I tried my old key, and to my surprise, it worked. It amazes me that people don’t change the locks even when resold several times since I lived there. I watched the current occupants load their car with suitcases and drive away. Brazenly, I entered.
The inside was both comforting and terrifying at the same time. While the rooms looked much the same, the furniture and decor were jarring and not to my taste. Someone remodeled the kitchen. The French door fridge stood where the lime green top freezer had in my day. They ‘adjusted’ the cabinets to make them fit. I didn’t mind as I’d done the same. In the living room, a large flat-screen television, the size of a movie screen, hung on the wall, replacing the small cabinet TV from my day.
My bedroom had been at the end of the hall, past the main bathroom. A glance in the bathroom revealed it hadn’t changed. The ugly green tiles covering most of the wall behind the sink and the shower were still there. The house was still its old ninety-seventies self, just slightly freshened up.
I stood in the doorway to my old room. I had to return one last time, even after all these decades. I was going mad, not knowing if she was still there. Memories of that fateful moment when I lost control flashed in my mind as I relived it again.
We’d been home alone. No one knew she was here, and no one ever did. She was gone when my family got home late that evening. The next day a missing person alert went out when she never came home. She couldn’t. It had been hard burial work, but I had hidden her in the crawl space far away from the plumbing or electrical, where no one would have to go. I let the search for her play out and never said a word. The posters all over town had always made me cry inside, but they never found her.
I had to know she was still there. I’m too old and lame to crawl in the crawlspace these days, so I brought my metal detector. I knew she still had her braces on when she died. I figured the detector might pick them up. Then I would know she was still resting in her corner of the house. Sliding the bed away from the wall in my old room, I turned on the detector and began to scan the floor. The nails and other metal in the frame of the house showed up at first.
But eventually, I found the remains of her braces. It showed up on the screen on the detector. Satisfied that she was still resting where I laid her, I put everything back as I’d found it and wiped down anything I had touched as I retraced my steps.
Back in my car parked across the street, I reached over and kissed her twin sister, Mabel, and nodded yes. She smiled as I started the car and drove away. We were still safe.