Tomorrow was the day we all moved. Mom was doing the kitchen downstairs. Dad was clearing out the garage.
I guess my parents didn’t want to clear the attic because it was dusty. A weird, musty smell hung about the air of the attic, and it always lacked light.
But honestly, I didn’t really find that to be a problem. While my parents thought of the attic as a dirty dump yard, I liked the dark, dusty place. I thought of it as a place full of hidden treasures. Every time I went there, I found something new. Well, not necessarily new. Sometimes I found things that I’d lost a couple of years back, up there.
One time, I found a fancy pen Dad had got from Germany when he went there for some work-related stuff. Another time, I found these pink flamingo earrings I thought I’d lost the previous year. A while ago, I even found my reading assignment that had been due last summer. When the assignment was asked in class after the holidays, I searched my bag, but couldn’t find it. I went home and literally turned my entire room upside down, but I still couldn’t find it. I ended up redoing my entire assignment and got only a ‘C’ for it. I still don’t understand how my assignment went there.
I slowly trudged up the staircase to the attic. I liked spending time there. I stood on the top stair and looked around me. Last month, Mom came up here to clean it. She took one look at the attic around, and then ran down, without looking back. The place is that messed up, I guess.
A big, brown book caught my eye. I bent down and pulled it out from the pile it was buried underneath. I cleared some of the dust that covered it and flipped through some of the pages. It was a photo album. It mostly had pictures of me when I was small and a few family photos too.
By then, I was fully lying down on the floor with the book in my hands.
Some of the photos had captions. One photo was captioned ‘Anita’s first time at the dentist.’ The photo showed Dad holding me, while tears rolled down my two-year-old face. The corners of my mouth were twisted into a frown and my hair was a complete mess. I smiled to myself seeing how ridiculous I looked.
Another photo showed me at my five-year birthday party. I had a party cap on my head and was about to blow out the candles on my ‘Cinderella’ cake. Both my parents were standing next to me, and all my friends were gathered around the cake and were singing ‘Happy Birthday.’
“We have to be ready tomorrow at 6 am sharp. The movers will come at that time,” Dad said to Mom downstairs.
Almost everything had been packed and taken downstairs, except the stuff in my room and the attic.
My eyes suddenly fell on another photo, a pretty recent photo that was taken a few months back. I was standing on the beach near my house. The wind was blowing my hair across my face, and the sun was just going below the horizon. My parents were standing on either side of me and had a huge smile on their faces. All of us were so happy.
Now, looking at that picture, I realized that it had been a long time since I’d seen either of my parents smile and look so happy.
I tried to convince myself that it was work pressure, but I knew that that wasn’t the reason. They suddenly looked like they’d aged at least twenty years.
I closed the album and sighed. I wish it could be like the old times. Mom and Dad used to take me for a picnic there, almost every Sunday evening. People usually have picnics by a river or a small lake. But since our house was near the sea, we had a picnic there.
Mom would make dinner, pack it in a basket and we’d all go to the beach, wearing our swimsuits. After spending 15 minutes trying to find the ‘perfect spot’, we’d erect our umbrella and spread a towel underneath. The ‘perfect spot’ always changed every week we went there.
Dad would help me make a sandcastle, while Mom read a novel. All of us would then go near the waves, and watch them gently lap our feet. Sometimes, a big wave would come and I’d jump to avoid getting wet, but I somehow always managed to get entirely wet.
After some time, we’d go to our spot and have our dinner, while we watched the sky getting painted in different colors, and the sun slowly sink below the horizon.
I usually spend hours on end, going through all the stuff in the attic, but today, I just didn’t feel like it.
I went out of the attic and saw Mom sitting in my room, with a box next to her. She had some of my things spread out on the floor. There were a few of my books, clothes, and the giant teddy bear I always slept with. She sat there for a while, as though she was debating whether to put them in or not, and then took a few more stuff from my desk and placed it around the box. She then neatly arranged them in the box.
“You can’t pack her whole room, Tracy,” Dad said as he came inside.
I was angry for a moment. What was wrong with Mom packing my entire room?
I thought of saying something but then stopped when I saw a frown on his face and wrinkles creasing his forehead. His hair, which was once entirely black, was now almost grey. He kneeled down and sat next to Mom, with a resigned sigh. He put his hand on her shoulder and they sat like that for a while. I felt tears roll down my face. I couldn’t bear to see them like this. Why did I feel like all this was my fault?
After a while, they both took the box and went out of the room.
“I’m so sorry,” I whispered. “I love you both so much.”
But they didn’t hear me and shut the door behind them.
I could see the early morning sunlight through the curtains drawn across the windows of my bedroom. The clock above my desk read 6:15. Downstairs, I could hear the moving of boxes. I remembered my parents saying that they would leave at six and went out of my room to see them for the last time. Just as I reached the top stair, the front door shut close. The echo of the door closing resounded through the empty walls of the house.
I drew the curtain of the front window, just in time to see my parents’ car and the movers’ van get out of the driveway.
I was standing in between my parents, posing for a photo. The photo came out perfectly, with the sea, and orange sky as the background. We stood near the waves, enjoying the water and the cool wind. I then decided to go a little further into the sea to enjoy bigger waves.
“Don’t go too far,” Dad called. “It could be dangerous.”
“Dad, come on. Just a little near the sea. Like what could possibly happen?”
I sighed. I was now a teenager. Why were my parents so overprotective of me?
“Watch out, sweetie,” yelled Mom.
I looked in front of me and saw a huge wave, that looked like it was about to swallow me. I stepped back a moment too late, and it took me a little away from the beach. I tried to swim towards the beach. Just as I put my right hand in a forward stroke, another wave flung me straight toward a group of jagged rocks.
That was four months ago. If only I had listened to my parents. If only I had seen that wave a second earlier.
My parents were heartbroken and devastated for more than a month after that fatal incident. They kept crying and blaming themselves for it, and I wished I could say something to comfort them and make them feel better, but I couldn’t.
That house in which I had lived for thirteen years, no longer had a happy family living in it, but instead held a tragic story. My parents stayed because they wanted to be close to their only daughter, even if it meant she was dead. This only added to their misery, so they eventually decided to move away.
I stayed because I had regrets. I thought that if I stayed I could do something. I thought I could make my parents feel better or maybe even go back in time and change things. But being a ghost, my parents could neither see nor hear me, though, I think, they could sometimes feel my presence when they came to my room or the attic.
Just as my parents had decided to move on, I’d made that decision too.
I slipped through the front door and rose above my house. The morning breeze blew the windchimes on the front porch as if to bid me a final farewell.
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