After her husband's death, Heather decides to move to a small town in Ohio with her children to start afresh. When they arrive, they realize the house they have rented looks a lot worse in real life than in the pictures they had seen online.
The landlord had left the key in a pot by the door. He was lucky I was too tired to go to his home right now, but I promised myself he would hear from me first thing in the morning.
In the brochure, the house had looked a lot more beautiful. In real life, the painting was peeling and the garden was a mess. I was dreading to go in. However, I knew I had to. It was freezing outside.
‘Let’s go in, guys.’
I unlocked the door with trembling hands and turned on the hall light. Well, it didn’t look too bad. The furniture was positively ancient, but it was clean.
‘Wow, this is huge, Mummy,’ Emma said.
‘Let’s choose our rooms,’ shouted Iris. The three of them ran up the stairs and I was sure a fight would ensue.
I went out to the car to bring our cases inside. As I was alone, I closed my eyes and talked to Josh.
‘So what do you think? Have I done the right thing?’
‘Yes, you have. Just give it time.’
‘But why does Junior hate me so?’
‘He doesn’t hate you, he’s just a teenager.’
Just then, I heard steps and was about to jump out of my skin.
‘Hello there, are you Dr Pratter? Are you okay?’
‘Yes, I’m okay. Just tired.’
‘Hi! I’m Dr Westmore. I’m glad you are finally here. This is for you. Homemade stew. My wife told me to bring it. She thought you wouldn’t have anything to eat tonight.’
‘That’s very kind of her. Please tell her I said thank you. Do come in.’
‘No, I’d better go back home. We’ll have plenty of time to talk on Monday morning. You’ll be ready to start on Monday, won’t you?’
‘Yes, of course. I’ll be there.’
He smiled at me and I realized he was very handsome for a man his age. I watched his retreating back and then continued taking the cases into the house.
Emma was sitting on one of the sofas, a pouty expression on her face.
‘What’s wrong, sweetheart?’ I asked.
‘I got the smallest room because I’m the youngest. It’s not fair.’
‘Don’t worry. We’ll make it as pretty as we can and then your brother and sister will be jealous. What do you say we buy Winnie The Pooh curtains online tomorrow?’
‘Can we, Mummy? And can I have a matching quilt? The one in my room is ugly.’
‘Of course you can.’
We ate the stew and then we retired to our rooms to put our clothes away. While we ate dinner, I told the kids to make a list of things they thought we needed for the new house.
‘How about a new television? This one doesn’t work,’ Josh said. For once, he didn’t sound belligerent.
‘I’ll speak to the landlord tomorrow and tell him to replace it.’
Our first night at the new house went past almost without incident. At four, Emma came to my room and said she wanted to sleep with me.
‘I’m scared, Mummy.’
I woke up at seven on Saturday morning. In the daylight, the furniture looked even uglier. I’d have to do something about it. Paint it, maybe…
I got out of bed slowly not to wake up Emma and walked downstairs in my nightgown.
Josh was sitting at the kitchen table. Well, he wasn’t really there, but I could see him all the same.
‘I miss you,’ I said.
‘I miss you too, princess,’ he answered and then he vanished. Just like that.
I decided to call the landlord and tell him to come over.
‘Hello, Mr Wells. This is Dr Pratter. I need to speak to you. Could you please come to the house?’
He told me how busy he was and I had to threaten him for him to agree to pay us a visit. Life in Willowville was going to be interesting, it seemed.