Based on this picture.
She was there and then she was gone. She had disappeared so quickly that Mara couldn’t actually be sure she’d seen the girl at all. But deep down, she was sure she had. It wasn’t just a trick of the light but a real little girl standing on the deck.
She tried to push the awareness away by focusing on the house itself. A bit morose looking with dark colors, severe angles and dark wooden walls. It wasn’t at all what she wanted. She had tried to tell Shelley, from the real estate office, what she was looking for. She wanted something bright and friendly. Not this dark fortress. Shelley just told her it was a tight market and with her budget there weren’t going to be so many options.
She frowned looking at the front of the house. The only brightness here were a couple of flags awkwardly planted along the path to the door, remnants of the last tenants, refugees from some conflict in Eastern Europe. The government subsidy to house them had run out and so the owner had run them out and was now looking for tenants who could pay on their own.
The girl had been on the deck for a moment staring directly at Mara as she was getting out of her car. But when she closed the car door and looked back toward the deck she was gone.
At first she thought maybe she was behind a tree or had slipped around the corner. But she was nowhere to be found when Mara went to look, walking around the house before looking inside…. or would she look inside? She didn’t like anything about the house and was considering simply driving back and telling Shelley, that she didn’t like it, maybe inventing a reason when Shelley gave her that look again. She wanted brightness, she needed brightness after the darkness of the last few months.
She didn’t want to be a difficult customer and she was sure that Jacob would accept any house she chose for this six-month research visit. The location was convenient enough for the university library he’d be spending most of his time in. But the thought of spending so much time here by herself, tied to her computer, spreadsheets and never-ending zoom meetings. She couldn’t take that, she just couldn’t.
“Hey there!” she called out wondering if the little girl was hiding from her. “Wanna talk? I’m friendly, I promise” she continued walking behind the house looking in all directions and even underneath the raised floor.
The girl reminded her a little of Beth. She knew that made no sense, her hair had seemed blonde, not dark brown and she was wearing a coat that she knew Beth would never consent to wearing (she had hated dark colors as much as Mara herself) but… something about the way she stood and looked at her…
She tried to push those thoughts out of her mind and when she failed at that she tried to be rational. “She reminds you of Beth because all little girls remind you of Beth.” She imagined Jacob saying that to her in his I’m-trying-to-be-patient voice and at some level she knew it was right, but…
She ended up walking around the house three times. A time or two she thought she saw movement from the corner of her eye or a flash of the indigo of the coat going around the corner ahead of her or slipping behind a tree that was too narrow to hide a person, even a little girl.
Finally she made her way up to the front door and put the key in the lock. But she stopped before opening the door and returned to the car instead, sitting there for a moment after she started the engine.
She would take the house.