This is the story of a house. It looks like any other house. It’s in a suburban neighborhood on a hilly street and it has a hilly driveway and two garage doors. It’s got slate-blue siding designed to look like old-timey wood clapboards but actually made of vinyl, an illusion that reveals itself on the house’s north side, where a tree branch fell and punched a still-unrepaired hole in the plastic.
The Forbes family used to live here, back when the house’s four bedrooms seemed like just the right amount of growing room, but now the only person who lives here is Mrs. Forbes, and maybe her daughter Lizanne, whose bedroom light sometimes goes on at night.
There’s some argument about whether or not Lizanne lives here.
Lizanne’s room is bright and frilly like the bedrooms of so many teen girls. Its walls are painted eggshell blue, a blue that’s perfectly matched with the satin sheets and the bouquet of pillows on the canopy bed, perfectly befitting a private-school princess. Everything in the room is fastidiously clean. There are trophies and photos and posters of boy-bands and a field hockey stick leaning in the corner and a closet full of dresses and a dresser full of sweaters and all of it is arranged perfectly, oh-so-clutter-free.
Taped to the vanity mirror there are a pair of tickets to a rock concert with a note that says “Love you! Mom xxxx.”
But the concert is two weeks past.
And the boys in the old boy-band posters aren’t really boys anymore.
There’s a patina of dust on the vanity mirror, and on the desk, and on everything, and sometimes Mrs. Forbes, who looks tired beyond her years, will come into the room with a rag and a bottle of Pledge and wipe the dust away, careful to pick things up and clean underneath them, too, and careful to return everything to the spot where she found it. Sometimes Mrs. Forbes will hang a new dress in the closet, a dress she saw and bought because it was perfect for Lizanne, and sometimes, too, Mrs. Forbes will take a dress out of the closet, if it’s gotten too old or too faded or if she notices the moths have started to eat away at its fabric. She’ll take the dress out of the closet and sleep with it one more time in her own gigantic empty bed, and the next morning she’ll put the dress in the old coal stove and burn it so she never has to see it again, except in the shelter of her memory, where it will remain perfect forever.
Christopher DeWan is author of HOOPTY TIME MACHINES: fairy tales for grown ups, a collection of domestic fabulism released in 2016. He has published more than fifty stories in journals including Bodega, Gravel, Hobart, Passages North, and wigleaf, and his work will be featured in the upcoming Best Small Fictions 2017, edited by Amy Hempel and published by Braddock Avenue Books. Learn more at christopherdewan.com.