You smell her perfume on the sheets, despite boil washing. His grown up kids refuse to visit, and all the neighbours shun you: it isn’t safe to like you.
You try to laugh it off, but nothing’s funny; you try to justify yourself, but can’t. You ask the question, what does it want from you? You ask the chilly air; the mirror. The house knows the answer. It clenches when you enter: you feel it tighten, hear creaks in its beams and its brickwork. You know you make it queasy: dyspeptic gurgles rumble in its pipework, green mould blooms around its window frames and thickens in your presence. You shower twice a day, which makes it worse.
You beg to move, but he won’t go. Can’t, he says. You suspect the house won’t let him, and when you cry its dust motes dance before your eyes, mocking you.
You apologise daily, tell the house it’s not your fault. You shout it in the living room, bedrooms, and kitchen; shout it down the hallway. But the house thinks it is.
The day he hears you scream will be the end: the house will have its way. What can he do but think it’s in your head? What can the doctors do but think the same?
So you make a plan. Pretend that the perfume on the sheets is yours, the grown-up kids your own, and the neighbours knew you long ago. You’ll make believe you’re someone else. But even as the plan begins to form in your mind, you can sense the house laughing.
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