When I stepped through the door of my childhood home for the first time in five years, the first thing I noticed was the feeling of comfort and piece that washed over me. I had struggled over the years to build a normal life away from this world, but I had never felt like I truly belonged in it. I had kept to myself, stayed out of trouble, worked hard, didn’t draw attention to myself, but I had never really felt content. However standing in the foyer of my mother’s (now my) home, I felt like I was truly where I was supposed to be.
Jeff came through the door behind me carrying some of our bags, “man Ella, my apartment is cleaner than this”. Jeff said turning up his nose.
“What did you expect? It’s been locked up for five years Jeff, and the last time I checked we don’t have a House Elf to keep everything tidy.” I said sarcastically as I walked into the front parlor.
“House Elf? What the hell are you talking about?” Jeff asked.
“A House Elf…Harry Potter…Dobby the House Elf…oh nevermind. I forget you’re allergic to books.” I responded.
“Hey, I read!” Jeff said indigently.
“Uh huh.” I mumbled. “Looks like someone closed the place up for me.” I was standing in the front parlor, to the left of the entryway, surveying the room.
“Yeah, mom and I did that. She wasn’t sure when you’d be coming back, so we covered everything up after you said you weren’t going to stay here.” Jeff said.
“Here, help me get these off.” I grabbed one of the sheets and slid it off a couch, then another that was covering a chair, then the coffee table, etc etc. Jeff uncovered lamps and a couple of large empty pots and statues located around the room. He tried the switch on one of the lamps and amazingly enough, it turned on. I guess we had utilities. Bonus!
I must have looked surprised the lamp turned on because Jeff shrugged and said, “Mom kept them going. I asked her once why she bothered and she said because she knew you’d be back, just not when.”
Closing up the house, making sure the utilities were taken care of, and placing the wards on the outside of the doors and windows to keep trespassers and burglars away were all things I hadn’t give any thought to when I left. Leave it to Aunt Agnes to step up and deal with my responsibilities at a time when I couldn’t. Even though she had lost her sister and was grieving just as much as I was.
“I’ll send her a check tomorrow.” I said nonchalantly.
Jeff looked at me and gave a small snort of laughter, “for five years worth of utilities? Who are you kidding El, you don’t have that kind of money.”
I didn’t say anything, but just continued too around the room. “Wait, do you?” he asked.
I didn’t respond, of course I have that kind of money. I have that and plenty more, but the less Jeff knew about that the better. I love my cousin, but he’s really bad with money.
The room looked like it was in a time warp. Everything was exactly where it had been for years. Nothing was out of place. It was all still perfect. I felt a sudden wave of sadness wash over me, but I took a deep breath and clamped down my feelings.
“First thing first. We need to get the wards back in place and then we need to get this place cleaned up. This much dust and staleness in the air isn’t going to help us if Simon manages to find me right away, and I doubt I can sneezed him to death.” I said sarcastically.
“Um…El? What about food?” Jeff asked.
“Until I can get a better understanding of who/what Simon is, plus brush up on my defenses and combat skills, and figure out what he wants with me, I’m pretty much grounded. Which means you are on gopher duty my friend.” I said with a grin.
After I had drafted a list of essentials and sent Jeff to the store with a wad of cash (knowing full well I wouldn’t be getting any change), I walked through the kitchen I would soon be scrubbing toward the back of the house. The kitchen was large and open, with decent appliances and a large cook’s island with stools on one side in the center of it all. There was also a small kitchen table set into a nook overlooking the back lawn and I could still see myself sitting at that table eating breakfast and looking out the window. I stood in the kitchen for a moment remembering how much time I had spent with my mother in this part of the house. Watching, learning, studying, helping, and trying to be perfect above everything else. I had thought learning it all; practicing until I was flawless would somehow protect both of us from the dangers surrounding us. I believed the better I was, the safer we’d be. I was so naïve, and so wrong. Because no matter how good I was, I wasn’t able to save my mother. Which meant the world had lost a truly strong and beautiful woman.
I shook the memory off and went into the greenhouse off the left of the kitchen. Nothing was growing in here now, but the room still smelled of earth and I could still see all the plants and herbs that use to exist in this room. It was one of my favorite rooms in the house and I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed it. Even though there was nothing currently living in the room, there was a fair amount of dried herbs my mother had processed and stored in the cabinets throughout the room. I found the bag of dried sage, the piece of thin cloth and the roll of twine I was looking for and went back into the kitchen.
I wrapped the cloth tightly around the sage and had just finished tying the twine around it when I heard the front door close and Jeff’s footsteps in the hall.
“Ella?” he called.
“In the kitchen.” I called back, putting the final touches on my sage wand.
Jeff came in loaded down with bags and proceeded to dump them all on the island I was working at. “Cleansing wand?” Jeff asked. Even though he tried to hide it, Jeff was smarter than he looked. He just typically chooses not to broadcast it.
“Yes. I need to get the wards back in place and purge the house.” I said getting up from my stool and heading towards the back door. Jeff followed me.
The back lawn of the house wasn’t in terrible shape, but I could see where most of the trees and shrubs had become over grown. I would need to spend some time out here eventually, but that was a project for another day. There was a large thicket of trees that lead to a small nature preserve that back up against my property line. The tree line was dark and shadowy and didn’t make me feel very comfortable considering the last couple days. I lit my sage wand and started repeating the spell my mother had taught me years ago. I walked the entire perimeter of the house, the smoke from the burning sage helping to seal with wards I was placing. The wards should camouflage our presence and keep the Others away for awhile. Hopefully. It had been a long time since I’d used magic like this and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was up against yet.
“That should do it.” I said when I ended my walk around the house and stepped back onto the back porch. I stopped short on the porch. I suddenly felt cold and had the feeling we weren’t alone. I looked hard into the trees at the back of the property, and couldn’t see anything looking back at me. But something felt, wrong. Just as I was about to say something to Jeff, the feeling disappeared. It was as if someone had snapped their fingers and vanished. I felt a chill go down my spine, but I shook it off.
“Are you sure it worked?” Jeff asked.
“Let’s find out.” I said, opening the kitchen door and walking through.
Jeff tried to follow me and stopped. “What the hell?” He asked looking very confused at the doorframe. “I can’t walk through. Why can’t I walk through?” He asked, suddenly alarmed.
“Because you haven’t said the magic words.” I said with a grin. My wards were working. Unless you know what to say at any of the doors or windows, the house wasn’t going to let you in.
“Please.” Jeff said exasperated.
“Nope. Not the right magic word.” I said.
“This isn’t funny El. How do I get in? What’s the lock phrase?” He asked starting to look a little panicked as he kept trying to push against the barrier.
“House Elf.” I said with a smile.
Jeff was not amused.
This post is a part of a writing group I'm participating in, all writing on the same prompt each week. After WAY too much time away from these challenges, I am back and ready to keep this going.
The prompt for this week was a simple one, let your characters work through the old saying, "Perfect is the enemy of good."
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