As soon as she had herself as collected as she could possibly be, Salma stomped off to the bedroom, pulling out her suitcase. All of the things she had brought, well, even if it didn’t all fit into this, she would take what she most wanted and figure out when to pick up the rest later. She wiped her nose off on the back of her sleeve, not even bothering to fold her clothes, throwing a lot of them into a trash bag as they were still wet, jamming her other belongings around that.
Throwing her weight down on the top of it, she managed to shut the bag. Salma dragged it to the front of the house, reaching out to open the door and escape her prison.
The door would not open. Staring in disbelief, Salma jiggled the handle, trying to force it. This could not be happening. The cottage had done all of this to her, it had to want her to leave. This door should open and let her out.
Her grandfather had lived in this cottage most of his life. That much she knew. This cottage was much older than he ever was and he had added the limited wiring there was by himself. The shack nearby (no errant personality) with a generator helped with things like clothes washing, the stove, and giving her warm baths. He had managed to live all on his own until he reached ninety nine years old.
He had passed away a couple miles down the road, visiting the grave of his wife. He fell asleep in front of her grave and never woke up again. Salma figured he must have lived a full life. He’d gone full circle.
A book fell off the shelf and hit her on the head. Salma saw bright lights for a few moments, managing to stumble into one of the armchairs. She blinked away tears, refusing to sob no matter how much she felt like it. It felt so stupid, not wanting to give a house satisfaction.
But Salma was tired, hungry, frustrated. She was done with this place.
Then came the part which made her remember she couldn’t treat this like any piece of property.
The door slammed in her face. Tears sprang to Salma’s eyes, hand over her left arm. Fortunately, hitting her arm had saved the nose on her face from being flattened. Like it had the last time. Salma had been counting the occurrences of this particular transgression (it was now five).
Why had she remained for so long? She hadn’t wanted to live here in the first place. But what else could she do with this building that now stood in her name? Considering its attitude, Salma doubted she could sell it. Staying here was impossible. Perhaps the cottage wanted to be left alone. She could return to the city.
Cities had electricity enough for a dryer, which meant her clothes wouldn’t all end up in the dirt outside. Salma opened and closed her fists a few time before returning outside to pick up her dirtied laundry.
Salma was a city girl. From living with her parents to alone as an adult, she had lived only in the city. The notice that her grandfather died had come out of nowhere, mainly because Salma barely remembered the last time she had seen him. A long time ago. She hadn’t remembered the cottage he had lived in for most of his life. She had been here once before. It was brighter then, but it might have been in the height of summer.
She remembered her grandfather as grumpy. But he had also been strong. She had always reached upward and he had given up his frown to bend down, pick her up, and raise her up into the air. She remembered him holding her up for a long time, much to her childish delight.
Everything else was too vague. Her memory gave her flashes, nothing more. Salma didn’t find the point of thinking back on it too much. He had given her, out of everything, his cottage and all of the belongings that were not specified as belonging to others. After a week, asking officials to help find where on the map the address might actually be, she found this place once more.
The cottage moving fast she had started to get used to, but the birds? It was as if they knew. She startled a couple into the house and there went the rest of her morning. She tried to direct them all back out the window. Even if wild animals hadn’t trekked all over her food, it was cold by the time she returned to it.
Salma let out a wordless sound of anger and slammed her fist into the wall. Nothing responded.
She had come here a month ago and as far as she was concerned, that was one month too long. Laundry couldn’t be ruined, could it? Salma hadn’t had a problem doing it before, the cottage and it’s limited electricity allowed for a washing machine and the cottage had yet to do anything terrible to the cycle.
Salma pulled her clothes out, wet yet clean. At the very least she had that. Salma left the miserable confines of the house and went to where she had set up the laundry line, hanging everything up to dry. Happy with that attempt, she went back inside and dared to eat a few granola bars. The cottage couldn’t ruin those.
Salma knew she had not left it open. Today she specifically remembered shutting it, locking it, right before she made breakfast. She had slept poorly, but at least her hunger remained. She had decided to have eggs on toast, garlic and jam, everything that would assuage her hunger when she had heard the sound in the other room.
It wasn’t the first time that a sound meant nothing. This house made a lot of sounds. Salma checked anyway, unable to stop herself. In her old place, an apartment in the city, one could assume that if a sound came from the other room something had actually moved, fallen over, for some reason. Here? Certainly something could have fallen, but it would have been replaced by the time she arrived. The cottage wanted her to move from the kitchen and had tricked her once more.
This time the house’s goal was to get her out of the way. In order to open the window and set her food on the sill for the birds, who picked the grains off her crust and out of her jam. Salma stared in horror, before rushing over to shoo them off.