Jacob stepped out of his car, the house wasn’t exactly as he remembered, but it was close. The grass was longer now, weeds were sprouting everywhere, the house looked weathered but cared for. It needed a lick of paint and a good scrub, but beyond that, identical. He walked up the gravel drive and let himself in, the house was colder than he expected and the air was filled with a damp smell with a hint of rot. He shook his head slightly, it was weird being back here, especially by himself. Julia had refused to come, she didn’t give any reasons, but she didn’t need to, Jacob knew why she wouldn’t come out here. Both of his parents were dead, had been for years. The house was in both his and Julia’s name but neither had been up to coming out here. Julia wanted to sell it, realistically they should have done it immediately, rather than just let it sit out here for so long. Now the time was coming and the house would be gone, Jacob felt some kind of need to come back, to look over the place.
He walked through the house, marking down changes that needed to be made and repairs that needed to be done. It wouldn’t be too much and would definitely be worth the extra money they’d get when selling it. He felt as though this house, and by extension his parents, owed both of them. They were neither good parents, or providers, but maybe the money would go a little way towards making up for that. He didn’t think Julia would ever come back out here, not that he blamed her. Hell, he had a difficult enough time convincing her to take half of whatever they got from selling the place. Even now he wasn’t sure she’d accept the money once it became real.
The interior of the house was different, there were plenty of changes. Doors had been replaced, walls had been repainted. He felt a little pang as he looked at the doorframe where his and Julia’s heights had been measured. Gone were the little black marks and scribbles of names and ages, replaced with a dull white. His parents had covered up any evidence that they had had children. That didn’t surprise him, he knew that they were going to do it, after all they had said so, but he was surprised at how much it could still hurt.
One of the last places to check was the basement. Jacob wasn’t going to go down there. Even now he felt chills looking at the door. He knew if he opened it the basement would be the exact same as it had always been. Smell of earth, rich and heavy, with an underlying stench, one that he had always thought of as the monster smell. The light would flicker sullenly before lighting, casting a dim glow about the shadow filled room. In the back there would be the little box. He wondered if that was still there. After all they had gotten rid of everything else associated with their children, why not the dreadful place they used to punish them?
Jacob turned from the door, he would not go down there. Someone would be out in the next few days to check for structural damage and to see if there were any major repairs needed. They could deal with the basement. The wind outside had picked up and the house started to groan, the noises were familiar and oddly comforting.
He checked the attic, he wasn’t looking for it, at least that was what he told himself, but it was all still there. A few mouldy comic books, a penknife, gouges in the wood. He used to hide up here sometimes, where it was warm and dry and safe. Julia preferred the woods outside and his parents had assumed he did too. She would go exploring for hours while he hid up here, sometimes with some snacks, other times with his arms wrapped around his knees, huddled and terrified. The attic was never used for anything when he was younger and the tradition seemed to have held. There was some junk over in one corner, junk that he had picked through as a child, forgotten about by whoever had put it up there. Nothing in it was important, or terribly interesting. Jacob ran his fingers over the gouges, gently exploring them, remembering the feeling of the penknife as it dug deep into the wood.
Jacob stood outside, the house was locked again, it wouldn’t betray any of its secrets. He got into his car and drove away, not looking back as he did so. He didn’t know what he expected to find out here, a sense of family, a reminder of the good times, some kind of closure. What ever it was he didn’t get it. The house would be sold and when it was he would be glad of the money, but that would be all he would feel. No pang at the loss of his childhood home, no grief for the memories that could have and should have filled the house. All that had passed with his parents.
Neither he nor Julia went to the funeral, apparently there was a good turn out. Lots of whispers and gossiping about their absence no doubt, but neither of them wanted to face it. Afterwards they visited the grave together. It was a solemn occasion. Jacob had thought they’d do something, maybe share or a drink or one of them would cry or piss on the grave. But there was only relief. They were finally gone, no longer would people try to convince him to visit them, to talk to them, to give them another chance because they were his parents and family mattered. Gone was the fear when the phone rang that maybe, just maybe another well meaning relative had given out his number in the hopes of some kind of reunion. He knew that Julia visited the grave sometimes, he didn’t know why and he didn’t want to pry it out of her. If she wanted to share she would. For Jacob the one visit was more than enough and once the house was gone they’d finally be out of his life forever.