First: A story featuring a male keeper and a female Kept.
Mélanie waited until she was sure Jasper was gone, watching from the window while he got the horses in harness and set out. She waited until the gate made a distinctive noise, clanging shut. Then she waited until her tea jostled her elbow.
“I’m… I guess I’m not alone, am I?” She smiled; she didn’t want the house to feel like she didn’t want to be around it.
Even if she wasn’t a hundred percent sure that the house wasn’t going to eat her.
“Dust cloth?” she asked. “And something to clean windows with?”
The cupboard doors moved a little, seeming uncertain.
“It’s got to itch. So what I’ll do is I’ll start with the dining room. That’s not in the front view, right? It’ll be fine. And the kitchen. Obviously the kitchen can be cleaned up. Right?” She was coaxing a house to let her clean it. What was wrong with her?
After a moment, a cupboard opened to reveal a full set of cleaning supplies. A moment later, a kerchief flew down the stairs and tied itself around Mélanie’s hair; while she giggled, an apron slid itself around her.
She started to whistle as she headed to the dining room and, by the time she was washing the windows, she was singing. She didn’t remember many lyrics, so mostly she was making up words as she went, something about washing all the windows, shampooing the house’s hair. Scrubbing bubble baths, gonna do a pedicure…
She stopped herself and blushed when she realized she was talking about an – an entity that could hear her. “Ah… sorry. I suppose that’s a little invasive, isn’t it?”
A chair pushed out near her and a tea cup settled itself near her hand.
“Thank you. I, ah. I used to sing while I cleaned. Cleaning is, well, it’s…” She fumbled for words. “It’s clean. It’s simple, it has a nice end result, and you don’t have to think too hard if you don’t want to.”
A plate of tiny cookies, no bigger than a coin each, floated in from the kitchen and settled down next to the tea. Mélanie nibbled at one and found it surprisingly good. “So – ah. Tap the tea mug twice if it’s okay for me to keep cleaning?”
After a moment, the tea mug tapped twice.
Mélanie smiled and sipped her tea. “Thank you . You know, this is awfully one-sided, but I’m still having better conversation with you than I have with anyone in a really long time – well, maybe I’ve had some good ones with sa’Fox Crazy,” she allowed, “but he owns me, that’s different.” She stared into her tea. “I want to ask, but you can ignore me if I’m prying. What happened to the other Kept he had?”
She held her breath. That was a rather dangerous question to ask if the answer was the house itself. If people really were being eaten…
The piano in the front room started playing. The record player dropped a record in, and it started playing. In the kitchen, the water started running. The curtains in the room she was in – those she hadn’t pulled yet to clean the windows – flung themselves open.
In the cacophony, Mélenie looked out the window. There were weeds everywhere, the signs of a few abandoned pieces of yard furniture, and at the very edge, a gate that had fallen off half its hinges was swinging back and forth.
“So…” she began slowly.
All the noises stopped.
She cleared her throat. “Did you chase them off? Or did the idea of living in a place with a personality upset them?”
Or did they wander off into a corner of the house and were never seen again?
The tea cup moved back and forth a few times and then settled down. After a moment, a pad of paper – with pretty pink flowers across the top – shimmied into sight A pen followed, and a note began writing itself.
Some I scared off, the writing started. They were bad for Him or bad for me and would not have lasted long anyway. Some didn’t like a house with personality. Some…
The pen hovered in mid-air for a minute.
Mélanie considered what was on the paper.
“Some of them really did have a hard time with sa’Fox Crazy and his, ah, his kind of crazy way of being a Keeper?” she offered. “It’s all right if you don’t want to speak – write – ill of him. I understand that. Especially with proof down on paper. You two seem to get along pretty well, don’t you?”
Yes. The handwriting – penwriting? Penmanship! – was beautiful. Yes. He is my favorite tenant to date, and I have had…
The pen paused again, but this time, Mélanie wasn’t sure what she was supposed to say to fill in. After another moment, the pen wrote, slightly less tidily,
“Ouch. I can’t imagine. I mean, I’ve been in some places where people were awful to their houses…. Okay, actually. I can imagine.” She stared at her teacup for a moment. “I know what it’s like to be treated like a piece of furniture. I’m still trying to convince myself that Jasper is different, and, to be honest, I don’t really want to believe that he’s different, because if he turns out not to be – I mean, I really want to say when he turns out not to be, to be just someone else who bought me – then its going to be so much worse if I’ve let myself get comfortable with him.”
She put her head down on the table. “And that was more than I planned on saying aloud to – well, to anyone. Thank you… thanks for listening,” she muttered into the woodwork. “Although I suppose it must be hard to get any privacy when you have people living… ah. Errr. In you.”
The pen scratched across the paper.
I can always stop listening, the house assured her. And I don’t mind at all. Thank YOU for talking to me.
“I can talk to you all you want.” Mélanie looked up and giggled. “Oh, trust me. When I can talk, I will talk your shutters off. After I wash them, of course.” She stood up and stretched. “Which I should get back to.”Want more?