If I’m being totally honest, I hardly knew Uncle Eli but for the sake of my family and Auntie Heather, I accepted the house he left me in his will. At the time, I pretended that I knew about it, but secretly I wondered why he had even remembered me and decided to leave the place to me.
A month after the funeral and with everything slowly being sorted out, I decided to drive out and see this house. Firstly though, I had to pick up the keys. When the solicitor handed them and the papers over to me in his office, I asked him, ‘what can you tell me about this place?’ So far, I hadn’t asked anyone. Not because I feared their answers, but because of the questions that were bound to follow.
‘Well, Mr. Roberts, not much. I believe it was your uncle’s parents’ house which he inherited. He did rent it out for awhile. All the copies of that paperwork are there. But as far as I know the house has been empty for years,’ the solicitor explained.
‘Did Eli say why he was leaving it to me?’ I asked.
‘I’m not sure….I will have to check the will again,’ he replied and began shuffling papers around his over crowded desk.
‘It’s fine,’ I cut in, ‘all right. Thanks.’
I got up and left, even though he seemed on the verge of telling me more. Out of his office building, I walked across in the car park in the drizzle. I tucked the papers into my coat, there wasn’t many of them anyway and slipped the keys into my pocket. I went to my car which was parked alone by itself.
Getting back in the car, I put the postcode into the Sat Nav and set off on the hour and seven minutes trip to Lytham Saint Annes. It was a small seaside town I had been to in my childhood. I had only a few memories of being there; walking on the beach, eating fish and chips, playing crazy golf and seeing the windmill that stood on the coastline. I had never known and no one had ever told me that Eli had a house there.
Driving out of Manchester, the radio on low, I wondered why no one had yet to question me about Uncle Eli’s will. Of course, in the aftermath of the death and mourning, it might have escaped peoples’ minds, but I was still waiting for someone to come to me and demand to know why Eli had left a house to me; the youngest of his adopted nephews who had only seen him at Christmas family gathering.
I wanted to push it from my mind as I got on the motorway and my old car started complaining about being made to do sixty and above. It began to sleet too and though the Sunday afternoon traffic wasn’t that bad, things started to slow down. I turned the radio up and kept my eyes on all my mirrors.
When I finally got off the motorway, I followed the signs for Lytham Saint Annes. Then the next lot of directions were misleading and it took me awhile to find the house. Pulling up outside the place which looked like a nineteenth century fish man’s cottage, I cut the engine and got out. Eli’s house stood separated from the cottages around it, which were in much better care with their front gardens well kept and the paint on the walls looking fresh.
I took a deep breath and smelt the salty sea, we were very close to the coast and I could see the sea down below. I could hear it too as the waves were crashing heavily onto the cliffs and wall defenses. The wind blew around me, bring the chill of the sea water and also the early December freeze into my face. With the sleet still falling and threatening to turn into snow as the sky darkened, I walked up the pathway to the house.
There was no gate or fence, just a little patch of scrub land that made a square shape before the front step and small paled blue door. The house was whitewashed, but the paint was grey now and peeling. Two small windows were on either side of the door, the paint long gone from their rotting wooden frames. The curtains were drawn tight as if to keep questioning eyes away. Above those windows were two more and they were also curtained.
Reaching the door, I took the key from my pocket, easily fitted into the lock and stepped inside Uncle Eli’s mysterious little house.
It was dark inside and I fumbled along the wall for a light switch. Not finding one, I dug my phone out of my jeans and awoke the screen. Using that glow, I searched again and found a really old fashioned flick switch poking out of the dated wall paper close by. Pulling it up, a light came on above as the wind decided to shut the door behind me. I jumped and spun at the loud banging sound.
Catching my breath, I made sure the door was shut and locked behind me. Then I looked around the short hallway. It was normal enough; the yellowed wall paper had a flower print on it, the floor was wooden and so were the stairs in front of me. There was nothing in the hallway but two closed doors where on either side and a door-less room ahead. The air smelled like a mixture of things; the sea, damp, mold, old dusty things.
I walked forward and to the room at the end. It was a small kitchen and it seemed for the last few years had been little used. There was no fridge or freezer, only one of those old fire ovens against the wall to my left. There was a metal sink, a few cupboards and work tops which were empty but for a kettle with a mug next to it. There was a window and a back door but both were boarded and nailed shut from the inside.
I went back into the hallway and looked further around, but there was nothing else and no indication to when anyone was here last. I went to the door on my left and tried the old turn knob handle. There was a squeak and I had to shove the stiff door hard to open it, but even then it only opened halfway. A little slice of light from the hallway leaked in, however the darkness was too great.
To Be Continued…