The glittering, powdery snow is undisturbed in the cold winter sun. Nestled at the base of a small mountain, an eerie silence has fallen over the cottage and its occupants. The windows are dark and frosty; the front door is left wide open and would be swinging in the wind if there was any.
But there isn’t.
If you were to walk inside, you would see coffee spilled on the kitchen floor, frozen in the wintry air. Just left there, left to become a miniature pool. You would see a family of squirrels seeking refuge from the ice, though they are still and silent too, as though they are in mourning.
Or perhaps anticipating something.
Yes. The whole cottage is in anticipation, trembling, like a paused film that can’t wait to be played. The half-finished jigsaw in the living room, the washing that hasn’t quite finished being pegged out yet, the stone cold bowl of soup that sits on the table in the dining room, half demolished. It seems to be ready, ready for the people to return. But will they? And if they do, will they pick up where they left off?
Something is coming.
From the distance, the unmistakeable sound of a 4x4 travels through the air, cutting definitive tracks in the snow. The cottage strains toward it, begging for the people to return, to bring it to life once more. And so they do.
But one of them is missing.
There is the first one, the tall, loud, blond one, though now it is sobbing into the arms of the next one; the one who keeps playing with its hair all the time, who never stops talking. Then it is the nice one, the one who is always the kindest to the favourite. After that comes the angry one, the one who’s face is hard and uncaring. The favourite is slightly scared of that one.
But where is She?
She always talks to the cottage, strokes it, treats it as though it can respond to Her. She always sits on the porch, in Her special chair that no-one else uses. It’s strange. The cottage had never seen a chair like that before. It’s very clever. Who came up with a chair with wheels?
But where is it now?
The people go inside, clean up the coffee, scare away the squirrels, close the door and start the fire. The blond one sits in front of the fire, the nice one finishes pegging out the washing, the talking one completes the jigsaw and the angry one warms up the soup and devours it. The cottage would be happy except no one has spoken of the favourite.
Will She come back?
The people sit down and begin to talk. The cottage listens, hoping to discover where the favourite is. They use a lot of words that it doesn’t understand, though it discovers that the favourite is called ‘Ophelia’. The cottage doesn’t have a name, and it is disappointed that the fa – Ophelia – never gave it one. There is one object of which the people speak that the cottage has never heard of. It disregards it, wanting to focus on where Ophelia is.
The last people who lived in the cottage had been very nice. One of them, the small, excitable one, was one day playing on the swing on the tree in the back garden. It fell off and hit its head on the rockery. It lay there for a very long time, leaking from its head, something like wine except not. Much later, the tallest found it and shouted:
“The phone! An ambulance! Quick darling, Lucius needs to go to the hospital!”
Once the ‘ambulance’ had come and the green people inside had taken Lucius to the ‘hospital’, the tallest returned a few days later. It packed everything into boxes until the cottage felt bare, took the swing down and left. It never came back. Nor did Lucius. Or darling.
But Ophelia will come back, won’t She?
Of course She will. Ophelia loves the cottage; She wouldn’t abandon it. Never. She always told the cottage that it was beautiful, that She’d stay here forever. And there was only a little not-wine.
But She was always so weak.
She always told the cottage that. That She was weak. The cottage thought that She was insecure, like the cottage itself. What if She wasn’t? Maybe She has no choice about whether or not She returns. If that would happen then the cottage would…would…
But She can’t leave.
She always made the cottage remember. Before She came, the cottage drifted, not registering what was going on with the people and objects inside it. But She talked to the cottage, gently waking it with Her words. She made it feel loved, wanted, needed. She made it feel as though it wasn’t a cottage, but a person. A person that would always be there for her.
But if She goes…
The cottage begins to realise what would happen. It would return to just a mindless cottage again, with no concept of art, beauty or love. Ophelia spoke highly of love. She wrote songs and poems, and would perform them to the cottage. Without Her, the cottage would be reduced to-
A winter visitor came to the cottage in the hills one frosty morning. Her name was Ophelia. She was out of Her chair at last. The cottage swelled with joy at Her return. The other people inside did not see Her. They did not hear Her. They did not touch Her. She sat and She smiled at them. They did not know She was there, but somehow a little of the grief in their hearts was lifted. The cottage was content. She would stay with it.