Ten miles past the rail yard at the end of an old one-lane road—after the pavement turns to gravel and the gravel fades into the dirt—there’s a house. Most people don’t even know it’s there. It’s the kind of place you just look past. It blends into the landscape like it’s part of the earth; as old as the land it was built on.
I always felt welcome in that place.
After my parents passed away, the house changed hands a few times. The owners always seemed nice, but no one ever stayed more than a few months, and the house always ended up back in my care.
When the Miller’s bought the house, I was thrilled. It had fallen into disrepair over the years, and they were in the market for a “fixer-upper.” It was a good fit for everyone.
The first several weeks were wonderful. Jeff and Andrea were content to let me come and go as I pleased. I think they knew the transition would be difficult seeing as this was my childhood home.
Over time, though, things started to change. It was subtle at first. Andrea seemed upset. She’d complain about things going missing, but I only ever took what I needed, and I waited until they were sleeping to do it. Just like always. I didn’t want to be a burden.
I kept to myself as much as possible, but it wasn’t enough. Jeff and Andrea seemed to fight all the time, and I was worried it was my fault.
One afternoon, Jeff brought home a dog in an effort to cheer Andrea up. I was a little upset about that, but it was their house now.
Dogs are difficult. They tend to sense things people don’t. And they like to wander at night. I’d never had much luck with them to begin with, and this dog—Raider—was especially protective. He didn’t like when I came to visit. He’d claw at the door to my room and just growl for hours.
I could tell it was upsetting Andrea, so I decided to give them some space. I stopped visiting as often, but when I did come by, I’d bring treats for Raider. Eventually Raider stopped barking when I visited. That made it a lot easier to come and go, because I didn’t have to worry about waking anyone up. Jeff and Andrea always looked so peaceful when they were sleeping.
When summer rolled around, I took a trip up north for a couple weeks. There were some other families I hadn’t seen in a while, and my room was always hot that time of year, so it was nice to chase a cool breeze now and then. The timing was perfect. Jeff and Andrea were taking some time off work to renovate the house, and I didn’t want to be in the way.
Renovations weren’t unusual. The house was old and long overdue for an update. They wanted to keep the “rustic feel,” but put their own stamp on it. Whatever that means.
When I came back, my room had been cleared out. Andrea had taken down one of the walls in the basement, and removed all of my belongings. I didn’t own much, but I kept a few trinkets. Just some knickknacks and mementos from the past owners of the house. It was heartbreaking. I’d never felt so violated. Raider must have heard me come in. He strolled over and put his head in my lap. They loved that dog.
I left the body—and a message—where I knew they would find it. I wanted my room back.
The next time I came to visit, they had changed the locks. Honestly, I never needed a key, but this was such a blatant attack. Jeff and Andrea were trying to cut me out of their lives, and that hurt. They were trying to keep me away from my home.
I suppose I should have known better. The Millers were no different than any of the other owners. They put on a happy face and pretended like I was welcome, but as soon as I let my guard down—as soon as I started to trust them—they showed their true colors.
I stood over their bed that night knowing what I had to do. It broke my heart, but I’m brave enough to admit that things just weren’t working out. Frankly, I was tired. I had tried so many times to find a family that would fit in, and every one of them—even the Millers—had proven to be a disappointment. After so many years in that house, I was finally ready to move on. At the very least, I do have the Millers to thank for that.
I made sure it was quick. They didn’t feel a thing. Jeff and Andrea weren’t perfect, but they didn’t deserve to suffer. It took some time to clean up the mess. It always does, but I’m much faster now. I’ve had plenty of practice.
It’s never easy to say goodbye to people. No matter how hard they try to drive you away, if you spend enough time together, attachments are inevitable.
When I was done, I took them out to a little patch of land on the edge of the property. It may not look like much to anyone else, but they wouldn’t be lonely there. I moved Raider too. He deserved to be with them. He was a good dog.
I stayed with them until the sun went down wishing that things could have ended differently, but knowing this was for the best.
I only had a few days before I needed to leave town. I cleaned up the house before I left, and took a couple trinkets to remember our time together.
The Larsons would be expecting me up north before too long. They’d just had a baby. A beautiful little girl. They always look so peaceful when they’re sleeping.