Cheryl Street was a friendly neighbourhood, with beautiful houses and trees planted on both sides of the road. However, there was an old two-story house with dull walls at the end of the street. On looking closer, people could see cobwebs hanging from the walls, while the windows were dust-stained. The small area in front of the house was overgrown with weeds.
Because of the way the house looked, people in the area believed it to be haunted. However, it belonged to an old lady, who lived alone in this house. Nobody ever saw her smiling and she mostly stayed inside the house. Nobody knew about her family and some people regarded her as a crazy old lady, while others thought she was a witch. There were rumours that strange noises came from the house after midnight, as if a ghost was howling.
Then a new family moved into that street. They had bought a beautiful large house situated in the middle of the lane. They had two kids, Alice and John. Alice was 12, while John was 13 years old. The kids were unaware of the rumours about that lady and her house.
One day, Alice and John got up early and went out in the street to play football. Since it was very early, there were no vehicles on the street. The kids were enjoying playing with the ball and soon they reached the far end of the street, near that old rundown house.
Alice jubilantly kicked the ball away from John, and it flew and went straight into the garden of that creepy house. The kids quickly walked inside the garden by opening the small wooden fence door which wasn’t locked. John went towards the ball to pick it up which Alice looked around. Suddenly, the main door of the house opened and an old, annoyed-looking lady appeared.
“Who gave you the permission to enter my garden?” she shouted at the kids.
“I am sorry, ma’am. Our ball fell into your garden. We are leaving,” John quickly held Alice’s hand and they hurried out of the garden while the old lady went back inside the house.
When the kids started going to a neighbourhood school, some kids from Cheryl Street were also in their class. They gradually filled them in with all the rumours and stories about their neighbourhood, particularly about that house. Alice and John, being curious, developed an interest in that house and decided to unleash the secret behind all the rumours.
One evening, Alice and John’s parents had to go out to their friends’ place for dinner. The kids stayed at home. The sun had set and it was getting colder outside. After their parents left, both the kids wore their jackets, shoes, took a flashlight, and walked out the door. Both of them walked hand in hand towards that creepy house.
After a few minutes, they reached the house and went inside the wooden fence and knocked at the wooden door. The house was looking much scarier at night, especially because there was little light inside the house and it was dark in the garden or backyard.
After a few seconds, the door opened and the same old lady appeared. “What do you want?” she asked harshly.
“We have brought you some cherries. Actually, we are new in this town so we are trying to get to know our neighbours better,” John held out the bag of cherries to her which he took from his kitchen counter while leaving the house.
The old lady narrowed her eyes and looked at them suspiciously. “Nobody comes here, but you came. Thank you, kids,” she replied sullenly to them. But the kids did not move. They were looking expectantly at her. “Now what?” she asked them seriously.
“Umm … if you don’t mind, can we come inside and sit with you for some time. Our parents are at their friends’ house and we were getting bored at home,” John looked innocently at her.
This was somehow the turning point that created the magic. The everlasting scornful and hard look on the old lady’s face disappeared and she smiled a little. “You are … adorable kids. Okay, come inside,” she led the way to her living room.
The interior of the house was of old Italian style. However, it was all messy. The furniture was covered with dust and was not neatly set. The house was dimly lit with lights. Alice and John sat on a sofa while the old lady went inside.
She returned after a while with two cups of hot coffee and a platter of cookies. The kids thanked her and started eating the cookies.
“Okay now, what made you come here?” the lady looked at the kids.
John cleared his throat. “Umm… actually, as you know, there are many rumours and stories surrounding this house and you. Everybody is scared to come here and pass by this house. Strange noises come from this house at night. Nobody has ever heard of your family and they call you ….”
“Witch lady,” the old lady completed John’s sentence with a smile.
Both the kids nodded their heads in affirmation.
“It’s a long, sad story… nobody ever came here to ask me anything. Well, to answer your queries, my husband and three children died in a tragic car accident before I moved here. Previously, I used to live in New York with my family and was living my best life until that accident happened.
“At the time of the accident, I was at my home while my husband and my children had gone to a nearby lake, but they never returned home. I was devastated. This was such a huge loss for me and the pain got unbearable.
“So I decided to move from New York to a small town and get away with all of this. One of my friends suggested this house, which was on sale at that time. I liked this house and quickly bought it. However, this movement doesn’t help me much.
“The accident took place some 27 years ago, and then I moved here. At first, the neighbours were very welcoming towards me, but soon they started to distance themselves from me. I felt so lonely and depressed. Nobody wants to sit with a lonely sad person. Everyone wants happiness and fun. I could not offer that so people started avoiding me, they never invited me to their homes nor in parties. If I happen to meet them in the street, all of these people would gave me excuses and left.
“Since then I have never enjoyed anything and just waiting for my life to end, because I feel very lonely in this house. As for the noise you said, it’s my washing machine, which is now in a very bad condition and I usually do my laundry at night. So when I switch it on, it makes these strange noises. Nobody understands me here and I have now accepted that I am a witch lady living in a haunted house,” the old lady’s eyes were brimming with tears by the time she finished speaking.
Alice and John were looking at the lady with shock. “That is so wrong and sad!” Alice said to the lady. “The neighbours should not abandon you like that.”
From that day onwards, Alice and John started paying a daily visit to the old lady after their school. They also told their parents about the true story behind that creepy house, who invited her to their house and soon they developed a nice friendship.
And within a couple of weeks, Alice and John cleaned the house and reset the furniture. Then they painted the walls with the help of their dad and cut all the overgrown grass and weeds. When the garden had finally come into shape, Alice and John brought flowers and planted them in the garden. People used to pass by and stare in awe at both the kids.
The old lady was delighted. She had transformed into a new person completely. The regular visits of Alice and John helped the old lady overcome her loneliness. Now people often saw her smiling and strolling on Cheryl Street, all thanks to the care and love given by the two kids.
Old people in our society are just in need of company, so do not leave them alone as they require our utmost care.
Published in Dawn, Young World, January 15th, 2022