It was not, exactly, a routine. Jasper seemed allergic to those.
But there was a rhythm to their lives. Jasper would head out — the first time was hard, the second time, easier, the third time, she found, even harder than the first — but he came back every time without fail, without damage.
She would work on sorting out the loot, until it was so well organized she didn’t think anyone could make it easier to sort through, inventoried it on a neat notepad because she did not have a computer, and taken, at Jasper’s insistence, a few things she liked.
He’d cleaned the front yard up, moving junk into his wagon and taking it away, never to be seen again. Together, they’d washed both long sides of the house and cleaned up the front porch. Mélanie had spent several hours cleaning the parlor and worked with the house to make the furniture the sort of stuff she — the house, that was — really liked. That had been the hardest, arguing with someone who argued back by thumping chairs or playing chords on the piano. It was impossible to win, but it was also impossible to give up.
The house, it turned out, had rather Victorian tastes — which made sense, if she was a Victorian-era house — but Mélanie managed to talk her into some less fussy-looking pieces and a little less clutter. Once the room was tidied, cleaned, and freshened, Mélanie took to spending a little time there every afternoon, when the sun was coming in just right through the western windows, reading — she’d read aloud, because she wasn’t sure if the house could read and, in turn, the house seemed to like those read-aloud sessions.
If she hadn’t noticed Jasper watching her, or sitting just out of the parlour in the next room over, sometimes during those times, Mélanie might have thought, from the way he left her alone during those times, that he didn’t like what she was doing or didn’t approve of it. Something about the expression she’d caught on his face, the once or twice she had seen him there, told her the opposite.
The fourth time Jasper headed out, Mélanie went to work on the back yard. It was tangles and dead leaves, overgrown hedges and things that looked sort of like flower beds.
Or, at least it had been, when she’d gone out there a week ago.
Today, as she opened the little garden gate — noting, first, that it was properly hung and swing silently — she saw an entirely different sight.
The grass was short and smooth. Directly in front of her was a tidy clock-styled garden in twelve hues of red, purple, and pink. What she had thought was just an upset set of privet hedges in the middle of the back yard turned out to be a small hedge maze or sort of ornamental garden, complete with a functioning fountain that spouted cheerfully dancing water. On the other side, a vegetable garden took up what had been filled with the remains of a fallen tree.
“Did you- Did you do this?” She looked at the house. “Did you fix all this?”
The voice was shy, ethereal, and breezy. Mélanie grinned.
“I love it! It’s beautiful!
A warm breeze brushed around Mélanie. She bounced through the garden and kicked her shoes off to enjoy the fountain. “This is amazing. I’ve always wanted to live in a place like this…” She trailed off. “Is that okay for you? Having people living, uh. In you? Being thought of as a place?”
There was a long pause before the wind answered her again.
~I am a place.~ It didn’t sound upset; it sounded content. ~I am happier when I have people. Happy people,~ the voice added after a moment. ~People who appreciate me are the best.~
I am a place. Mélanie considered that She’d been thinking of the house as a person, but she’d also sometimes still been thinking of the house as someone inhabiting the building. She wondered which it was — or how it was. But she didn’t want to push the house too much. “Thank you for talking to me.” She waded around the fountain, giggling. “Thank you for this. This is amazing.”
The house didn’t answer, but Mélanie hadn’t expected her to, either. She explored the back yard more, the little picnic area against the back hedge, the hedge itself, the well-trimmed berry bushes. “Can I pick some berries?”
A bowl flew over to her and landed in her hands. She took that as a yes.
She picked blueberries and raspberries and blackberries, humming to herself as she did so, and then followed another bowl over to the vegetable garden, where fat strawberries were ripening. “you know these aren’t all in season at the same time, right?”
The shutters on the back windows clacked. Mélanie chuckled.
“All right, all right, I’ll enjoy them. Hey, do you think we should get cows? Or goats? Some fresh cream would be amazing.”
The house seemed to consider but did not answer.
“Maybe we should trade for cream?” Mélanie offered. “Cows can take up a lot of space, and the horses like their paddock as it is.”
There was another clack of the shutters. Mélanie smiled. “I’ll ask Jasper about that. Thank you again for the berries. Tomorrow, I’ll start working on the front porch.”
The house, somehow, seemed satisfied. Mélanie was, too. She finished her outdoor chores, nibbling berries and whistling.
She couldn’t remember a time since the end of everything that she’d been happier.Want more?