I remember it used to look better, but then my foster family took good care of the little cottage.
Unhooking the gate that proclaims it 'Heathers', I continue to ignore the estate agents as they continue to babble their prepackaged sales speak, they haven't worked out that I fully intend to buy my childhood home back, regardless of its condition.
The thatch is in bad need of attention, some of the windows are cracked, the front door has swelled in the damp and is now unopenable. Running wild the front garden is a riot of weeds, the once proud rose bushes choked and buried.
A flicker appears at the window and vanishes while I pretend it's something I can't see, just like I pretend I can't see the tiny deaths going on around me in the mini jungle.
Fighting their way around the side of the cottage to the back I follow the estate agents' valiant efforts against the foliage, reaching the back door they struggle with the rusted lock, and the man has to put his shoulder against it and push forcefully.
Falling into the house he straightens and gives me an empty smile full of pointless charm as he attempts to draw my eyes from the water damage, or the broken kitchen units, and rubbish that has build up to litter the floor.
Generously I let them lead me through my old house and spin yarns of it just needing a little bit of work and it being a marvelous example of period features.
Progressing through the house they grow more and more agitated, their eyes dart about and they jump at any sound, smiling to myself I shrug off the sense of being watched, and the feeling of hostility as if the house doesn't want us here, I know it's not the house but the house's inhabitant.
Balking at the stairs they appear ready to bolt, taking mercy on them I leave them as I climb upwards alone, the neglect is everywhere and I wander losing myself in happy memories drifting from room to room the sound of little footsteps behind me.
Going back to them I asked to see the back garden, they exchange hopeful glances and leave me to make my own way there.
Once it was a long lawn boarded by flower beds, and at the bottom was my secret hideaway, now it's even more wild and overgrown than the front, impenetrable greenery blocks my passage and I frown.
That flicker from the corner of my eye and I'm shown the path that escorts me to the bottom of the garden, there someone has tended the spot behind the bush so I can sit on the bench, and watch the swing move back and forth.
"Hello," I greet the little girl sitting there.
Startled she vanishes and I keep very still and pull out a tiny pink teddy bear, she'll be back, her curiosity always did get the best of her.
At first she keeps her distance, darting in and out, she'll be afraid of me, after all I'm an adult, Eventually she stands in front of me studying me, I study her back, and of course she hasn't changed at all.
She wears the same dress with lace and ribbons I've always admired, her hair is in tight ringlets and perfect as usual, and she is still only eight years old.
Holding out the bear to her I wait she thinks it over, a little hand reaches out and takes the present, a shy, "Thank you," is whispered as she retreats to the swing to cuddle her new toy.
Clearing my throat to get her attention I tell her, "I'm going to buy the house, but I need your help," she tilts her head listening, "There will be men coming," she instantly hides behind the brush, "It's alright, they're coming to fix the house to make it better," A face peers around at me, "When the men are finished the back room will be yours."
Creeping out she studies me again and in a frightened voice asks, "Must men come to the house?"
Nodding I smile sadly, "Yes they must, so you can hide down here with me, because I'll be here every day too, painting," I let her think that over, "Then I'll move into the house and live there."
Clutching the bear she bites her lip, I get one nod from her before she vanishes, taking her gift with her.
Standing I go back to the estate agents, and as I walk out of the front gate, I turn and wave at the little girl who's in the window, she waves back, "Goodbye for now Heather, see you soon," I call out and she grins.
"The property's called Heathers," the male estate agents says giving me a strange look
"I know," I say cheerfully, "I've always known its Heather's, now let's discuss how much the owners are willing to drop the price, due to all the work this place needs to make it liveable."