I almost missed the turn because the road was covered with overgrown weeds and tree branches. It was obvious that no one had travelled this way in quite some time. As I pushed the gate, it fell into pieces. The road was not really in any condition to be driving over but I had no choice, something was pulling me, making me go.
The rain had washed the road away in some spots leaving huge cavernous holes that were hard to avoid but I knew that if I went into one that I’d never get my car out and it was getting late in the day. I really didn’t want to be stuck out here in the dark. The huge trees lining the narrow road already seemed ominous and as silly as it seems, unfriendly as if they were unhappy that I had come. They are the sentries standing guard to this place and I was an intruder. I almost laughed at that, how could I be an intruder when I own the place?
Finally, up ahead I could see a clearing and knew that just beyond that I would finally reach my destination. So many years had passed since I had been in this spot and so much had happened. But being here, all that seemed so far away and this place felt more familiar. The emotional storm I felt brewing made me wonder if maybe it was too soon for me to be here.
My heart almost stopped beating when I arrived. The little cottage looked so alone and so forsaken, just as I must have looked the day that I left. I close my eyes and remember how it looked then, all tidy and neat and warm, filled with love. But that was before. Now it was filled with other memories, memories that wake me in the night and leave me soaked with sweat. Fear does that to you and now, I felt that same fear and I was not even sleeping.
I knew I should drive away telling myself it was not necessary to enter. I had made the journey here and that should be enough to satisfy the doctor’s insistence that I return to face this. But as if in a trance, I climbed out of the car and walked to the door. For just a second, my mind went back to the past when love lived here and the door would open to a warm fire in the fireplace and delicious smells coming from the kitchen. My grandmother would greet me wiping her hands on her apron before grabbing me and giving me hugs and kisses. The sun would be shining in the windows that sparkled and soft music would be playing and I would feel happy and safe.
As I walked inside, those happy thoughts were gone immediately as I was greeted by the musty smells of a house that had been closed for years. Reaching for the light switch, I was glad that I remembered to have the power turned back on. Even though there was a few hours left of daylight the house was pitch black. The lights revealed what I had suspected; everything was just as we left it. No one had cleaned up after that night and the shock of seeing it even after all this time was more that I can bear. The screaming and the yelling started going through my head and I covered my ears to try to stop it but it was still there and wouldn’t go away. Finally I got control of myself and tried to walk further into the house but the glass on the floor was crunching with every step.
I thought that perhaps cleaning up the mess and getting the cottage back the way it was, I could rid my mind of the terrible memories and replace them with the good memories before. I found a broom and dustpan to sweep up the glass from the lamps and figurines and tried not to think of how much my grandmother loved her figurines. I put the furniture back in place and dusted away the cobwebs and wiped down the walls and fireplace mantle. It looked better but I knew that I yet had to scrub the floors in the hallway where it happened. That would be much harder to do and I wasn’t sure that I could do it. I walked back towards the bedrooms and was surprised that there was no sign of the struggle and the blood was gone. How could that be when no one had been here since that night? The bedroom door at the end of the hall was closed and as I got closer, I thought I heard a noise coming from the room. Obviously I was imagining it but I could swear that it was music. My heart was beating so hard that I felt that you could hear it outside my body as I turned the doorknob. Slowly, I opened the door and almost fell to my knees. There was my grandmother sitting in her rocker by the window smiling at me. She looked just like she did the last time I saw her before she was brutally murdered in the hallway trying to stop the intruder from getting to my room.
She smiled at me and reached out her hand and said, “My darling girl, you’ve come to visit me at last. I’ve missed you so much and I was so worried about you. Come, let me look at you.”
Even knowing that this could not be real, I was so happy to see my grandmother that I ran to her and reached to hug her. She felt real and warm and smelled just like she always smelled with that faint lavender fragrance that she loved. I cried and held on to her for hours it seemed but later I realized that it was just a few seconds. She held my hands and told me that she loved me and I should forget all the bad things that happened and go on with my life. She told me that she was happy and would always be with me in my heart and now I should leave this place and return to my world. I tried to hold on to her but she was starting to fade away and I knew that I couldn’t keep her. She had to return to her world as surely as I had to return to mine.
I closed the door and walked to the living room and out the front door for the last time. The darkness was beginning to take over the woods and I knew I needed to leave. Driving out of the woods I felt lighter and free at last. My heart didn’t ache and I could almost feel my grandmother’s presence. She knew that I needed to hear that she was happy and see her the way she had been before she was murdered.
No one believed my story of course but that’s okay, it wasn’t necessary that anyone else believe it. I sold the property and the cottage was torn down. A family built a new cottage just a little further down, nearer the lake. I think my grandmother would have approved.
The final chapter in my story of that horrible night is that the killer is being executed today. He’ll pay for brutally killing my grandmother and trying to kill me but I won’t be attending the execution. I don’t want to see that monster ever again. My grandmother gave me back my good and happy memories when I saw her at the cottage and I no longer feel the need to see her killer suffer.