Flossy paused as the knocks from the front door echoed through the cottage. She lifted her hands from the washing-up bowl. Why did people have to call when she was busy? She looked at the clock; it was 1.15pm. Susan would be on her lunch break; perhaps she’d forgotten her key? She dried her hands, grabbed her walking stick and pushed her tall, large frame into the hallway.
As Flossy opened the front door, she realised her cottage wasn’t as hot as the sweltering temperature outside. Then she noticed the tiny young woman whose freckles seemed to be smiling at her through the summer heat. “I hope you don’t mind,” the young girl said, waving her arm towards the ‘For Sale’ sign. “Can I ask about your cottage? I was just passing…”
“The estate agent has all the details,” Flossy interrupted as she felt a lump build in her throat. She didn’t want to sell her family home.
The girl’s eyes squinted in the sunlight. “I’ve always loved this cottage; there’s something about it that touches my heart.” She scraped back her long red hair with her painted fingernails. “I had no idea it was on the market,” she added. “I’ve been looking to move for ages.” Her eyes surveyed the house. “I love its quaintness, the timber beams, and the thatched roof.” She raised her nose and breathed deeply. “And the smell of these roses; it really is a perfect English cottage.”
Flossy beamed, it felt strange to hear those words again, her own mother had always said it was a Perfect English Cottage. “I do have some spare details inside,” Flossy found herself saying. Then she acknowledged, “We’ve only just put the cottage on the market. I’ll go and get you a brochure.”
The girl went to speak and then held the wall as if to steady herself. She straightened and wiped her wet, crimson forehead. “Thank you, that would be…” She grabbed the wall again. “Sorry, it’s just the heat.”
“You need some shade.” Flossy felt an urge to protect the poor creature. “Come in for a moment,” she instructed, moving her well-built body to one side.
“Thank you; I admit it would be nice to escape from this sun.”
As the young woman entered the cool hallway, she seemed to focus on Flossy. “Do I know you?” She blinked in the dim light. “Have we met before?”
“No,” Flossy replied, quite sure she’d never seen the woman. However, she felt a sense of affection towards the girl, probably because she looked so vulnerable and childlike.
The young woman scanned the hallway. “This house feels familiar,” she pronounced. “By the way, my name’s Beth,” she added as she held out her hand and threw Flossy a very likeable smile.
“I’m Florence,” she replied politely. She only allowed her close family and friends to call her Flossy. “Can I get you a glass of water?”
“That would be lovely.” Beth turned to where the kitchen door used to be. “Oh, where is your kitchen?” she asked in a surprised tone.
“The entrance to the kitchen did used to be there!” Flossy said with astonishment. “This house was once two semi-detached cottages. My parents owned the one cottage, but when the property next door came up for sale, we made the two cottages into one. We changed a lot downstairs, but some of the rooms upstairs are still the same, we even left in the two staircases.” Flossy directed her arm forwards. “You go and sit in the lounge; I won’t be a minute.”
Beth took the glass and drank it quickly. “That’s better,” she announced as she glanced around the room. “I love this house. It has such a homely feel, it’s almost as if I’ve lived here before.” Flossy glared at her, could Beth be the person she’d been expecting? “Was this lounge much smaller in its day?” asked Beth. “And that fireplace,” she added, pointing towards it, “is beautiful.”
Flossy trembled, then studied Beth carefully. “We knocked the wall down between the old dining room and the lounge, but that fireplace was my mother’s favourite.”
“You’ve obviously lived here a long time.”
“I was born in this half of the house,” Flossy replied as she continued to inspect Beth.
The girl shuffled in her seat. “I’d love to see those details if you’ve got them?”
“Of course, sorry I was miles away.” Flossy turned and flashed her eyes around the table. “My daughters recently moved back home,” she said as she picked up a brochure. “Susan says I’m getting too frail; she thinks it’ll be easier for me if we move to a bungalow.” Flossy knew she wouldn’t be giving up her home if Susan hadn’t moved back and seen how she was struggling. But thank goodness her daughter had finally seen sense and left that evil man. She handed Beth the estate agent’s brochure. “Here you go, everything’s in there.”
“I’ve always wanted to live in this village; there’s something special about it,” confided Beth as her deep hazel eyes fixed on the photo on the front of the brochure. “But this house,” she whispered more to herself than to Flossy. “I’ve never been inside it, so why do I feel as if I have?”
Flossy felt her face flush, and it wasn’t due to the heat. She stared at Beth who was sitting peacefully in the chair, pulling up her shining red hair to wipe the perspiration from her neck. Flossy gasped as she saw Beth had a birthmark exactly where the spike had pierced through Rose. Flossy had never doubted her mother’s belief, and she felt a shiver go down her spine. Rose had been an extremely strong-willed woman, and Flossy had waited all these years for this moment. But how could she be sure she was right?
“Would you like to look around the cottage?” Flossy asked aware her voice sounded excited.
“Yes please, if you don’t mind.”
Flossy knew which room she wanted to show Beth. “In that case, we’ll start by using these stairs,” she indicated towards the archway, “and then we’ll come down by the other stairs, that way you’ll see the circle of the house.”
“That’ll be great,” Beth said as she fanned the top of her blouse, causing a breeze to blow down her body. “Gosh, it’s hot today.”
“Follow me but mind your head on the low beams.”
Flossy made her arthritic knees push her up the steep stairs. With her walking stick in one hand and her other arm on the bannister, she pulled her hefty body through the pain. She could sense the light steps of Beth behind her; the young girl seemed almost ghostlike as she moved noiselessly up the staircase. Flossy pressed open the door to the front bedroom, the light filling the room as it shone from the window. “What an amazing view; you can see for miles,” Beth said as she ran towards the picturesque scene.
Flossy marched forwards, her walking stick pounding on the floorboards. “My mother loved this room; she had her bed facing the window so that the view was the first thing she saw in the morning.”
“So, why have you moved it?” Beth asked almost angrily, as she turned and looked towards the bed.
“I was only ten when they brought mum back after the accident.” Flossy groaned. “Dad was in such a state after she died. He moved the bed; I think he was trying to stop the memories from haunting him, it was such a tragedy. I’ve never put the bed back in its original place.”
Beth touched her shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
“It was a farming accident,” Flossy continued. “She fell on a metal spike, and it went through her neck.”
Beth took her hand away. “That’s horrible.” She gazed silently back at the landscape. “I’ve a sense of knowing this view,” she uttered while staring at the fields. “It’s peculiar; I feel as if I’ve seen this before. The whole house seems familiar, but this room and its outlook…”
Flossy racked her brain, how could she explain to Beth? She’d think she was insane! There had to be a way to do this. Then with a deep sigh, she looked across at Beth. “When they laid mum on her bed, the doctor said he didn’t know how she managed to speak, but she said three words before she died.” Beth didn’t seem to be listening; she was still gazing at the view. Flossy felt her heart sink; her idea hadn’t worked.
Then quietly, Beth muttered, “I’ll…come…back.” She turned and smiled at Flossy, but this time Flossy didn’t see the smile of a stranger, she saw the smile of someone she hadn’t seen for a very long time. Beth reached out her hand. “Am I right about the words?”
“Yes, you are,” Flossy replied, taking her hankie from out of her sleeve. “Mum believed spirits could reincarnate if they needed to finish a life that had been taken too early.” She blew her nose. “The sad part is that souls usually forget about their previous existence, but I’ve read about cases where memories have been ignited…”
“Oh God, now I know why I’ve always loved this cottage. I have been here before!”
Flossy nodded. “I think you’ve come back to buy your beloved home, and finish living here.”
Beth didn’t answer at first, and then as if a revelation had hit, she screamed, “No, Flossy! I’ve come back to see you, that’s what I was trying to tell you. It’s not the house; it’s you I loved.”
Flossy couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down her face. She propelled her arm around Beth. “Life is inexplicable,” she cried, “no one can explain its force.” She pulled Beth into a hug and chuckled. “I’ve always said that love gives us a reason for life!”
© 2018 Stephanie Upton
Stephanie was born in Broadstairs, her parents lived there, and she still regularly visits. The town holds the lock and key to her heart.