The door across the hall is closed and it’s a room I’ve not entered. For a split second I feared another body would be found, but remembered the man had already investigated the entire house before letting us enter. I opened the door slowly still, not wanting any surprises. I’m not sure what I expected, a sewing room, storage maybe, but not what I found. Bookshelves, a desk, a window seat, this room seemed out of place in this big country house. On the desk sat a laptop computer and scattered farming paperwork.
Seeing that computer made me think of my own and how I would spend time connecting on Facebook, downloading music on iTunes, or learning something new from Wikipedia. Back in the day, I would have said I could probably not survive without the internet, my cell phone, but now, I hardly miss that technology. We had to adapt, and it was easier than I would have ever thought it would be.
The window seat behind the desk was covered in a lush burgundy fabric, which went well with the mahogany furniture. A mug with a picture of a kitten sat abandoned next to the window, half full of moldy coffee. Next to it, open and face down lay a copy of Jane Eyre, a surprising choice for a farmer’s wife. Curious, I moved toward the bookshelf to see what else she might have read. More classics than I would have guessed, some contemporary fiction, and tons of romances, which was more what I would have expected. This room must have been an escape for her, a place where she could unwind and forget about the bills, her aching back, and the dirt beneath her fingernails, a place for dreaming up other places, other times, other lives.
Exiting, I strolled down the hall to another door and opened it, a linen closet. The next door led to a bathroom. It was filthy, caked thick with grime and mold. Mystery fluids, more than likely blood and vomit were splashed across the walls, and the floor. I opened the cabinet below the sink and found Lysol, disinfectant wipes, glass cleaner, tile cleaner, a sponge, and paper towels. I wiped everything down, spotless, threw the garbage on the floor, and walked across to the last room. The girl’s room.
I approached the soiled bed and removed the rest of the bedding. I went downstairs, through the mudroom, and the back door, I dropped the sheets to the ground. Entering the barn, I looked around for something to put water in. Most of the tools were old and peeling. After scouring shelves, and bins, I found a bucket. One of the old metal kind, with a rusted and squeaky handle. It was quite a walk down to the pond, and having to navigate through the overgrown grass and brush made it no easier. Once at the pond, I stopped and admired the scenery. It was quite beautiful country. Tall cedars surrounded the property, standing guard like wooden sentries, blue sky hanging over like a canopy.
I squatted beside the pond and I filled the bucket. Staring into the murky brown mass, I wondered if we’d ever have running water again. I missed running water, doing dishes in them, showering. I was tired of pool water, and pond water, and rainwater. Tired of boiling it until it was okay to wash in, to drink. I rose and carried the bucket to the house, it sloshed and splashed all the way, splattering my legs, my shoes.
I put the bucket down outside the back door, went in and retrieved the propane stove, a stockpot, and boiled the water. I had some cleaning to do. Once the water boiled and cooled, I poured half of it back in the bucket followed by some laundry detergent. Then I grabbed the sponge from the bathroom, and went into the little girl’s room. I poured a generous amount of water onto the mattress and began scrubbing. I don’t know how long I scrubbed, it could have been five minutes, an hour, but the stains persisted, lingering like a scar in the flesh. A reminder of what once used to be, a family, a life, and now death.
I ended up using bleach, while most the stains receded, the outer edge remained, dark red, the only bloodline left of this family. I took the mattress from the bed, stood it up against a wall, and sprayed it with Lysol. I opened the windows in hopes that the breeze might dry it before night fell, else I’d be sleeping on the couch.