Upstairs downstairs

Among the boxes and books, the beams, the balanced photograph albums, the rocking horse covered with a dust sheet, a swirling shaft of amber light pierces the sepia haze and illuminates the spot where I sit. It is evening and I have been here for too long.

The heat of the day lingers here. It is stuffy and close and drowsy. The stack of gaudy cushions from the sun loungers look like they’d make an inviting bed, but now is not the time for sleeping. Downstairs is beginning to come alive.

Here among the rafters are the treasures. The life once led, but not quite cast aside; the old framed photographs boxed away to make way for the new - a stretch of deserted starlit beach, two cocktails, a shining ring, a baby bump, a gap-toothed smile, a new bundle. A timeline of all the happy moments. All hidden here. Gone but not quite forgotten. Ready, waiting to be collected another day.

I watch the amber light fade to grey, to nothing, to blue stillness as night falls outside. The colour of nostalgia that so recently filled this place of forgotten memories with its reassuring warmth is gone, leaving only shadows and shapes and silence.

Beneath my feet voices rise and fall in soft cadences as the house comes to life now at the closing of the day. Lights flicker, footsteps pad, doors click. Plates, cutlery, school, work, elbows off, dishwater, television. The warm evening sounds of togetherness, armour against the cold darkness of the outside, of the other.

The shadows deepen, darken, disappear.

Slowly the voices taper away, the silences grow longer, filled with the television drone. The warmth ebbs, the tapping of the pipes, the settling of the house for sleep as one by one the family settle in for bed. Brushed teeth, soft pyjamas, goodnight kisses. The click of the nightlight. The silence that settles over everything like snowfall, dampening, deepening, darkening.

Then slowly I move from my place in the dark, open the hatch with a tiny, deafening click and climb down to the house below.