I have walked past it hundreds of times, always wondering who lived there. It is an old, red brick house standing awkwardly amongst strip malls and condos. Everything about it suggests it had been there since the early fifties, but who lived there? An ancient looking TV antenna indicated the owner probably watches television. Maybe the antenna was placed there years ago by a previous owner, but who lives there now? I had never seen anyone other than the landscaping company cutting grass in the summer and shoveling snow in the winter. Maybe it was an old man who had lost his wife, or an old woman who had lost her husband? Maybe it was a young man, who had lost his parents in a terrible accident. Maybe it was a millionaire who keeps his money in the house in his mattress! I don’t know, but every day when I walk by my mind conjures up a variety of scenarios, some believable and some from a dark place within.
One Sunday morning as I was approaching the house, I noticed a crowd gathering. I tried to push my way through to see what was happening. All I could make out was the flashing lights of an ambulance and a stretcher with paramedics on each side. A body lying on the stretcher was completely covered with a white sheet and being carried down the front steps to be placed into the back of the ambulance. Hushed voices could be heard from people gathering. I tried to listen to what they were saying; did anyone know what had happened? From what I overheard, most people had the same unanswered questions I did. For the rest of the day, I wondered what could have happened. I even walked by the house a couple of times, looking for clues. Dare I walk up the front steps and look through the windows? What if someone was still inside?
The next morning everything appeared quiet and still around the house. With a fresh layer of snow and no foot prints, I knew no one had been about. I walked down the driveway and into the backyard. I was not really sure what I was looking for, but mostly I wanted a clue as to who lived here and who had been taken out on the stretcher. But in the blank snow, no clues were found.
A few days later part of the mystery would be solved. A local newspaper carried the story with the headline “Famous Author Found Dead in Her Home.” I quickly began reading. “Successful author, Abigail Stewart, was found dead in her Adelaied street home with nearly a million dollars kept in built-in safety deposit boxes. The 99-year-old author of New York Times best sellers such as Mosh Pit Kids, Screaming Voices and The People in the Angry House was described to be a recluse by estranged family members, who say she never accepted the loss of her husband and son in a car accident over 60 years go. Sources say her son’s room was exactly as he left it and her husbands clothes still hung in the closet when investigators entered the house. The safety deposit boxes had been custom built into the walls of the basement. Ms. Stuart’s will leaves over a million dollars to local charities.”
As a teen, Abigail Stuart was one of my favorite authors. It’s hard to believe she was right down the street and lived such an eccentric lifestyle. I guess it’s true that you never really know who lives in the house next door.
Barbara Godin is a graduate of AU and writes the “Dear Barb” column. She lives in London, Ontario with her husband, two dogs, and one cat. She can be reached on twitter @BarbGod