to him leaving wasn’t as bad as when Sarah had fallen down the stairs, but close.
Years ago, Uncle George came and took her away, and Sarah didn’t see her mother for a long time. Then like she’d never left, she was back in her room like she’d snuck inside in the middle of the night because George never seemed to notice her.
Sarah hoped she never became an adult after seeing how her mother acted, as well as the way George changed shortly after her return. He wandered around in the night, taking baths, or standing at the top of the stairs with glazed eyes. Then that bad smelling woman came, and he left without ever coming back.
The new woman slowly came up the stairs, studying everything as she made her way to the landing. Sarah hoped she’d be different from the other adults in her life as she slid into her room before the woman turned her gaze from the bathroom and the doors opposite each other.
Through the keyhole, Sarah watched her, waiting to hear mom’s reaction to the woman entering her room, but to her amazement, and disappointment, no sound came. Finishing looking through the other two rooms, she approached Sarah’s door, and Sarah shyly moved into the closet to hide in the shadows.
The door opened, and the one she didn’t recognize stepped inside, taking in the details of her room as she had the others, then stopped staring into the closet, but she didn’t see Sarah hiding behind the door, peaking at her between the gap near the bottom hinge.
The stinky woman said the other’s name, Jess; Sarah liked it, and thought it made the woman seem nicer than ever, but still she hid from her, not wanting to meet like this, it was un-lady-like. Jess pulled the string, and Sarah figured it was time to step from behind the door, but the woman focused on her drawings on the wall, admiring them with a smile.
Jess followed the smelly woman out of the room, and closed the door behind her. Sarah waited until she heard them on the stairs before she withdrew from the closet, and through the door to the landing. Again, she peaked at them through the spindles as they talked about the furnace, and stuff Sarah didn’t care anything about.
Quietly, Sarah went down the stairs, and pushed the swinging door to the kitchen enough to see inside without being noticed, but didn’t find the women there. She entered, crossing to the backdoor, and standing on tip-toes to see out the window, but they weren’t on the porch either.
Their voices echoed up from the basement. Sarah wasn’t allowed down there, no matter what, her mom had said, and being a good girl, she had never ventured down there. The women came up the stairs, and Sarah backed into the living room.
Sarah was happy to hear that Jess wanted to live there. Being practically alone in the house was lonely and boring, her mother never wanted to do anything but stay in her room. Sometimes Sarah would go inside, but never for long because it was uncomfortable with no fun to be had.
The front door closed as the women left, leaving Sarah to her own devices. She sang one of her made-up songs as she climbed the stairs, and stopped at the top, staring at the open door to her mother’s room.
She stood where she always did, in the center of the room staring at the windows. The light coming through made her glow like an angel. Quietly, Sarah moved to the door and closed it, knowing her mother didn’t like it open, then went to her room to peek out the window covered in yellowing newspaper.
The women stood at the end of the sidewalk staring up at the house, but she couldn’t hear what they said. The one with the strange smell pointed toward the window, and Sarah stepped back afraid they wouldn’t let her stay if they knew she was there. She didn’t want to think of where she would go if that happened, and sat on the floor where her chair used to be.
Sarah always wondered why her mother had taken her things from the room, leaving her nowhere to sit or lay down except the floor. She’d taken her toys, too, putting them in boxes, and removing them from the room. At first, Sarah was delighted that she could dance around the room with nothing to obscure her joyous path, soon ending with the boredom of repetition.
To make matters worse, when George left, he took the remainder of things from the house, giving her absolutely nothing to play with. But now that Jess was moving in, she’d have stuff to play with, and pretty things to look at; ladies always had nice things around.
She began singing again, the words fading away the moment they came from her mouth.
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