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Jay stared out the car window for a long moment before finally getting out of the car, still gazing up at the imposing, run-down house with its intimidating gambrel roof and odd, jutting bay windows. “Mine,” he said aloud, just to hear it, and it sounded absurd even to him.
When the lawyer, reading out the will, had said Jae-Hyun Park aloud as the recipient of Grace Evans’ estate, he hadn’t even been there to hear it. Why would he have been? Grace had been his great-aunt on his mother’s side, and they had barely seen each other except at Christmas for years. Most of his memories of her were the stories she’d tell, hugging him on the couch, the heavy patchouli smell of her perfume hanging around him in waves. Those tales were wild things, full of fantastical and mysterious adventures. All real, according to her—at least insofar as dreams were real.
It was reasonable enough, his mother Susan had justified to him (and everyone else, several times). Grandma had passed away already, and Grace didn’t have any children of her own to spoil. Since Susan and Do-Hun had their own home already, Grace must have wanted to give Jay a leg up on the usual difficulties Millennials were facing with home ownership these days.
“You know, you can sell it, if you find yourself too far from home out in Massachusetts,” Susan had prompted. “Make it an investment on getting a place closer to home?”
“Yeah, maybe,” Jay had said, at the time too overwhelmed to make any commitments. “But I might as well take the time to get away for a bit and resettle, you know? Besides, it’ll take a while to get the place cleaned up and all of Aunt Grace’s stuff dealt with, and I have to do that first regardless.”
“Fair enough,” she’d said. They both knew he could use a bit of a break—after all, he’d just been laid off after six years at his company. It hadn’t seemed to matter how many hours of unpaid overtime he’d done, scouring through code until as late as 2am some nights—the bottom line was the bottom line, apparently. And what did he have to show for it? His entire life had fit into the four over-sized Tupperware bins that he’d crammed into the back of his car.
He shook his head, trying to clear it of the darker thoughts that had started to possess him, then fished out the keys he’d been given. “Better see what everything’s like before I move anything in.” He’d got all the utilities set up already, minus internet, which would happen tomorrow, so the place was theoretically move-in ready—if any home that had been abandoned for eight years could be considered that.
Still, he remembered this house—remembered what it was like. Two main floors, both big and creaky with narrow walls and hallways between rooms that made the place seem overcrowded. On top of that, there was an attic and basement, both used for storage. And Aunt Grace’s things all over the place. She had a bit of a tendency towards hoarding, and, on all available surfaces, collected what had (to young Jay) been mysterious artifacts: leather-bound books, old clocks, strange furniture, weird old paintings, old globes and barometers and all the rest. Susan used to roll her eyes about the whole place. “No wonder she has weird dreams, when she looks at that mess all day.”
Jay needed a plan of action on what to tackle first, he decided. The main floor, with the probably horrific-kitchen, living room, and dining room? The second floor, with Aunt Grace’s—no, his—bedroom, office, and bathroom? Or should he start from the top or the bottom, and work his way through methodically?
[Please suggest an action in the Comments.
As a reminder, it can be thoughts, words, or deeds!]