Parallel Hotel


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1. Yellow.

Why is it everywhere, fooling me with its blinding bright colour? The wallpaper, the bookcase, the desk, bed and chair. All of it, yellow. I sigh and pull the yellow pillow over my head. We're at one of those cheap hotels that no-one sane would ever stay at. All of us, my mum, dad, sister and I, at The Marigold, a small shed at the opposite end of town to our apartment, on the same street as my grandmother. I need to share a tiny room with my younger sister, Sammy, who is of course overjoyed at the prospect of sleeping on the floor. 'Alice,' my mum calls, her arms overflowing with boxes, 'could you help me with these?' I sigh once again and get up to help her. 'Sure, mum, just give me a second,' I call. I slide down the banisters and earn a tired and disproving look. Once the boxes have been carefully extracted out of her arms, I make a neat mini-pyramid at the bottom of the stairs. 'Why are you bringing them in here, by the way?' A distracted look crosses my mum's face.

'What do you mean?'

'The moving boxes,' a gesture in their general direction.

'Oh. Them.' She picks them back up and they immediately spill out of her arms and split all over the floor. I can tell she's even more tired and stressed than I am and I guide her to a chair. 'Thanks, love,' she says.

'It's okay.' We sit in silence, her on the unbalanced chair, me on the floor. The air is thick with dust and we both sneeze, but apart from that, silence. We don't need to speak. After a few minutes pass, I get up again and start stuffing everything back into the ripped cardboard moving boxes. Mum half gets up to help but I just say 'rest' and she settles again. Once the room is a little tidier, I say, 'shall I move these to Grandma's now?'

'It's not Granny's any more.'

'I know.'

It happened a year before. The doctors said it was painless, but to me it felt a lot like giving up. My Grandma was old, but determined and it personally hurt that fate would make her give up like that. It was my first funeral. Samantha didn't really understand, I don't think. She kept on asking unanswerable questions.

I had to leave the room.

Now, that the will was read, we had an old house in the suburbs of a busy town, and The Marigold, my Grandma's hotel. It was crumbling, and cost a fortune to run, and yellow. It was very yellow.

I carefully picked up one of the boxes, trying to hold the split edges together with my arms, hugging it. I could hardly see over the top but my Grandma's was just over the road. I stumbled blindly across it, then set the box down at the gate so I could lift the latch and get my key. I opened the door to the house and left it ajar before I walked back the pavement and the box. The task was slow, giving me way to much time to think. I tried to focus on positive things but my mind slid back to the thoughts at the back, the ones that wait in the dark. The ones of death, and the seemingly likely possibility of ghosts in an old house where somebody had recently died.

We were visiting her, so we heard the scream. I won't forget. They wouldn't let me see, but I didn't want to anyway. Just an unlucky fall. That's what they said it was. I shook my head to clear the thoughts but they remained. Thoughts of dark stairs, the sensation of falling, the inevitable death that comes for all of us. I knew that carrying boxes wouldn't clear my head but I couldn't leave it to mum. I carried the boxes inside the house, leaving the door wide open. I picked up another set of boxes and crossed back to the house, trying to ignore the dark thoughts crowding my head and the monotonous job that I had to do. When I walked back to the gate, but the wind had blown it completely shut. It seems strange that I remember it in so much detail, the first time I entered this house, when it was technically my house. I had to set the box down in the road to lift the latch with my hands, since there wasn't any pavement on this side, so I tried to lift it with my hip instead. I had to lean into it to do that though, so when I had finally opened it I practically fell into the garden. Once I had made another pile of all the boxes in the hallway I walked up the stairs, making sure each foot was firmly in place before moving the next. The attic in this house was surprisingly warm, so that's where Sam and I usually stayed when we visited. There was a window alcove, with a geometric pattern on stained glass and a desk decorated with sheet music that slotted in place, so the rainbow light fell on my computer screen as I worked. I loved to write in my spare time, and the patterns on my virtual page always inspired some sort of creative magic inside me. Although it was dark, I still gazed out of that window. It still held some sort of spell over me.

Just then, a knock came at my door, breaking my thoughts. 'Come in, Sammy,' I called. She pushed the door but it merely rattled. 'Here,' I said, 'you need to lift the latch, you can't just push against it.' After some struggling from both of us, she walked in. 'It's funny how different it seems.'

'I know.'

Silence.

'Why does it seem so much darker?'

I might have mentioned the night or the flickering light bulb, but I knew that's not what she meant. It seemed that with my Grandma's death the fun, joy and laughter in this room had died with her.

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