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A House To Call Home

Tags: home, memories

Owen Bradburn is looking at a house for sale; but the house brings back memories

He pulled into the driveway and saw that the realtor was already there, leaning against the door of her car, waiting for him. She smiled and walked over to his car as he parked, grabbed his jacket and stepped out.

“Mr. Bradburn?” she said, holding out her hand. He nodded and shook her hand, starting to look around while she continued talking. “Amanda Williamson — Amanda.”

“Please, call me Owen. I always feel weird when anyone calls me ‘Mr. Bradburn’. Makes me want to look around for my dad.”

Amanda laughed. “All right, Owen. And I know the feeling. I’m glad you called about this property. The executor called just earlier this week to lower the price again. It’s the last asset in the estate and they want to finish up. So, it’s really a steal.”

Owen looked around, seeing the overgrown grass, the bushes that desperately needed some trimming, and the exterior of the house that was at least ten years overdue for being painted. “Lowered the price again, you say? That’s good to know. I was in the area and driving past it when I saw the ‘For Sale’ sign out front. I’ve been thinking of moving out here, and I thought I would find out more about it.”

“Oh, it’s a great house! There’s lots of space inside and, yeah, from the outside, I know it looks like it needs some work. But, if you bought it, you’d have a wonderful house and, given the price they’re asking, you’d still be able to afford quite a bit of renovation, and that will really raise the value tremendously!” She laughed and lowered her voice. “Confidentially, I’ve had a couple of builders calling to ask about it. I think they’re just contemplating buying it to clean it up a little and flip it. None of them have wanted to make anything even close to a reasonable offer, though. And, also, I’ve been told that the Hawthorns lived here for fifty years, so it seems like it would really be a shame for a house with that much local history not to be bought by someone who would be living in it.

“Now, as you can see, the garage is detached. It’s listed as a three-car garage. However, the third garage was added on and the roof is a little bit low, so it’s probably better to think of using it for storage and not so much as a regular garage space. Although, you’ve still got the full original two-car garage space for your car and … your wife’s car …?”

“No, no, Amanda. I’m not married. I’ve been too busy for the past … well … thirty years, now, while I’ve been working. But I’m thinking it would be nice to have a house out here, in the countryside — so I’d have a chance to relax and enjoy some peace and quiet, just looking at nature around me.”

“Oh, you’ll definitely have that out here. Everyone’s very friendly, of course, and it’s not like all your neighbors are right on top of you and blasting parties or anything. I used to live in the city myself, so I remember what that was like.” She walked over to the side of the garage and pressed some of the buttons on a keypad there, making all three garage doors start to open. “Like I said, lots of space in the garages. The two main garages are even a bit bigger than normal. Plus, as I said, the third garage would be great for storing snowblowers and lawnmowers, or even a bicycle.”

# # #

When Owen was a kid, his best friend was Cameron. The two of them were always going back and forth between their houses. One summer Saturday, like so many, he’d gotten up and had breakfast while watching the usual Saturday morning cartoons. After cleaning up and putting the milk and cereal away, he had been laying around in the living room, still watching cartoons. Around 11 o’clock, his mom had called out to him, saying she and his dad were heading out to go grocery shopping. He had to be back by dinner time, but, other than that, he was on his own until then. Hearing that, he realized it was time to get moving, so he pulled on shorts and a T-shirt, grabbed his bike and pedaled over Cameron’s house.

He slid his bike to a halt in the driveway, dropping it and running over to the door. After ringing the doorbell a few times, he’d yelled for Cameron to stop being a lazy bum and come on out so they could go riding and hang out. A few weeks before, Cameron’s grandpa had finished all the work to add a third garage so now Cameron had somewhere to leave his bike — next to his grandpa’s lawnmower — rather than shoved to the side next to the cars.

Owen ran to the new garage, grabbed the handle and yanked it up, ducking his head underneath so he could go in to grab Cameron’s bike. He knocked the kickstand up with the side of his foot and rolled it out into the driveway. Cameron came out of the house, still pulling a T-shirt over his head. “Hey! Leave my bike alone! I’ll get it!”

“Yeah, yeah. I just wanted to get it ready for you. I think some of the other boys are probably going over to the ball field around noon. If they are, with you and me there, there should be enough for us to make two teams and actually play some. I’ll tell Brian he has to let you pitch some today!”

“Like Brian even wants me on the same team. The only reason he lets me play is because he wants to keep you happy so you’ll keep hitting those balls way into outfield.”

“Whatever! C’mon! Let’s go!”

# # #

“Along with the space out here, there’s power, and not just to feed the garage door openers. So, you could even convert one of the bays into a workshop if you wanted to do some of the work on the house yourself?”

“Maybe. Something to think about. And with the third garage, I could buy a motorcycle like I’ve sort of always wanted to do. There’s certainly enough twisting roads up here. With all three garages, I’d still have lots of space left over.”

“That’s the idea! Now, let’s go inside. The house is empty, so you’ll need to picture the rooms with furniture in them. Even with nothing in it, though, I love the kitchen and I think you will, too. It’s huge and is absolutely phenomenal!”

The two of them walked to the back door. Amanda unlocked and opened it, gesturing for Owen to go in ahead of her. Immediately inside the door, they walked into a mudroom that had a washer and dryer over to the side.

“I’ve been told that when the house was first built, there wasn’t a separate laundry room. At some point, they modified this mudroom, bringing water and drainage up here so they could install a washing machine and dryer. Granted, there’s not a lot of room here for folding or setting up an ironing board, but at least it’s up here and not down in the basement.”

She led him into the kitchen. And, just as she had said, it was, indeed, very large and very open. “See! There’s so much room here, and that’s even with still having both a refrigerator and a stand-up freezer in here. There is a dishwasher, but it’s not working. They factored that into the price when the house first was put on the market, though.”

Amanda walked over to the large open space. “Before this was emptied out, there was a full, six-person dining table over here, positioned this way.” She gestured with her arms. “If you wanted an even larger table in here, you could just turn it the other way and, you see, there’s more than enough space. Now, there is a separate dining room over there,” she said as she pointed through a door on the far side of the kitchen, “but it’s smaller than the space here and I don’t think they ever even really used it that much.”

# # #

There were lots of times that Owen had been inside Cameron’s house. Of course, it wasn’t really Cameron’s house, or his parents’. It was Cameron’s grandparents’ house. His mom had married into the family and they’d been living there while Cameron’s dad was still trying to find a job. From what he’d heard, things had been really tight, money-wise, for his dad, so they’d been staying with his grandparents for quite a few years.

Cameron’s grandma, Lynn, was always super nice to Owen when he came to visit. Just about every time he was there, she would offer him some juice or a glass of milk, and it seemed like there was never a time when there wasn’t a jar of cookies in the pantry. Somehow, that jar of cookies was always just within reach for Owen or Cameron. Whenever his grandma would step out of the kitchen for a few minutes, one of them would run over to the pantry, grab the jar and pull out a few cookies, some for each of them. She would walk back into the kitchen and over to the stove or the sink, pretending not to see them eating the cookies.

# # #

“There’s a half bath just off the kitchen here and then over here is the living room. Just look at this view! You’ve got this great bay window showing the entire front yard and the driveway all the way out to the road.

“So, even though it’s hard to see with no furniture, there’s lots of space and you could easily fit a sofa and a loveseat, and even a couple of recliners. Or, for that matter, you put a card table over on that side and then invite your friends over for a poker night. Then, this wall would be perfect to set up a media center with a big flat-screen TV, so you’d be all set for Sunday football games or the World Series or anything like that.”

# # #

The doctors weren’t able to figure out what the problem was, but Cameron seemed to just keep getting weaker. Oh, sure, he could still go to school, but he’d always sit out during gym class. And then, on the weekends, he wouldn’t really be up for the two of them riding their bikes around, going over to the ball field or into the center of town so they could both get some ice cream.

One thing that they could keep doing, though, was playing in Cameron’s living room with their little toy soldiers. They’d take hours to set up all sorts of boxes and pillows and whatever else they could get their hands on. Lots of times they’d argue over whether one of them going “Rat-a-tat-tat-tat” meant that three or four of the other’s soldiers were dead and neither of them had really understood what “line-of-sight” meant.

Then, Cameron’s grandpa had bought him a G.I. Joe. Seeing that, Owen had begged his mom and dad to buy him one as well so that he and Cameron could keep playing together. His dad had grumped about it, but his mom had just smiled and then, a week later, he’d woken up to find, next to his bed, a bag with a new G.I. Joe — with fuzzy hair and a Kung-Fu grip!

# # #

“The stairs here go up to the bedrooms,” Amanda said as they both started to walk up to the second floor.

“There are three bedrooms up here — the master bedroom with an en-suite bathroom, and then two more bedrooms, sharing a full bathroom as well. Over here is the smaller of the other bedrooms. But even though it’s the smaller one, there’s still plenty of room for a twin bed, dresser and a chair. Or, you could turn it into a small den or office.”

# # #

Cameron had taken to spending a lot of time in his bed, even when Owen came to visit. After school and on the weekends, he’d go over there and his grandma or grandpa would let Owen in. Or, some times, the door would be open and he’d just go in and up to Cameron’s room.

The two of them would play with toys together and Owen would tell him about what had been going on at school and which boy was picking on someone else, or was being picked on. Neither one of them was really into girls yet, at least not as anything other than a friend — and even there, any of the boys who started hanging out with any girls would usually get called all sorts of names from the other boys.

Lots of times, they’d hear Cameron’s mom and dad yelling at each other through the wall. Owen had asked him a couple of times what they were yelling about, but Cameron said he didn’t know … or, if he did know, he refused to talk about it, so Owen stopped asking and the two of them would just ignore it whenever it would happen, pretending that it wasn’t happening.

# # #

“This is the larger of the other bedrooms. There’s more than enough room to make it a fully-furnished guest room, so you could easily have company staying the night.”

# # #

One time, Owen had gone to visit Cameron and was walking up the stairs. As had happened so many times before, he heard Cameron’s parents yelling at each other. This time, though, the door to their bedroom must have been open because he could finally understand at least some of what was being said. Since the staircase was visible through their door, he paused on the stairs, sort of hiding, and listening — trying to make some sense of what they were always arguing about.

Right away, he heard Cameron’s mom, “… after what you did … right after we were married! And now he’s always here! It’s like you or he are trying to flaunt it in my face! God damn it, Elliott! What the hell am I supposed to think when Cam’s stuck in bed, getting weaker almost every day and even Cam’s happy when he keeps coming by, over and over again? Don’t you dare look at me like that! I know you think this is all somehow my fault!”

Cameron’s dad said something so quietly that Owen couldn’t understand any of it and then he heard the door close. As soon as the click happened, he raced the rest of the way up the stairs and into Cameron’s room, bringing him homework from school.

# # #

“And, finally, over here is the master bedroom. You’ve got windows on two sides of the house, a large walk-in closet, and, over here, a three-quarter bathroom. There’s no bathtub, but, really — most of us take a shower these days, right? Who’s got time for a bath?” Amanda laughed.

“Even with a king-size bed, though, there’s enough space next to the door for a desk if you didn’t want to convert the smaller bedroom into an office for yourself.”

# # #

Cameron had been ill for a few months. Owen went there to visit him, as usual. The door to the house was unlocked, so he’d gone straight inside. As he climbed the stairs, he didn’t hear anything, so he called out to Cameron. Instead of hearing Cameron answering, though, he heard Cameron’s grandpa call out from the master bedroom.

“Owen? Is that you?”

He walked over to the master bedroom and saw Cameron’s grandpa sitting at his desk. “Yes, sir. I was coming by to see Cameron. Isn’t he here?”

“No, lad. He’s not here. Cameron really wasn’t feeling well, so Elliott and his mom took him to see the doctor. The doctor was very concerned and had them take him straight to the hospital.” Owen saw his shoulders drop. “From what the doctor said, I … I’m not sure that Cameron will be coming back here out of the hospital.”

“Oh … but — Cameron’s my best friend! How can the doctors not know what’s wrong with him?”

“I don’t know, Owen. I really wish I did. Listen, lad … I want you to know that … well, I know that Cameron’s mom hasn’t always been so nice to you, but it’s not about you. Lynn and I like having you visit and you’ve been a really good friend to him. If you ever need someone to talk to, or even if you just want a glass of milk and some cookies … you’re welcome to visit us, all right?”

“Umm… Oh… Okay, sir. Since Cameron’s not here, I’m going to go home now. Please make sure he knows that I came by and tell him I really hope he feels better?”

“I will, son… I will.”

# # #

Amanda led him back downstairs through the living room and into the kitchen. “The only other part of the house to see is the cellar, and the stairs down to that are in the mudroom over here where we first came in. There’s also a storm door from the outside that leads into the cellar.” She opened another door, clicking the switch to turn on the lights, and then started walking down the stairs.

“Here’s where the furnace is, as well as some storage.” Over in the corner, there were a few boxes sitting next to a small china closet with a few plastic models and toys sitting in it. “Like I said, there’s not really all that much to see down here.”

# # #

It was about a week since Cameron had been taken to the hospital. Owen was in class when another student had knocked on the door, bringing a note to the teacher. She read it and then looked up, calling to Owen and telling him that he needed to go to the principal’s office. All the other kids started to make noises, wondering what he’d done wrong, so she loudly announced that everyone needed to be quiet and Owen wasn’t in trouble — the principal just needed to talk to him about something.

Owen had walked to the main office and the secretary told him to go ahead into the principal’s office and sit down. The principal looked up as Owen sat down and then, surprisingly, got up from his desk to walk around and sit in the other chair next to Owen. “Son, you and Cameron have been very close friends for, well … for quite a few years.”

“Yes, sir. He’s been my best friend since … well, gosh … it seems like since forever.”

“I know. That’s why I wanted to make sure that you didn’t hear this from any of the other students. I just got off the phone with Cameron’s father. Cameron …” The principal sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, then looked at Owen again. “There’s no way to soften this, Owen. Cameron passed away earlier this morning. I called your mom and she’ll be here to pick you up in a few minutes. Someone is going to get your books from the classroom. And … I told your mom that it’s fully understandable if you needed to take a couple of days before feeling OK enough to come back to school.”

Later that day, Owen had ridden his bike over to Cameron’s house, thinking he would like to talk with Cameron’s grandpa, like he’d offered. When he got there, the door was unlocked, so he opened it to walk in and heard, in the kitchen, Cameron’s mom screaming at his dad.

“It was my son that died, you bastard! What am I supposed to think when your other son is still alive and quite healthy? I don’t care if it was only the one time you were with her! It was after we were married and you slept with her! What? Did you make sure to get me pregnant right afterwards so I’d be too busy thinking about that to beat you up about how Cameron had a half-brother? Oh, what? Now are you going to go off and cry on Alana’s shoulder?”

Hearing that, Owen carefully stepped back outside and quietly closed the door behind him. He calmly picked up his bike to ride home — back to his dad and mom … Jason and Alana Bradburn.

# # #

“All right. That’s the whole house, Owen. Hopefully, you see what I mean about it being such a great house, and, at what they’re asking, it’s also a great bargain. It would be a shame to let it go. What do you think?”

“Amanda … I have to say that I agree. It really is a nice house. And, yeah … it shouldn’t be bought by someone who wouldn’t appreciate it and be living in it. So — let’s talk about what would be a good offer. I think this is definitely a house that I would like to be able to call home.”

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