If beauty were in the eye of the beholder, Marilee thought, then there was none in this old house. Weeds grew waist-high, encroaching upon the cracked sidewalk. Worn boards groaned as she placed a tentative foot on the porch. With slow steps, she crossed to the door, key in hand, hoping the boards would not break.
The key stuck and she set her lips tight as she worked it, struggling until the old lock turned and the weather-warped door opened with a screech. Marilee entered, waving cobwebs out of the way and coughing at the dust stirred up on the hardwood floors. The unpleasant, stale air reeked of must and she shuddered, wondering how she might eradicate the odor. Some serious elbow grease would be required to make the old house habitable again, she thought.
Standing in what the owner called the front room, Marilee surveyed the house. The front door opened into the living room, connecting it through a dining room to the small kitchen. A door to her right opened into one of two bedrooms separated by a small bathroom. Taking a deep breath, she walked through the rooms, frowning at the kitchen with its old-fashioned sink and ancient appliances. One more bedroom was tucked behind the others and accessible through the hall off the kitchen.
Scattered debris, left behind by the last residents, lay in every corner. Most of it was trash: a broken vase, an odd shoe without a mate, a faded dishcloth, a naked doll. A box of discarded magazines sat to the side, the wrinkled pages reeking of mildew. Most of the walls were bare, although she saw patches where frames had once hung. Remembering an old phrase that her grandmother used in scorn, Marilee spoke aloud, “It’s uglier than homemade sin!”
Tears ached inside her, tightening her chest and burning her eyes. She thought of her suburban home, their “dream home,” remembering the spacious rooms, the multilevel design, the soft carpets in an appealing hue, and the landscaped yard. When she had first walked through the door of that home, her heart had soared with joy. Decorating it and arranging the furniture had been a pleasure. Her home, until recently, had been a sweet haven from the world for her family.