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Not a Single Rose


C Walker

Sarah marched up to the front door telling herself not to be silly. The house would be just as she had left it. She opened the door and peered in. All the pictures were still on the wall, there was no water running out from under the kitchen door. So far so good; she switched on the light - it worked! Then she saw it - her favourite vase in a million pieces on the floor. She slammed the front door and threw her shopping down.

"I don’t believe it" she shouted. "Why is this happening to me?"

Sarah stormed into the kitchen, put the kettle on and sat down. It’s almost as if the house doesn’t want me to stay, she thought to herself. She had moved in a week ago and there had been day after day of disasters. She had been so happy; at thirty five she finally owned her own home.

When she had received the particulars from the Estate Agent she had fallen in love with it. A two bedroom semi-detached house with small garden, in a quiet neighbourhood. She had viewed the house even though it was out of her price range. The Estate Agent had hinted that the owners might be open to an offer. Even so, she had been amazed when they’d accepted ten thousand pounds less than the asking price. After she had signed the contract though, she found out the last three owners had all sold up within six months. One couple only lasted three days!

Now Sarah knew why. She wasn’t particularly superstitious, but she couldn’t believe so many things went wrong for all new homeowners.

On the day she moved in, the front door lock jammed and she was stranded outside for half an hour. The next day all the light bulbs in the house blew within minutes of each other. Every picture she hung fell down. The carpet at the top of the stairs had come away from the floor and she had gone flying down the stairs. Finally, the kitchen sink had overflowed and soaked the floor. Sarah didn’t even remember turning the taps on!

Stop it she told herself, you’re being silly. It’s got nothing to do with the house, it’s just bricks and mortar; it doesn’t have feelings. She went into the garden for some fresh air and looking over the fence, saw an elderly woman pruning some rose bushes.

"Hello," she introduced herself. "My name’s Sarah, I’ve just moved in."

"Hello, dear," answered the woman. "My name is Ivy, my sister lives here but I’m doing some gardening for her. She’s too old to cope with it all." Sarah thought Ivy looked too old to cope, but kept that thought to herself.

"Well, it is a lovely garden," said Sarah. "I hope mine looks that good when I’ve finished."

"A bit of love and tenderness, that's all its takes," replied Ivy.

"I’m thinking of digging up the garden and paving it over," said Sarah eager to share her ideas with someone. "I like the idea of a Japanese style garden, full of Maples and Bonsai trees in tubs. I might do the front garden the same. I’ve also got some ideas about improvements in the house."

"Improvements! Don't you like the house the way it is?" asked Ivy.

Yes, it's lovely. But I want to make it mine, modernise it a bit," answered Sarah.

"Well, don't do anything too drastic. It's not a modern house," Ivy said, looking slightly horrified. "A modern garden may not be right. Lots of flowers and a well kept lawn give it a nice homely feel."

"Oh, I think my ideas will work well," said Sarah.

"Maybe," replied Ivy, not looking convinced.

Sarah laughed. "Well, you and your sister are welcome to come round for a cup of tea and I'll tell you about my plans."

"That would be nice, I'll wait until you've settled in a bit more." said Ivy. They said goodbye and both went indoors. Sarah thought Ivy seemed nice. She hoped she would take up her invitation; then Ivy could see she wasn't doing anything too awful.

Inside, Sarah wandered round and started to plan some changes. Because the house had cost her less than she had budgeted for she had some spare money to spend on furniture. In the front room, the fireplace needed a new surround; somebody had started to change it but never finished. Sarah wanted to buy a modern tiled one. She walked across the room, her shoes tapping on the polished wooden floor, which would be covered with a thick carpet, she thought. She looked into the small dining room, the black ash table and chairs she had put a deposit on would fit nicely in there. Finally, downstairs, the kitchen needed an overhaul. The old country oak cupboards would be replaced with a white kitchen to brighten the room. What a lot of work to do, thought Sarah.

She picked up her previously discarded shopping and started to put it away. She opened the freezer and water dripped onto the floor. Pulling out the drawers one by one she saw that all her food had defrosted. She slammed the door shut and checked the plug - it wasn’t switched on. I know it was on, thought Sarah, I remember checking the temperature. She emptied the contents of the freezer into a rubbish bag and went to put it in the bin outside the front door. Halfway to the front door, the bag split and the contents spilled onto the floor. Sarah looked down in horror and burst into tears.

"I hate this house," she screamed. "I’m going - that’s what you want." She picked up her bag and went out. She walked up the road, tears running down her face. By the time she reached the High Street, she had calmed down and felt rather foolish. Fancy letting a house get the better of you, she thought.

She walked round the shops, looking at all the things she had chosen for the house. Strangely enough they didn’t hold the same appeal as before. The tiled fireplaces looked cheap. She found herself drawn to a lovely cast iron one which would suit the living room much better. It was old-fashioned, but Sarah realised Ivy was right; the house wasn’t modern. She bought it because she liked it the way it was and it wouldn’t be right to change it. Then she went to the furniture store and cancelled her order for the black ash table and chairs. A nice mahogany one would do. Sarah left the shop smiling - she knew this was right. The table was more expensive, but now she wouldn’t be paying out for a carpet. Instead, she would get the wooden floor polished and buy two rugs for the front room.

By the time she reached home she had forgotten all about the earlier problems. Walking up the path to the front door, she noticed the climbing rose around the front door was covered in rich red blooms. Sarah was sure they hadn’t been there before. The rose bush in the front garden was also in full bloom. It was so pretty. A lawn mower would be the next thing on the shopping list and a fountain for the pond in the front garden, Sarah thought.

Feeling happier than she had done for a week, she cleared up the mess in the house and cooked her tea. Even the kitchen looked better to her, the cupboards gave the room a real country warmth.

The next day Sarah went into the garden. She was hoping to see Ivy and tell her how right she had been about the house and the garden. She wanted to ask her about the type of flowers she should put in the garden and tell her the grass was staying - no more talk about concrete. Ivy wasn’t in the garden but a face suddenly appeared over the fence.

"Hello!" said the young woman. " I hope I didn’t startle you."

"No, you didn’t," replied Sarah, slightly puzzled. This couldn’t be the sister who was too old to cope, unless Ivy was a lot younger than she looked!

"My name is Hilary," said the woman. "Sorry I haven’t been around to say hello, but I’ve been visiting my brother."

"Has someone been looking after your house?" asked Sarah.

"No, it’s been locked up tight," replied Hilary. "Why?"

"I know this is going to sound strange, but I spoke to a woman who was pruning your roses," answered Sarah.

"I haven’t got any roses, " said Hilary with a sweep of her arm; indicating the contents of her garden. Sarah looked. It was true. The garden was full of flowers and shrubs but not a single rose.

"I don’t understand," said Sarah. "She said her name was Ivy and she was looking after her sister."

"Ivy," said Hilary thoughtfully. "The woman who lived in your house a few years ago was called Ivy. "She lived there with her sister. They loved the house, lived in it for twenty years, then her sister died and Ivy couldn’t cope anymore."

"Where did she go?" asked Sarah.

"Well, that’s the saddest bit. She moved into an old people’s home and died two weeks later. Some say she died of a broken heart. Nobody has lasted more than six months in the house since then. Maybe it was a ghost you saw," laughed Hilary.

"Maybe," Sarah replied. She knew she wouldn’t see Ivy again - unless she made some changes she didn’t approve of!