Their house

by Jenny

She remembered her very first night here, the night she’d moved in. Andy would join her in a day or two and she’d use the time to start unpacking and break the back of the cleaning.

She remembered the glorious isolation of the place. Not a soul for miles, no cars, no streetlights, nothing but a dirt track road, their beautiful house and fields for miles.

She remembered how far from beautiful the house had been that day, how the brickwork crumbled, how black mould had danced its way, unchecked, across the plaster, like ice forming on a window pane in winter. How condensation had streaked the walls and glass when she lit the camping stove as the sun went down.

But none of it mattered. It was theirs; their house, their home, and they would make it work. They had A Plan. The house had taken every last penny they had scraped together. They were excited about the work, about the project. Her hands trembled as she filled the kettle with water from the rain barrel for a cup of tea, heated on the bare flagstone floor of the ancient kitchen.

There was no electricity or heating. No bed, no furniture. No running water - that was all coming later with Andy, he was a plumber, sort of, or his dad was anyway and he’d get that side of things all fixed up in no time. So she unrolled the sleeping bag, filled a hot water bottle and settled down to sleep beside the big open fireplace, pretending it was filled with a roaring, crackling fire. Soon, she knew, it would be.

She remembered waking up that first night to the flicker of movement in the tall, splintered doorway and the way the shape peeled itself away from the shadows to stand over her. She couldn’t see its face.

She remembered how she knew it was watching her, how she couldn’t move or speak and how there was nowhere to go and no-one to help her even if she could. She felt the familiar overwhelming terror coursing through her body and the utter helplessness that always rode with it.

She remembered the way the shadow’s arms rose, black in blackness, no street lights here to show the reality of a badly draped dressing gown, the truth of a sinister blowing curtain. How it reached towards her and how it drew itself down to crouch by her makeshift bed. How she tried to scream and nothing would come, nothing would move, nothing would stop it. How she thought she would run mad if the shadow came any closer.

Then the world shifted suddenly, lurching on its axis, tipping everything back into place. There was the fireplace, there was the window, bright with moonlight, dripping in condensation. There was the movement in her arms, her legs, all as it should be. She sat up trembling, sweating, wishing for Andy.

And she remembered the shadows’ arms wrapping her up in a tight embrace. This was theirs; their house, their home. And she was safe with them now.