Eliza watched as the removal van pulled onto the drive. Her heart heavy, she slumped into the window seat. It was such a sensational view; she was really gong to miss it. Almost as much as the house. The house filled with so many memories. She had been born right here in this house. She had died here too. Fifty two years ago. Her parents had moved away almost straight after the funeral. She had overheard them talking late at night, saying how difficult it was to live here now. How they couldn’t bear it. At first Eliza hated being alone. She missed her family so much, but in time she realised it was for the best. It was easy to say that when you were dead. Living with them but being unable to talk to them; to touch them would have been much harder to cope with than the loneliness.
She watched the new family climb out of the car. The daughter looked seventeen, maybe eighteen. The same age as Eliza. In her skimpy shorts and cropped top however, they couldn’t have looked more different. There was a boy too, a few years younger, and the parents.
The house had been empty for so long, it felt odd to hear voices; to feel the presence of others so close by. Eliza basked in the warmth for a moment, almost forgetting the sad day. The girl burst into the room carrying a cardboard box.
‘Oh my God! How 1950’s!’ she pulled a face, ‘This has all gotta go. It’s gross!’ She started idly picking at a loose flap of wallpaper. Eliza had loved this room with it’s pretty chintz paper. She had had matching curtains and eiderdown. She had thought it very grown up and sophisticated, yet here this girl was criticising and turning up her nose at it.
The father appeared with another box.
‘So, what d’you think Kirsty?’
‘dad, it’s horrible. And it stinks.’
‘We’ll head down into town tomorrow and you can pick up some nice paint. We’ll have this room all spruced up in no time.’
The mother breezed in, opening a window.
‘It’s all a bit fusty.’ She glanced around the room with the same scrunched up nose as her daughter and left.
Indignantly, Eliza slammed the window closed. How dare they waltz in here criticising her home! The girl screamed.
‘It’s only the wind.’ the father reopened the window, prodding at the wooden frame. ‘We’ll get someone in for this. Get it all double glazed.’
Eliza slammed the window straight back closed. She had to get them to leave. She hadn’t expected them to change things. Maybe it had been naïve of her to expect them to leave everything as it was, after all the house had been standing empty for five decades. They were bound to want to put their stamp on things. This hadn’t occurred to her before now. She had to get them to leave. This was all she had left of her life. This house was everything to her. Maybe if she scared them a little; moved things about; made a few noises in the night they would leave? It wasn’t in her nature to be obnoxious or to misbehave but, she was desperate. Despair made people act in strange, uncharacteristic ways sometimes.
Floating down the hallway, she peered into what had been her brother George’s bedroom. It must have been years since she had been in here. The walls were still a lovely shade of blue. A young boy sat in the corner sobbing, she couldn’t remember seeing him in the car. He looked up at her and embarrassed, wiped his face on his sleeve.
‘You can see me?’ she whispered. It had been a long time since she had spoken or even tried to speak.
The boy nodded. ‘Who are you?’
‘Eliza. I used to live here. You can ….are you a ghost?’
He nodded again. Eliza had yet to meet a fellow ghost. Her haunting had been limited to this house, save for a few visits to check on her family in the years straight after her death.
The boy began to cry again. Loud, throaty sobs.
‘Why? What are you doing here?’ Eliza asked finally.
‘I missed my family.’ he managed between sobs.
Realisation struck Eliza. ‘How long….?’
‘Have I been dead? Six months. It was a car accident. Dad was driving.’
‘I’m sorry.’ Eliza didn’t know the etiquette for situations like this.
‘How did you die?’
‘TB. In 1958.’
‘How old were you? Are you?’
‘It sucks doesn’t it? Dying young. I’m fourteen. Was fourteen. I missed my fifteenth birthday.’
‘I’d be sixty-nine. I can’t imagine being that age.’
‘Will you be staying here?’
Eliza shook her head. Suddenly everything became clear. ‘No. No, It’s time for me to move on now.’ There was nothing keeping her here now; it was someone else’s time.