He built his first house for Sophia. The love of his life. The swan. The gliding angel whose voice was like silk.
He built big, against an expansive canvas of hills and fields. A place a little way out of town, with a view that overlooked forest and farmland. He built in a style that captured some of the grandeur of ancient Rome, that was airy, labyrinthine, too big for the two of them. He was in love, and his vision was endless.
He cried the day she left him, cried and cried until the effort exhausted him and his eyes rebelled, withholding more tears. He cried, and he couldn’t understand.
His second house he built for Naomi. The beautiful child, the true fine thing that had come out of him and Sophia. Naomi was his daughter, and she quickly became his world. He learned that it was possible to love another person more sincerely, more thoroughly, than he’d ever imagined.
But their home was too big, it was too rambling, and too full of memories that hurt when his mind brushed against them. He discussed this with Naomi and she agreed with him — a smaller place, closer to town. And he built it for her, a sand-coloured villa, with vines wrapping themselves around an endless veranda. Jewel-citrus walls, big windows. A house that opened its arms up to the world.
But she died in that house. And it was astonishing how quickly death could do its work when motivated. He watched it strip the layers off her, day by day, flaying her with cold, cruel talons, while he was helpless and reeling, and struggling to make sense of it. He thought he could build a dome, a force field of love to surround her, that could anchor her to the world on chains of desperation. He believed it until the moment she was gone.
His third house he built for Laura. In the winter of his life. His soul mate, dare he believe?
She had the loss of a child woven into her past as well. She knew what only people like him could know. And she was kind. And patient. And she held onto a positivity such as he’d never seen in someone so unlucky.
They had pictures of their two girls, each framed, in front of topaz wallpaper. Each of them with a bold, open-mouthed smile. It looked as if they were talking to each other, calling out, laughing as friends. Girls: sixteen and nineteen.
They haunted the house with warmth, with all the goodness of their memories. Laura taught him how to be comforted, not traumatised, whenever he thought back on those days. She taught him how to forgive Sophia, how to remember her with softness.
She helped him understand. He’d sit with Laura, amongst the roses, watching time creep by. His heart she reconquered daily. And he knew he’d never need to build again.
Rosalie Kempthorne has no idea what it takes to write a good Author Bio, and all her previous attempts have so far come to nothing. She has somewhat better luck writing stories. You can read more of her short stories on 365 Tomorrows, ABC Tales, Flash Frontier, or on her website: www.RosalieKempthorne.name.
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