Writers (in order): Claire Bing, Irene Tsen, Eileen Hung, Edward Fearon, Maya Ma, Megha Mummaneni, Evelyn Moskovitz, Iyna Sun, Joyce Lee, Emi Bell, Keiss Chan, Daphne H Krayn, Eman Hussain, & Langston Wu. Editor: Irene Tsen.
Emma called out “thank you!” after the cab driver as he hurriedly sped away, leaving her alone in front of the hulking mansion. She turned to look at it, a thousand memories already scrabbling for purchase in her mind. Now, it certainly looked like a “haunted house” that fit the stories the neighborhood kids told about the place. The once-cheery canary yellow paint had turned a sickly green in the places it hadn’t already chipped off, and the flowering vines that had neatly framed the porch were a mess of overgrown and long-dead weeds. Who knows, maybe the kids were right and Marie haunted the rooms the two of them used to play endless games in over twenty years ago. Emma didn’t know if the thought disturbed or comforted her. She reluctantly made her way to the porch, picking her way through the yard littered with debris, but paused at the door. She had promised herself she would never return to this place, but her desperate urge to get the book had finally overpowered her fear of the memories held in the walls of the mansion. Emma let out a deep breath and turned the doorknob.
It was the overwhelming smell of mildew that first hit her: a smell layered with rot and decay, but that somehow had the undertones of familiar scents from years ago. Emma took a few hesitant steps into the front hall, marveling at how much remained the same: the glass windchime near the bay window that looked like it was made out of diamond when light hit it the right way; the winding staircase with a chip on the third step, from when she and Marie tried to carry her new dresser up the stairs; and the marble flooring in the kitchen that never quite sparkled however much you scrubbed the tiles. The walls also told their own story of age, as the pine-colored wallpaper hung loosely at the edges, worn and tattered.
She took the steps up the stairs, heading for her childhood bedroom. The book was most likely there, but she had made a mental list of the places she would search next if she couldn’t find it there: the library in her father’s old study, the secret cabinet in the guest bathroom, the family room, and the kitchen.
This won’t change anything.
Emma paused in her step as the quiet voice rang in her mind. Whether it was her own consciousness or Marie, she couldn’t tell. The voice felt like it was coming from so far away, yet there was a certain presence to it that made her look behind her to make sure she was alone.
Do you really want to relive this?
Emma’s fingers curled. “I don’t have much of a choice,” she responded aloud. The house seemed to sag and sigh in response, and she could feel the voice retreat.
Now, without ghosts tugging at her heels, Emma stepped forward towards her bedroom door and turned the handle.
The creak was as loud as ever. Her boots thumped on the wooden floor, and she was met with a gust of cold air, making her tug her sweater a little tighter. Once inside, Emma surveyed the old room, trying to remember its layout from her happier days.
It was cluttered. Toys were strewn about, childish paint jobs were splattered across the walls, and moth-eaten clothes were piled on the floor. The book could be anywhere.
Then Emma’s searching eyes fell upon a jar of small paper stars and her mind gave way to memories. Memories of water gushing from the overgrown fountain anchoring the back meadow to solid ground. Fields and fields of daisies, neverending in the afternoon glow of the sun.**
“Stop!” Marie screamed joyfully as Emma splashed her with water.
Marie traipsed around the fountain, stopping behind the gloriously unkempt gazebo to playfully hide until Emma surprised her from behind. They paused, eyes engaged in a passionate duel until suddenly their lips were interlocked.
Eventually, Marie pulled away, returning to the fountain. She picked up the paper star she had been fumbling with, meticulously creasing and re-creasing the paper until it stood on its own. Emma watched from afar as a tear slid down the side of her face, pausing to crest the summit of her cheekbone before it resumed its downward traverse. She knew they could never be together, although the two were intertwined regardless.
Slowly coming back to reality, the view of the decrepit room came back before her eyes. She carefully avoided stepping on the clutter on the floor and made her way to the jar. Upon close view, Emma saw a layer of dust blanketing the glass. But nothing could diminish the memory embedded in the object.
Emma’s hands shook when she picked up the jar with two fingers, trying not to get her hands too dirty. The glass was cool to the touch. She blew, trying to dissipate the dust before the detailed memories came back to mind. She dropped it. The glass immediately shattered on the creaky floor.
She crouched down to pick up one of the fallen stars that had remained intact after so many years. A piece of glass pricked her finger and she unfolded the star, as the blood stained the paper.
Together we will remain distant—for our love is eternal.