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Zero.

There was a house nestled somewhere in the woods.

Recently built.

Never lived in.

Offered for a low cost.

It stood a million miles away from the metropolises alive with hundreds of waking souls. The nearest company was another cottage, just an acre west. Otherwise, the next best companions were the trees, or perhaps the bridge over the babbling brook. This house was lonely and it begged to be lived in. To be filled with life and laughter.

But, only the stars could hear its desperate cries, when the night was dark and the crickets chirped. And, how the stars did listen.

 

Two.

There was a house nestled somewhere in the woods, desolate and solitary. But then, there were two.

Sold for a low cost.

Recently moved in.

Presently lived in.

They were a young pair, with eyes like stars and a shiny car with JUST MARRIED plastered on the bumper. They filled the house with hope from the second they walked through the ruby red door, the man carrying his wife, still adorned in white. They furnished the house with their belongings.

A brand new swing on the porch.

A comfortable bed made for two in the bedroom.

A petite dining table next to the window.

Though they had little, and there were only two, they had their love and so did the house. The couple grew within its walls, and dressed the house as if it were already their own.

Their names were Jerry and May, the house was quick to learn, and they were a starcrossed match. Jerry was a loving husband, surprising May with flowers when he came back from work, wrapping his arms around her when she washed the dishes at night. May was just as compassionate of a wife, welcoming Jerry home every evening with his favorite dinners, tying his ties every morning while he looked at her with undying adoration. The house saw their love bloom and bloom, until the house itself was made of it.

On some evenings, music would fill the air, drifting from the vinyl on the living room table. They would twirl around the room, swinging and spinning, May in Jerry’s arms. He would dip her and twirl her until her cheeks were flushed. Their laughter would mix with the tune of their favorite song. They were happy, and the house felt the same.

This house now had two. And it was enough…

until the house overheard a conversation, one that brimmed with love, saying that they wanted to add one.

 

Three.

Two became three when May and Jerry brought home one. One was pink and squirmy and christened Ellie. The house loved her from the night she arrived.

“Welcome home,” May whispered as she pushed the front door open, cradling a tiny soul who giggled winesomely at even the slightest smile.

Of course, the house heard her. It brightened at her sound as Jerry turned on the lights inside. Home, May had said. This house was now home.

 

Over the years that would come, the house took on beautiful scars.

The chipped wood on the porch stairs from when Ellie tripped and scraped her knee. She had just started walking. How could she have known that stairs weren’t flat?

The red crayon smeared on the wallpaper where Ellie’s play table once stood. Jerry had intended on painting over the ugly mark, but never came around to it. The house was glad. It reminisced of times when Ellie would tape her doodles of puppies and flowers on its walls. She really loved the color red.

The carpet stain where Jerry spilled his coffee one monday morning. It was Ellie’s first day of kindergarten. He had been in a rush to take her to the bus stop. From that point on, May forbid food from entering the living room. Though, that didn’t stop Jerry and Ellie from sneaking in snacks when May wasn’t home. That was between Jerry and Ellie, and the house.

The dent on the side of the house where Ellie’s bike once hit it. The house promised not to tell when Ellie haphazardly threw her bike down too fast.

The storage closets overflowed with sundries. The house was fairly sure that among the stacks of fancy towels that May liked were lost objects forgotten after the search was forfeited. Such things included a stuffed bear that came apart at the seams, and the dumbbells Jerry bought the day after New Years in ‘63.

Pencil marks on the doorframe from where May charted Ellie’s height. Every scratch the house endured signified another year. Another year the couple called the house home. Another year the house lived. It’s favorite mark was the one between 10 and 11. Ellie had grown four inches over the summer, out growing every pair of jeans May bought from the store.

The ever changing bedroom. The blossom wallpaper that once embellished Ellie’s walls had been stripped down after she turned 12, replaced with white paint. Her crib was traded for a bed. The illustrated stories of Pixie Hollow and the Hundred Acre Wood disappeared from her book shelf. In their places were tales of Dunsinane and recounts of battles and treaties. The crayon masterpieces were taken down to make room for posters of teenage idols and actors.

Most of all, the nails in the wall.

The upstairs hallway was a time capsule, picture frames of all sizes and colors hanging on the wall. Every frame was a window into the past. Though the house hardly noticed, Ellie looked a little older with every picture on the wall. Her hair grew longer, her braces came and went, the mismatched butterfly clips in her hair were exchanged for sleek, black pins. Even May and Jerry, whose love was timeless, aged. Their innocent skin fading and wrinkling in places, their black hair turning to silver.

And so, the couple had grown into a family, safe within the walls of the house. They made the house their own, and that was all the house ever wanted.

 

Two.

Three fell to two when a boy showed up at the house.

The first time he came, he was dressed in an ironed, gray shirt and held a bouquet of flowers. He knocked on the door and smiled when he was answered. He gave May the flowers and shook hands with Jerry. Then, he took a blushing Ellie away in his hand-me-down car. Her cheeks matched the hue of the dress she wore.

She was gone for hours. The house was anxious that Ellie would never return, but when darkness settled and the moon ruled the sky, a familiar secondhand car turned into the driveway. The boy brought Ellie home, walked her to the door, and after a while, kissed her. The house knew Ellie was elated. She spent the rest of the night spinning in her bedroom, clothed in pink.

The boy came to visit frequently after that. Sometimes he took Ellie away, sometimes he stayed in the house for dinner. One day, he asked to speak with Jerry and May while Ellie wasn’t home. The house wondered if the boy had his own house to live in. When he left, May gave him a hug, crying, while Jerry patted him firmly on the back. If Jerry and May liked him, perhaps the house should, too.

It was Saturday when the boy arrived in the same car he always drove, clad in a black suit and polished shoes. He knocked on the door, led Ellie to his car, and drove her away. When they returned, Ellie was wearing something silver and sparkly on the fourth finger of her left hand.

The last time the boy came, he brought with him a moving truck. They crammed the vehicle with all of Ellie’s things. The bed, the books, and all, purging her room until it was only white space. As usual, Ellie got into the passenger seat and he drove her away.

The house waited until nighttime and counted down the minutes until Ellie would come home. Only this time, she didn’t.

Too soon, three reduced to two. The house felt emptier without Ellie dancing about in her room or helping May in the kitchen. The light in the house died ever so slightly, for Ellie’s bedroom remained dark. But, the house had started out with two, and two could still be enough.

 

One.

Jerry and May lived the rest of their days within the walls of the house. Their skin was wrinkled and their hair was gray, but their love still prevailed, youthful and rife.

Two turned to one when they were dancing. They had been waltzing across the room, Jerry’s arthritis-ridden hands caressing May’s frail ones, when Jerry cut the dance short and clutched at the left side of his chest. He found his way into May’s arms when the ambulance arrived. Its blaring sirens and red flashing lights stirred a racket in the peaceful woods. The house seemed to darken inside as they put Jerry on a gurney and drove him far from the house. Like the boy and Ellie, he didn’t come back.

As for May, she barely spent time in the place she called home. Everyday she flitted back and forth from home to the city, until one day, she stopped.

For the first time, she stayed, but only in one room: the kitchen.

The only light that remained was the spotlight above the sink, as May compulsively washed dishes. A solemn air suffocated the house. It was a little colder inside.

The house wondered where Jerry went. It knew he could make her happy again.

But, Jerry never came home.

 

The house only had one and the one was May. She was old and tired, not any different from the house. For a while, she lived a quiet life, pacing back and forth in the hallway upstairs and losing herself in the photographs. While one was enough to keep the house alive, May had nobody.

It was a summer night when May decided to go to bed early. She turned out the lights and lay down in the bed made for two.

The lights in the house never turned on again.

 

Zero.

There was a house on the side of the road somewhere in the city.

Built a time ago.

Not suitable to live in.

Abandoned at no cost.

The trees that once hid it from the rest of the world no longer existed. In their places were stretches of asphalt, exposing the house to the gaze of hundreds as they drove down the newly paved roads each day.

Though the house was made of the same wood, though it stood crumbled and broken in the same place, it was not the same house, for it had nobody to turn on the lights inside.

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