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A small cottage nestled at the edge of town sat beneath a rising sun. Just outside the pristine white picket fence stood a sign that read, “Open House." The cobblestone walkway would lead you to a porch that spanned the length of the home. A beautiful ornate door would greet you with a colorful “Welcome” sign. As you enter the scent of tea tree oil and lavender would fill your nose and remind you of the gardens that surrounded this hidden treasure. That was the narrative the realtor had placed just under the words, “The Quiet Life.”

Mary Sutton quickly tidied the tiny cottage, getting things set just right for the coming visitors. She had always been particular about the positioning of every piece of furniture. She had always placed a bowl of fruit in the entryway just beside a guestbook. Flowers adorned each counter and table, all hand-picked from the garden adjacent to the home. She would spend hours making sure everything was just right and when the first guest would arrive, she stood smiling happily at their arrival.  This routine had been repeated on many occasions but she was always excited, each and every time.

She would introduce herself and give a brief history of the property then guide them through each room, pointing out specifics of the materials used in the construction. Mary would always part the curtains of each living space, quickly pointing out the scenery outside. She always made a point to play up the large bay window of the dining room. With a sweeping gesture her hands, she accented the large portrait of wildflowers the window would reveal. She did all of this with a smile, but none of her visitors seemed interested in the cottage. They even seemed to be slightly frightened by it, which confused Mary.

After hours of little luck, Mary sat down upon the front steps in a huff. Her last visitor for the day had left so abruptly she had not had a chance to show them the garden. In her defeat she slowly rose from her seat, closing the door behind her. She lifted the bowl of fruit that had started to bruise and collected the guestbook that had dozens of names. She would leave the flowers for tomorrow because they had begun to wilt anyway. Mary made her way to the kitchen, her hand brushing the switch. It flickered to life as she tossed out the apples and oranges. The light faded again as she exited, without her even touching the switch but she did not even notice.

“I am starting to think I will never get anyone to stay here,” she whispered to herself before walking down the hallway, still clutching the guestbook.

The sun now set on the tiny cottage and the air grew colder but it was something she had become accustomed to. Mary did not feel the cold anymore, only loneliness. That was the feeling that haunted her nights. Her mind filled with faces that never remained with her, the lights dimming in each room as she passed it. Each curtain drew across the window when her hands reached for them. The routine had become like a record on repeat.

Mary sometimes had trouble remembering how long she had been doing all of this. Opening doors and curtains only to shut them again. She stopped to admire the garden one more time before pulling the last of them over the bay window.  The old wooden rocking chair squeaked to life as she brushed by it, but she was too deep in thought to let it bother her. Mary completed her rounds and decided to retire for the night. Her form passed through the doorway that led to the basement like smoke, she never even touched the handle.

“It’s so lonely here,” she said with sadness in her voice, “I have to try harder next time.”

Written by L0CKED334
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