The flower pots on my front porch had been showered by the rain by the time I had stepped foot onto the wooden floorboards. I wrapped my arms around them, bringing them further in to the shelter of the house, so that they wouldn’t drown by the harsh pellets of water that drummed on their small leaves.
I closed the umbrella, shaking some of the droplets off behind me before shutting the door and slipping the coat unto the hook by the left of the door frame. My footsteps were silenced by the carpet that began only a few feet after the entrance. There wasn’t much to look at; faded yellow walls that chipped here and there behind furniture I didn’t even use. It used to smell like fresh, polished wood and smoke from the fire place, but I had become negligent with it and never got around to make it seem as inviting as I would have liked it to be. It was difficult to make this place my own when I spent the majority of my time in Mr. Hidalgo’s house.
The coldness from outside had settled deep within my skin, and it would take more than a change of outfit to warm me up, but I had no time to make a hot drink. Mr. Hidalgo’s daughter, Lessandra, had called me in this morning because he refused to take his medication from her hands. I didn’t blame him. His stubborn tendencies had exceptions to them, unbeknownst to her, that quickly calmed his nerves and paranoia. She wasn’t around much to learn them, or to even understand him anymore; her trips and getaways were priority over his crippling presence and health.
I grabbed the first dry coat I saw and changed into some socks and rainboots before picking my umbrella up once more and locking the door behind me. It was going to be a short walk; he lived just down the street from on the outskirts of the city. We both liked the quiet.
The trees on the left side always seemed intimidating as much as they seemed inviting. There was a bus stop only a few meters away from my doorstep that would take me to the city whenever I needed to buy new clothing or shoes because everything around the neighborhoods here were food shops. I wish I could say that I knew everyone the same way they knew me but, but I didn’t. To them, I was just the woman who took care of Mr. Hidalgo and his fortune. Some even said I was just waiting, like a predator behind tall grass looking for the right opportunity to strike, but it wasn’t like that at all.
When I first saw the ad about an elderly man needing attentive care a few years back, I was hesitant. How could I possibly care for another human being when my own stoic life slipped from my fingers? But I was in need of a job back then and I was called in for an informal interview by Lessandra only hours after I made the call of interest, which was a clear indicator that maybe they were as desperate as I was. Mr. Hidalgo had sat quietly beside her, as if his own right to any opinion was surrendered to her. She talked about his medication, his apprehensive habits, and his odd liking to rare collective pieces of all sorts of things that made up the majority of his home decor, but I only grasped onto pieces of her ongoing chatter.
“Mr. Hidalgo?” I called out to him, hitting an abrupt pause to Lessandra mid sentence, which she didn’t seem too happy about. His saddened eyes looked up at me, almost surprised I had called out for him. “What is it that you need from me?”
His eyes slightly widened, brows shooting up in surprise before softly lowering into a deep v. He swallowed, wrinkles further darkening around his sunken lips as he spoke, “No me gusta estar solo.” His accent was thick and the roughness in his tone were layers of the years that had come and gone.
I offered him a reassuring smile, “I would be more than happy to keep you company, Mr. Hidalgo.”
It had been five years since Mr. Hidalgo admitted that he didn’t like being alone, and in those five years I had kept my word to him. Our interactions started off with slow walks around the Victorian house that was under his and his diseased wife’s name. He liked touching everything and telling me the story behind each object as if he was keeping them alive. Occasionally, he would forget and I would be there to retell the story, bringing him instant relief and ease that earned a pat on my hand and a trembling smile from him.
“Que bueno que te tengo a ti, Gianna,” he would chuckle and continue down the hall with my arm looped through his for comfort and support for his thinned and fragile limbs. Those walks were every weekend, and as time went on, I’d be the one telling the majority of his stories for him while he nodded and listened. It would bring him such joy to hear them that it was nearly impossible for me to skip the weekends when his daughter came home to visit.
I smiled at the memory as I reached Mr. Hidalgo’s house. He had a tall, metal gate thirty meters before reaching his front door that I unlocked with the key I had kept safe since I started working for him. “Lessandra?” I called out once I stepped inside and closed the umbrella.
“We’re in the livingroom!”
I walked into Mr. Hidalgo sitting on his favorite chair, red knitted vest in hand and an angry pout on his lips as she hovered over him with an orange bottle in hand.
“Te las tienes que tomar, Padre!”
“Tu no sabes ni que son!”
I walked closer to them and extended my hand out for the pills. Lessandra turned them over with an annoyed huff as she brushed past me before I kneeled down in front of his khaki colored trousers.
“Gianna, estas son las que debo tomar hoy?” His angry expression quickly softened to lines of worry and doubt.
As routine, I checked the label once, twice, and then once more in exaggeration that he had found comfort in. I nodded and popped open the white cap with slight pressure and a twist moments before my hands grabbed Mr. Hidalgo’s and placed them on the center of his palm. His shoulders relaxed and his lips turned. I didn’t waste any time on grabbing the glass of water beside him to help him pass them down.
“Mr. Hidalgo,” I chided softly. “You know you have to take these on time. Now you have to wait an extra hour before you can have dinner.”
He handed me the glass that I placed down on the table as he waved my comment off, “No tengo hambre.”
“Eres imposible de complacer,” Lessandra grumbled behind me.
Mr. Hidalgo unfolded the vest from his lap and began to put it on as he recommended, “Entonces vete y déjame solo con Gianna.”
Lessandra took offense to her father’s suggestion of leaving; it seemed as if he was as fed up with her as she was with him. I stood up and turned to look at her. She had her arms folded across her chest and her jaw was tight. The green in her eyes became a shade darker, almost darker than the bright red on her lips. Lessandra was beautiful, no doubt about it. The thick curls she had were often braided back to show her pasty colored neck and high cheekbones. She had Mr. Hidalgo’s slightly curved nose that somehow only added to her authenticity, but it was her tall frame that made her beauty almost intimidating.
“I’ll be back tomorrow morning,” this time she was speaking to me. I nodded in acknowledgement, but she had already turned away, letting the loud clacking of her heels follow her out the door.
“Quiere que le firme los papeles de la casa,” Mr. Hidalgo mentioned. “Ella y su hermano solo la quieren vender en cuanto me muera.”
Truly, I empathized for him. It wasn’t the first time he talked about his daughter and son’s pleading to sign the house over to them. What hurt him the most was their willingness to sell it away afterwards, burying the hundreds of stories and killing each one of them in the process. But with no other heirs, I worried about what would happen to his treasured possessions that lingered as a reminder that he had once walked amongst them.
“Ya no me queda mucho tiempo,” the sound of his tired voice admitting defeat against time caused my hand to hold his. It was heavy and soft like the breaths that came and left from his small lips. “Te quiero enseñar algo.” He tugged at my arm for me to help him up and then pointed down the hall. I was curious as to what he wanted me to see, so I slowly led him towards the door.
There weren’t many limitations from Mr. Hidalgo. He always said I was more than welcome to strut about the place as if it were my home too. I was allowed to stroll about in the garden, use the kitchen for myself, enjoy the fireplace on winter days, read any and every book in his library, and even sleep in any guest room of my choice. But the one door I was never allowed to open was the one right down the hall. It wasn’t hidden, or unknown, it was just forbidden. I never questioned him as per usual, but every time I walked past it curiosity pricked the back of my neck.
When we were standing in front of it, Mr. Hidalgo took the key hanging from his neck and rubbed it between his fingers before trying to insert it into the slot. His hands shook too much for him to be able to, so I reached out and closed my hand around his before he softly let go and placed the key on my palm. I turned the doorknob before tugging it hard which caused a hollow sound from how stuck it had been to the doorframe.
Mr. Hidalgo looked down at the dark space of stairs before I cautiously took a step down and then held my hand out for support. We made our way down fifteen steps before touching a concrete floor. It was significantly colder down here to the point where I saw the clouds of my breath in front of me. Mr. Hidalgo didn’t seem to mind and kept pushing forward in the almost pitch black room. I didn’t see him flip the switch that made a corridor of lights pave the path for us, strangely making it seem slightly more eerie as our echoed steps haunted the silence.
At the very end there was another room that was also opened by the same key that Mr. Hidalgo eyed before pointing at the lock. I pushed the heavy door, having to let go of Mr. Hidalgo before noticing that in the center of the almost empty room, was a large and rectangular concrete mold. I stood paralyzed in front of it.
“Lo compré hace cuarenta años en Grecia. Una historia que aún no te he contado, Gianna. Que curioso que las historias más bellas son las más tristes.”
He made his way with trembling legs to the concrete mold that had a thin line as an indicator that it was a lid of some sort.
“Nunca conocí a alguien en mi vida que lo mereciera más que tu.”
He had a soft smile as he placed his hand top of the large mold in front of us.
“What is it?” I asked.
“La casa es para ti y no quiero que dejes que mis hijos te la quiten.”
My eyes widened at the news. How would I ever tell Lessandra that her own father bestowed their family values to my name?
“No te lo pregunte.” He was determined and when he was set on something, there was no getting out of it. This strange tomb would be mine and I had no idea what or who was inside and why he would gift something of the sort to me.
I walked around it, my hands moving across the sides and then the top before I stopped at the familiar indents. The dust that had settled deep within their crevices made it hard to read the engravings, so I leaned in and blew hard until I was coughing up dust. My feet pushed up against the ground as my fingers traced the small lines.
“beware, for i am damned for all eternity, waiting for my beautiful salvation in a cruel game of hide and seek.”
Those words were the words carved into the tombstone... right underneath my fingertips.
A/N: I know some parts are in spanish, but i hope the context around it leaves room to interpret (:
this will probably be a full novel, so I hope youre as excited as I am! I have HUGE scenes for this plot that i am thrillllleeeddd to get to and share with you
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