Episode 6 – Spring Cleaning

A woman stood in front of the house and considered its stately gardens and well-manicured lawn, still vibrant through the rain and mist. In her hands she held a newspaper clipping, its words beginning to smudge from the rain and the nervous heat of her fingers. She checked the blurred address against the one hanging on the wall.

53 Ganymede Avenue.

It wasn’t what she had expected. Not for the rent listed in the ad. She looked down at her soaking wet jeans and back up to the towering brick and ivy. To the crisp edges of garden and perfectly trimmed shrubbery.

What if they didn’t want… well… someone like her?

She shivered, her light sweater hardly enough protection against the early autumn air. That was enough to spur her forward, up the steps to the black front door. With one last deep breath stinging her lungs, she rapped the ornate bronze knocker three times.

It wasn’t long before the door peeked open to reveal a willowy woman, her long brown hair hanging limply around her shoulders. She didn’t speak, only regarded the visitor from her position, half-hidden behind the heavy door. The first woman hesitated, suddenly beset by a series of aromas — strawberries and cream, basil, a touch of pine, and a hint of something else, something earthy and spicy all at once. The scents dissipated quickly on the damp morning air, leaving only the promise of warmth still leaking through the open doorway.

“Um, I’m Rosemary. I — I called about the apartment. Is it — is it still available?”

For a moment, Rosemary thought the woman might cry, but instead she gave a resigned sort of smile and opened the door wider. “Come in,” she said.

Rosemary nearly leaped through the doorway, but managed to restrain herself for fear of displeasing her host; she couldn’t afford to be turned away this time.

The inside of the house was even more stately than the exterior, and Rosemary become suddenly aware of her sodden form and the water pooling on the neat tile floor under her tattered shoes. Thankfully the other woman hardly looked at her, instead chewing her lip while her eyes drifted up the impressive stairwell. She mounted the first couple of steps before acknowledging Rosemary’s presence, “Your room is up this way.”

Rosemary hesitated, looking once more at her sodden sneakers. Without turning her host added dispassionately, “You can leave your shoes, if you’d like. Some do. Some don’t.”

Rosemary hurriedly kicked off her shoes and then tucked them neatly between the door and an old umbrella stand, being careful to step around the puddle she’d left behind. The other woman was already several steps ahead, so she rushed to catch up, eyeing the doors off of the first floor landing once they reached it. Without saying anything, her host continued on up the stairs to the third floor, Rosemary tagging along in the uncomfortable silence.

After mounting the final step, the woman turned left and gestured toward a door. “This is your apartment.”

With a nod, Rosemary waited, but her host simply continued to stand in front of the door. Finally she moved as if to rub something out of her eye and then reached into a pocket for a small, ornate key which she fit carefully into the lock. She opened the door and reached out an arm to invite Rosemary in. As she passed, Rosemary thought the woman’s eyes seemed glassy and maybe even a little red around the edges, but before she could dwell on the thought, she was distracted by the room before her.

The door opened on a tiny kitchen: a sliver of counter space, a single-basin sink, an apartment-sized fridge and oven. Across from it a door opened on an even tinier bathroom. Despite its size, Rosemary didn’t feel claustrophobic — on the contrary, the room seemed to embrace her as she entered, lending her a sense of security she couldn’t recall since her grandmother’s death. Since she’d had warm arms around her — the kind that waited patiently, the kind she didn’t have to worry would disappear, or worse, turn rigid and dangerous. Rosemary wrapped her sweater tighter around herself as she walked further into the apartment, silently hoping her own arms would be enough.

At the end of the kitchen she found a doorway to a bedroom, its walls lined with curtain and glass: windows facing in almost every direction. Only now did she realize how close the house was to the lake, its waters roiling under the weight of the downpour. Rosemary leaned in so close to the glass that her breath stained its surface, but she hardly noticed, her eyes closing as she listened to the rhythm of rain against the window.

A sudden noise dragged her attention up toward the ceiling. There was a door there, a hatch, carefully painted so that its presence was easily missed. Another sound, like the scurry of an animal.

“Is it acceptable?” The woman was suddenly at her side, her eyes holding Rosemary’s so intently that she temporarily abandoned her curiosity.

“Acceptable? It’s perfect,” Rosemary said.

The woman’s mouth twisted, her head tilted as if this knowledge were a disappointment to her. Rosemary’s stomach lurched. Was there something about Rosemary that she disapproved of? Would she turn her away? Oh God, where else did they have to go?

For a heartbeat, the woman’s eyes flickered to the ceiling, to the small door, and then back to Rosemary. “Would you like to fetch some things? I can… clean while you’re gone. It’s a bit dusty…”

Her voice trailed off; the room was spotless.

Rosemary took a deep breath and indicated the gym bag at her side, “Um… this is actually everything. For now.”

“Of course it is.” The woman sighed and sank down on the bed, staring away out of one of the windows. Rosemary waited, but she didn’t speak, didn’t move.

“Is… is something wrong?”

The woman looked up suddenly, as if surprised that Rosemary were still there. This time there was no mistake, tears were collecting at the corners of her eyes, the first beginning to spill down her cheek. Not knowing what else to do, Rosemary dropped down beside her on the bed and almost reached out an arm to wrap around her narrow frame, but then thought better of it and put her hands into her lap. The woman didn’t answer or protest, so Rosemary tried again. “What’s your name?”

“Her name is Art.”

“Okay…” Rosemary answered, wondering if perhaps she had misheard, “Whose name…?”

“The woman hiding in the attic above your apartment.”

Rosemary looked up to the ceiling once more and this time was certain she could hear the sound of soft footfalls overhead. “Ah. Um. Okay.”

“I didn’t think you’d be here so early…”

“Yeah. That kind of thing happens to me a lot,” Rosemary said, and was almost pleased to see the woman consider her with a heavy dose of curiosity. At least she was paying attention now. “Why is she hiding?”

“Because she was evicted last month.”

“You evicted her?” Rosemary’s head swam.

“No, of course not. My parents did.”

“Your parents.” So this woman was the daughter of the owners of the house, and she had been harboring an evicted tenant in an attic for a month? What had Rosemary managed to stumble into this time? “So… what’s your name again?”

“Sara,” the woman answered, hopefully correctly this time.

“Sara,” Rosemary repeated. “So why was this woman –“

“Art,” Sara corrected.

“Okay. So why was Art evicted? And why are you hiding her in the attic?”

“Because I love her.”

“Ah.” That answered a lot of questions at once. Why could things never go smoothly for her? “What were you planning to do with her once I moved in?”

“I was going to sneak her out this afternoon.”

“Where is she going to stay?”

“I — We were going to figure that out next.”

Rosemary closed her eyes, trying to find peace in the rhythmic tumble of rainfall once more but instead finding the quiet shuffle of a woman trying very hard not to be noticed. Fine, she thought, what’s one more secret? Out loud she said: “I suppose a roommate wouldn’t be so bad, but can I at least meet her first?”

The tears flowed freely down Sara’s face now, but her puckered frown had lightened into a smile as she nodded and reached for Rosemary’s hands. “Thank you.”

A droplet rolls across the glass surface of the frame, leaving a short trail in its wake. Claire looks up in time to see another tear roll down Sara’s face and onto the photograph.

“Sara?” Art asks, reaching an arm out to touch her wife’s shoulder. “What’s wrong?”

“You did know her, didn’t you?” Declan asks, kneeling to meet Sara’s eyes from where she sits on her bed grasping the wooden frame that had recently hung on the wall nearby. In the grainy photograph are five people standing in front of an orange brick wall: Art and Sara, two or three decades younger, glare longingly into each other’s eyes. On one side of them are two men Claire doesn’t recognize, and on the other a familiar woman with untamed orange hair, her belly swelling out from the confines of her black canvas jacket. “How?”

Sara looks up then, her eyes widening on Declan’s face as though seeing it for the first time. Her hand rises from her lap, reaching out, but then hesitates. Claire watches as her face contorts into a look of confusion and then her gaze snaps back to the photograph. She clenches her eyes shut and says the last thing Claire expects — her name.

“Claire.”

“Y–” her voice catches in her throat so she clears it and tries again, “Yes?”

“I need your help in the garden.”

“Sara, this is hardly the time,” Art interjects, her voice quivering with worry.

Sara lifts her hands and shakes her head, silencing everyone. “Please, quickly.”

Claire nods and walks with Sara out into the hall and to the back porch. Art, Declan, and Lucy follow at a safe distance behind, watching in confusion but afraid to interfere; Claire hears their footsteps and the soft titter of their questions.

“I’m going to give you a list of things I need you to gather and bring to the kitchen.”

Claire almost asks why, but she can read the urgency in the tears still threatening to spill over and the photograph still clenched tightly in the older woman’s hands. “Okay,” she says instead.

Sara rattles off a list of herbs and flowers, sometimes repeating the same item twice or pausing for full minutes before continuing on. Occasionally she glances back at the photograph before closing her eyes and rattling off more items.

“Do you have all of that?” she finally asks. Claire nods, hoping that she does, and hurries into the garden.

The thing about secrets, Rosemary was quickly learning, was that they were like weeds: they multiplied easily and seemed to escape through even the tiniest of cracks.

“So what are you going to do when the baby comes?” Art asked her one night while they ate dinner together on the bedroom floor, the hatch in the ceiling open and the curtains drawn tight in case Maria and George Reynard happened to catch a glimpse of their banished tenant.

“Is it that obvious?” Rosemary asked, glancing down at the subtle swell of her belly beneath her over-sized sweater. Her hand drifted against the undetectable presence of life within her.

Art shook her head, snatching another slice of pizza from the grease-drenched box between them, “Sara told me.”

“But I never…”

Art cocked her head, brow raised as she chewed.

“How does she do it?” Rosemary asked, her voice hardly a whisper as if Sara might be standing outside her door at that very moment.

“Damned if I know,” Art said with a shrug.

“You’re not curious?” she pressed, “Aren’t you like a scientist or something? You must have a theory.”

“Of course I’m curious. You haven’t seen half the things she…” Art shook her head at Rosemary’s raised eyebrow, “Look…I’ve considered hundreds of hypotheses, each more unlikely than the last. I’ve asked that woman every question under the sun and do you know where that got me?”

“Hiding in the attic of a pregnant kid after having a forbidden affair with your landlord’s possibly-psychic daughter?”

“Exactly,” Art said, glaring as if to say: And let that be a warning to you.

Rosemary snorted, pursing her lips to contain her laughter. It wasn’t as if Rosemary needed to chase trouble, trouble kept up with her just fine on its own.

“So,” Art continued, leaning her back against the side of Rosemary’s bed, “When’s the date?”

“Mid-April. Probably. Around there.” She shrugged, layering her nonchalance over her worries like an over-sized sweater.

“Not much time, huh?”

“Nope.” The pizza sat heavily in Rosemary’s stomach so she tossed her half-eaten slice back in the box while ignoring Art’s shrewd gaze.

Art sighed, the critical line of her mouth softening, “Look… I’m obviously not the Reynards’ biggest fan, but they’re pretty understanding to situations like yours. This place is for people who need help, who don’t have anywhere else to go. You’re going to be okay.”

“Yeah, as long as it’s not their daughter getting knocked up or dating a gay black woman they’re all love and acceptance.” Rosemary shook her head, “Don’t worry, I don’t intend to wait for George and Maria to come hold my hand. I’ve got plans.”

“What kind of plans?”

Rosemary stretched her arms up into the air, cracking her knuckles over her head. “Guess you’ll just have to wait and see.”

“Really? Sage?” Art asks, taking the smoldering bundle from Sara’s hands, “Isn’t that a bit… hokey? I mean, even for you Sara…”

“That’s exactly why it works,” Sara says, turning to pass Claire a spray bottle; through the blue glass she can make out the silhouettes of floating herbs and spices, some of which she’d only recently pulled from the garden.

“What should I clean?” Claire asks, picking up a rag from the pile Art has pulled out from under the cupboards.

“Clean?” Sara asks, her eyes losing focus before falling on the picture propped on the counter. She clenches her eyes tightly, “Anything. Everything. Walls. Windows. Floors.”

Opening her eyes to find four concerned faces she takes a slow, deliberate breath and adds, “Please.”

Claire nods, sparing a glance to the photograph before Sara snatches it back into her hands once more. Without knowing what else to do, Claire sprays the nearest countertop and scrubs it with the rag. The scent of vinegar mixed with rosemary, calendula, and cinnamon fills the air, mingling with the pungent sage smoke. She feels Declan sidle up beside her, his own bottle and rag in hand.

“What’s going on?” He asks, “Do you think this has something to do with…” He hesitates, his gaze flickering across the room to where Sara inspects the photograph once again.

“Yes,” Claire says. “It definitely does.”

Lucy joins them, grabbing a straw broom leaning against the counter. “I’ve never seen Sara like this,” she tells them, “I mean, distracted yes but… I mean Art seemed really concerned.”

“It’s weird,” Claire says, pausing as she crouches down to clean the cupboard doors.

“No kidding,” Lucy says.

“No — I mean Art is in that picture with your mom, Declan. But she hasn’t said anything about it.” The three of them glance around but Art is no longer anywhere in sight.

“Sara asked her,” Declan says, his attention never wavering from the already-sparkling chrome of the kitchen faucet where he continues to wipe and polish, “When you were in the garden. She asked Art who was in the photograph. She remembered the two guys as friends they used to hang around with, but when she got to my mom she just shrugged and said ‘one of the old tenants I guess.'”

“What did Sara say?” Claire asks.

“Nothing.”

“She made the same worried face Art just made when she told us all to clean,” Lucy adds.

Footsteps approach from the hall and Lucy straightens, “Guess I should go find something to sweep.” She leaves, passing Sara in the hall.

Without a word Sara enters and very deliberately stands the photograph frame on the kitchen island. She tilts her head, considers it, and then adjusts the angle a little. With a frown she departs as quickly as she entered, sage smoke trailing behind her.

Declan and Claire exchange solemn glances and turn back to their work.

“It’s a dump,” Art said, cringing at the cobwebs and mold spreading from every corner.

“What else did you think I could afford?” Rosemary laughed, passing her a broom. Art considered it skeptically.

“I think it needs more than a sweep…”

“Yeah well we’ve got to start somewhere.”

“How did you rope me into this again?” Art asked, setting aside the broom and leaning down to carefully collect the pieces of a broken chair from the hallway floor.

“You’re the one who said I couldn’t do it. This is me proving you wrong.”

“You haven’t done anything yet,” she pointed out, “Except manage to rent this…”

“This absolutely charming little retail space,” Rosemary finished for her, “In a perfectly quaint little neighbourhood I might add.”

” Exactly — no one’s gonna find this place!”

“So it’s off the beaten path, that just makes it more mysterious.”

“You can’t even tell it’s a store!”

“I’ll hang a sign.” Rosemary shrugged, taking Art’s abandoned broom and attacking the cobwebs.

“You’ve still got to get stock, advertise, get store fixtures… give me that! And you’re almost seven months pregnant.”

Rosemary dodged her friend’s attempts to snatch the broom away. “I’m still perfectly capable, thank you.”

“Rosemary, stop. Look at me.” With a roll of her eyes Rosemary set down the broom and leaned against it. She extended a hand dramatically, inviting Art to continue, “This is insane. No — look at me. I get it, okay. It’s tiring having everyone telling you to sit down. To accept your place. That you’re aiming too high. I know what it’s like to want to show them, to show yourself, what you’re capable of. To make them eat their words. But it isn’t easy…”

“I know that…”

“You’ve got to prepare. To plan. To pick the right time –“

“There is no right time!” Rosemary shouted and her voice echoed through the empty building. Without meaning to she shrank back, an instinct from another place and time. With a careful breath she pulled herself upright again, her voice quiet but not any less powerful, “There will never be a right time. Not for me. It just… it just doesn’t work that way. The more I think about it, the more opportunities there are for things to go wrong. I’ve wanted this forever and if I wait… until the baby comes, until I save more money, until I’m older, until whatever… it’ll never happen, Art. But if I just start, if I just try, then I can deal as I go. I’ve gotten good at that.”

Art sighed and threw up her hands in surrender. “Okay. Okay. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“At this point I can’t think of a single thing you haven’t warned me about.”

“Yeah well, I’m just looking out for you,” she said, finally catching the broom and pulling it from the younger woman’s grasp.

“I’m the mom here, remember?” Rosemary points out.

A door opens behind them. Without an iota of sarcasm Sara says, “What an absolutely charming place.”

Art closes her eyes and breathes deeply, pointedly ignoring Rosemary’s grin.

“See, at least someone agrees with me.”

“Would you like some help?” Mrs. Miller stands one stair above where Claire is scrubbing away at the staircase banister, River tucked shyly behind her.

Claire looks up and smiles, “That’s okay. A few of us are just doing a little spring cleaning.”

“How about a glass of water?”

“Actually, that would be great,” Claire agrees, enjoying the way River’s face lights up when he peeks out at her.

The two disappear back up the stairs and then return with a tray of glasses. Mrs. Miller carefully hands one to her grandson and continues on down the stairs to offer the rest to Claire’s companions.

“Thanks River,” Claire says when he passes her the glass. Setting down her rag and sitting up straight, she suddenly realizes how sore her neck and shoulders have become.

“Can I help?” the boy asks, indicating the cleaning supplies.

“Sure,” Claire says, taking a welcomed sip of cool water, “If you’d like to.”

Using both hands, River pulls the trigger of the spray bottle, misting the wooden railing before wiping it very carefully with the rag.

“How do you like it here so far?” She asks.

“It’s nice,” he says, “I think mom will really like it when she gets here.”

Claire watches him clean. He’s so gentle, she thinks, like he might break something.

“I like the way everyone does stuff together. At my old apartment it was like everyone was afraid of each other.” He lifts the bottle again, spraying another part of the railing while Claire looks on. “I like the big kitchen,” he adds, “and the yard.”

“I like those too,” Claire says. “I’m glad I get to share them with you.”

River grins at her, tucking his long hair behind his ear. Looking down at the rag in his hands he asks, “Is someone coming to visit?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Claire says, not quite confident of anything anymore

“Mommy cleans like this when people come visit.”

“My mom does that too,” Claire laughs, inwardly wishing she had appreciated that time spent together.

“She also cleans when she’s worried.” River frowns.

“I think… I think we’re all a little worried today.” Claire recalls Sara’s tears, and the fear tracing Art’s deeply-lined mouth.

The little boy considers the shining polish of the railing, reaching out to touch its softly curving surface. “Do you think it’ll wash away?”

“I hope so.”

“Alright. You win. I’m impressed.” Art walked through the first floor of the shop, stopping occasionally to inspect a trinket or take in a display.

“I told you.”

“It’s truly beautiful, Rosemary.” Sara stood behind, taking in the entire front room in the light of the afternoon sun.

“Where did you find all these things?” Art asked, lifting an intricate silver teapot. She turned it over and cringed at the price tag, “Do you even know what they’re worth?”

“My grandma left me some things, when she died. I had a friend hold them for a while, along with some other things I picked up here and there,” she rubbed down the teapot with a cloth where Art had touched it, “I spent a lot of time in pawn shops and thrift stores. Grandma taught me the value of things.”

“You didn’t… you didn’t steal any of this stuff did you?” Art asked, squinting at a pocket watch propped on a shelf near the back.

“No,” she lied. Not from anyone that didn’t deserve it.

Art’s eyes narrowed, but she didn’t press the matter further. Instead she asked, “So, what are your plans for the second floor?”

“Storage mostly,” Rosemary began, “It’ll be hard to keep an eye on people if they… Where did Sara go?”

Art turned, but the space between them was now occupied by nothing more than dust glittering in the light of the window.

The two women walked the perimeter of the first floor, searching with no success, before glancing up the stairwell to the second floor. They looked at each other when they heard a gentle footstep and then mounted the narrow steps one after the other.

“Sara?” Art called. They found her in a large room, her hand resting against a windowless back wall. When she heard them enter she swivelled to face them.

“Rosemary,” she said, “I’d like to ask you a favour.”

“What’s that?”

“Could you keep a secret?”

Claire stands and stretches, watching River disappear up the stairs with her empty glass in hand. Grabbing her supplies she descends the steps, worry and curiosity nipping at her heels. She finds Mrs. Miller sweeping the sitting room while Lucy sits with a glass of water, laughing at some shared joke. Sara stares out the window in the living room, her mouth twitching into a distant frown.

“Are you okay?” Claire asks.

Sara startles, “Oh, Claire. Yes. I think so.”

“You seemed… concerned, I guess.”

“I’m… I’m waiting for something, I think,” she says.

“For what?” Claire asks, turning suddenly at the sound of glass shattering.

“For that,” Sara says, laying a gentle hand on Claire’s shoulder and then disappearing down the hall.

“Get out.” George Reynard didn’t shout — Rosemary didn’t think he was the kind of man who ever shouted — but for some reason that only made him more intimidating. Still, she held her ground.

“For what?” She channeled her fear and anger into her arms, into their firm embrace around her thirteen-month-old child.

“Dad, you can’t blame her. The secrets, the meetings at the shop… they were my idea. She was just looking out for…”

“And what do you think I’m doing? I’m sick of people thinking they know what’s best for MY daughter. After everything we do…”

“Yeah well maybe she’s sick of you thinking you know what’s best for her!” Rosemary was the kind of person who shouted, usually before she realized she was doing it. She regretted it the moment her little boy began to tremble in her arms.

George’s face reddened and his eyes bulged from his head. Still his voice remained level.

“I really don’t think a thief has the moral high ground in this conversation.”

Rosemary blanched. She imagined the look on Art’s face if she had been there to see this — I warned you. Instead she had to settle for the disappointment written across Sara’s.

“You have a week to get out. I’m sure you have enough from that little shop to get by now anyway. I hardly think you need our charity…”

“Charity!?” The baby wriggled and wailed at Rosemary’s indignant cry. She bounced him, lowering her voice. “Is that what we are to you? Do you pat yourselves on the back every day for a job well done? Feed and house the poor wretches but dear God don’t stoop to associating with them!”

There was a murmur through the room. Other tenants had gathered at the raised voices, and now they watched with interest. One of them, an older man named Tyson, spoke up.

“Aw Mr. Reynard give her another chance. She’s got a baby. We all made mistakes…”

“This was her chance. That’s what this place is: a second chance.What do you think it is we do for you people?”

“You people?” Another tenant asked, stepping forward toward Rosemary.

George was losing control of the situation and Rosemary knew that it was time to retreat before he got desperate. She’d had enough experience with desperate men and she’d made her point anyway. “Look, I’ll leave. And I’ll pay for the hats I took.” She swallowed a comment about how they’d been buried under a decade’s worth of dust in the basement anyway.

She turned to go, but Maria Reynard stood behind her. She spoke to Rosemary, but her gaze went past her to her husband and daughter, to the gathered tenants still whispering.

“I wish you’d never come here,” she spat, “I wish everyone here could just forget you ever existed.”

She slid past and Rosemary refused to watch her go. Instead she hefted her still sobbing baby onto her shoulder and mounted the stairs. Art’s advice about plans and patience tumbled within her, but a growing sense of urgency drowned them out. She knew the risks of overstaying a welcome, and besides, maybe she had outgrown this place afterall.

In her room she threw her belongings into a few bags, and her baby’s into another. It surprised her to see how much she’d accumulated over the course of her stay. How much she suddenly had to lose.

She shook her head and called a cab to take her to the shop. She could stay there until they found another apartment. At least Art would be nearby, in the daytime anyway.

She saw the cab pull up through the window and lugged everything downstairs, wishing one of the other tenants might offer her a hand. No one did, and she wondered if George had had a word with them when she’d left.

As she walked out the door for the last time, she caught a glimpse of Sara in the living room window. She lifted an arm to wave, but her friend turned away and disappeared deeper into the house.

Glass glitters in a puddle of water on the kitchen floor. Art stands, oblivious to its presence, her eyes locked on the carefully positioned photograph in the middle of the room.

“Oh my God,” she whispers, “How did I forget?”

Sara rushes to her, agilely missing the shards of glass beneath her feet as she closes the distance between them. “The important thing is we remember now.”

The door was gone. It was usually gone at night, yes, but it should have come back in the morning. And yet Rosemary stood, staring at the blank wall while the baby toddled across the hardwood behind her.

She knocked, but the wall remained solid.

She waited, but no one came. No one called. Only customers, which was lucky at least, even if the jingling of the door and the ringing of the phone sent painful shivers of false hope down her spine.

At night she lay awake on her mattress on the second floor of the shop, her son’s tiny body next to her. She watched his chest rise and fall, his eyelids fluttering as he dreamed. She reached a hand out to stroke his feathery hair. In the near-darkness she imagined it looked like twilight.

“We are enough,” she whispered, until it eventually became true.

“My mother visited the antique shop one morning.” Sara sighs, “I suspect she went in search of her missing hats, but what she found was her evicted tenant. After that she started watching more closely until she realized what was happening. She never figured out the doors exactly, but she knew we had some kind of arrangement with Rosemary. There was a conflict, your mother was evicted, and I can’t remember anything afterwards.”

Declan’s hand trembles in Claire’s when Sara finishes her story. Art still hasn’t looked away from him, as if he might vanish from sight if she so much as blinks.

“Does this mean… The bad luck? The curse? It’s broken?” Claire asks.

Sara’s smile is weak and apologetic. “The curse we washed away was a part of the house. Something my parents must have imparted when Rosemary left. It affected us, our memories and perception…”

“Rosemary’s bad luck was something she carried with her long before we ever met her,” Art says, shaking her head.

“Timing, luck… they’re like anything else. Some people are born with more than they need, and others…” Sara gestures toward Declan, “Others make due with what they’re given.”

“I’m sorry,” Art says, “I’m sorry we weren’t there.”

Sara nods, “And that we can’t do more.”

“It’s not your fault,” Declan says, but Art doesn’t even seem to hear him

“What must she have thought of us? That we blamed her? Abandoned her? And you? Oh Declan you were still a baby. We had all these plans. These places we were gonna take you…”

“She must have been so alone,” Sara says, looking down at the photograph, the one Lucy recognized in the reflection of Declan’s painting, the one they had asked to see only hours before, the one Sara had clutched so tightly as she cried.

“No,” Declan says. “I mean, she was sometimes, but we always had each other. And the shop. It did well for a long time and she was always meeting new people. And when it wasn’t there was always someone offering to help us.”

“Still,” Sara whispers, “I wish we could have been there for her. At the end…”

“Did she ever mention us?” Art asks,

“I… If she did I don’t remember.” This time it is Declan who is apologetic, “But there were a lot of things she never talked about. She wasn’t the kind of person who dwelled on the past. She was always talking about what we were going to do next.”

Art and Sara look at each other and nod, fresh tears threatening to spill over.

“Thank you,” Declan says, his voice wavering. He repeats himself, more clearly this time, “Thank you. For everything you did for her.”

“You’re welcome here,” Sara says, “Always. There will always be a room at 53 Ganymede for you.”

Declan nods.

Claire squeezes his hand and pulls away, leaving them alone to share and discuss. Lucy follows her out and up the stairs. They sit in silence in their living room for several minutes. It is Lucy who finds her voice first.

“This place,” she whispers, “It’s something else, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Claire answers solemnly. Inside of her, ideas begin to coalesce into something solid, triggered by the story of a woman who built her life from nothing. Who helped strangers even when she had everything to lose. Who raised a son as gentle as Declan even when the world assaulted her at every turn. Rosemary’s strength, Sara’s generosity, Art’s determination, Claire searches for pieces of them within herself.

People need a place like 53 Ganymede. More people than will ever find it.

“What are you thinking?” Lucy asks, considering Claire’s furrowed brow and distant gaze.

“Lucy, I have an idea. It’s kind of crazy, and maybe impossible, but I thought… I thought maybe you’d like to start something with me.”

Lucy’s eyes widen as she leans forward, her elbows resting on her knees. “I’m listening.”

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All 53 Ganymede

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

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