Sophie traced a lingering hand over sun-bleached and chipped hand rails and closed her eyes, imagining for a moment the screen door would protest its way open and her mother, dressed in her apron and dusting flour encrusted hands off would call her in for supper. Replaced by the calls of children playing on a deserted street were the calls from labourers guiding in trucks of fill and the mechanical groan of bulldozers wreaking their own brand of havoc making way for new homes within the tired suburb.
She has shoved her way past the fluttering yellow tape at the gate, threshed a path through the overgrown gardens and now stood transfixed at the bottom of the stairs waiting for an invitation to enter her childhood home.
As she stepped carefully up them, the stairs creaked, threatening to snap beneath her feet. The door knob, now so small, still felt cold and her hand delighted in its textured rim as she turned to open it.
Years worth of highway dust and evidence of squatters, long gone settled uncomfortably on this once warm and welcoming home. Light streamed in through boarded up broken windows, highlighting the bare and dirty floorboards.
Sophie ran her hand up one of the door ways, stopping at childish lines marking growth spurts and dates, remembering each proud symbol.
The front room still boasted a grand fireplace and although the bay window had been shuttered and its curtains lay rotting in shreds, it exuded an elegance difficult to capture in modern homes.
“It doesn't look that bad, why would it be condemned? All it needs is a little love.” Sophies lips pursed as her critical Real Estate eye assessed the house. She walked over to the dirty white stone fire hearth, bent and rubbed her hand over the deep stain permeated into flooring. Twenty years of scrubbing and every industrial removal method had failed to erase this memory.
“Looking for something, Sophie?” The voice deep, commanding.
Sophie inclined her head towards the voice without turning. “Terrance. I didn’t realise you would be here.”
“The house is condemned.”
Sophie stood and stared into the long dead fireplace. “I saw the sign.”
“Why are you here?” She felt his presence looming behind her, fancying the heat from his body was what was causing her back to prickle. The rooms temperature dropped as she glared at the offending curtains.
“Perhaps to say goodbye, recapture what I had lost.” Sophie turned slowly and looked into grey concerned eyes. “I’m not sure why I’m here. I just.. felt I needed to. Obviously, it was a mistake.”
“When you left, it broke your mothers heart. You never came back.”
Straightening her handbag on her shoulder Sophie tersely countered, “Looks as though history repeats itself then.”
Steel grey hair combed to perfection lay exactly the way she had always remembered it. The drone of the building site intensified and as Terrance continued to stare, Sophie met his challenging look, daring him to break it first. The frigid air tingled on her bare skin. Dust swept in tiny graceful pirouettes as they were courted by the breathing world outside. Unable to hold her anger and intense look any longer, Sophie cursed silently in her defeat and pushed past the figure and walked into the hallway.
“Go. Theres nothing here for you now.”
Sophie bit her lip and turned towards him. “What will happen to you? Will, can you go somewhere else?”
Terrance meandered over to her and leaning rakishly against the stair bannister, grinned. “Are you offering me a spot in your home? Are you sure you have room in that mansion you share with a cat?”
Sophie frowned, “How do you know where I live?”
He let out a genuine laugh. “Not much gets past me luv, not any more.”
Her frown deepened as pent up hate burst from within. “Well plenty got past you when I was a child. You left us, remember? Mum and I. Alone in this house.”
“It was different back then. I had no choice. It was the only way you and your mother….”
“Please, spare me your excuses. Have you any idea how much I have spent on therapy on this? You could have done anything else. Anything. But you left us.”
The smile gone, Terrances eyes bore into hers as a hand reached towards her. “I was never far away love. I never was.”
Tiny sparkling spittle sprayed their way across a sunbeam. Sophies eyes reddened with tears she refused to admit to as she glared at him. “What good is an absent father? You were no good then and you’re no good now. So don’t start this bonding stuff on me now.”
He moved closer to her shaking shoulders and held his hands above them, as though afraid to touch her.
“I’ve got to go.” Sophie brushed a hand across her eyes, the dust leaving a muddy smudge. “Mums in that retirement village on Green Lakes. They moved her to the intensive ward. She hasn’t known me for months.”
“Sophie, she knows its you. She’s waiting for you to let her go.”
Sophie stopped her heaving sobs. “You’ve seen her? I didn’t think you could.. you know.”
A small smile played on his lips. “I’ve been watching you and your mother every day, every breath, every tear.”
“Has she seen you?”
“No. She refused to see me ever since I first left. But, I’ll wait for her. Its not long now.”
Sophie tilted her head toward the ceiling, attempting to trap the tears threatening to spill down her cheeks.
“Dad. Don’t stay here. Especially when they start to tear it down. Stay with me; that is if you can. But no scaring my cat.”
He grinned. “What do you think got rid of Ricky?”
“Gorgeous Ricky who turned out to be a real creep?”
“Things that go bump in the night scare even the most self assured folk; especially undesirable boyfriends with more than tenderness on their minds.”
Terrance shrugged. “I thought you might need me more than your mother did.”
“Aren’t you pinned to this place? Where you died?”
Terrance grinned again. “The church and their stories. In saying that - they got one thing correct, suicides have no rights in the afterlife.”
Sophie rolled her eyes. “Alright, whatever. Just don’t you know, interfere, unless I need you to. ”
A tiny wind rustled a yellowed newspaper, sending it scuttling along the floorboards. Terrance snapped out of sight, the warmth in the room returning.
“And no more doing that either, I used to hate it when you did that when I was a teenager!”