Alyssa had rented the little detached one-and-a-half storey house for the simple reasons that she liked her privacy and the money was right. If it had cost any more, she’d have had to look for a roommate, but the old post-war home was barely big enough for one person, let alone two. Her savings from her high school jobs and what her grandparents had left her in their wills had to last the duration of her internship, and whatever time it took to get a real paycheque coming in after that. Sure, it had two bedrooms on the second floor, but they were tiny by her standards. Two months into moving in, she still hadn’t quite decided whether the second bedroom was going to be her walk-in closet and dressing room, or an office space.
If she could have turned the dirty dollhouse into a full-size home with some kind of magic, she would have in an instant, although it probably would have flattened the similarly compact homes to her left and right.
She’d managed to be so productive over several weeks, emptying boxes and putting them in the crawlspace under the kitchen for moving back out, that there was no other place to put the damned plaything than on her kitchen table. She looked back and forth between the clean surface and the floor, debating the merits of setting it under the table but having bending over to pick it up again. Even if she put it on the table, she’d have to cover the formica first with a garbage bag or something, since she didn’t own anything as old-fashioned as a table-cloth. Alyssa bit her lip, uncertain as to her next move.
With the ache in her arms increasing, she made a quick decision. Using her foot to pull the two kitchen chairs together, Alyssa set the dollhouse down on their joined seats with a grateful sigh. Her next instinct was to wash her hands, but she forced herself to wait, opening the trap door by the stove (such a weird place for access to the foundation, but whatever) to retrieve a large-ish flattened box, dust it off, cut open a fold so it would lay flat, and align it to the edges of the tabletop so no corners would stick out and poke her on the way to the fridge or wherever she needed to go. That done, she transferred the dollhouse to the table, wiped down the chairs, and then, she scrubbed her hands.
“That second bedroom’s definitely going to have to be an office,” she said to herself aloud. “Not going to get any paperwork or studying done down here, at least for a while.”
Thankful that she’d taped the landlord’s number to her fridge door the day that she’d moved in, Alyssa pulled out the trusty old flip-phone that she’d had since she was twelve to call and let him know about her find.
“That’s strange,” she murmured, pulling it away from her ear. “Why are you all staticky? You’re a good phone. It better not be time to replace you — you’re a Nokia, for Christ’s sakes!”
As if in response, the sound of static increased. No calling out, then, because Alyssa hadn’t bothered to request a landline from Ma Bell. She’d figured her trusty cellular would be enough. Shaking her head, she went to put a reminder in her tablet to go looking for a new, perhaps refurbished, cheap mobile phone the next day. And then to take a shower.
On her way up the narrow stairs, she looked back at the dollhouse now occupying her entire kitchen table, and did a quick double-take.
Were those lights inside?
Alyssa backed down the few steps she’d mounted, and checked her front window curtains. No, they were closed, and there was nothing for them to reflect off of in the dollhouse anyway. No glass, no brass, nothing remotely shiny.
“Maybe just some late-season fireflies?” she wondered. “Sorry, guys. You’re not going to last long in this house, either.”
She saw a single light flicker and go out in an upper room. Tsking at the fate of the dying bugs, she turned around and went to her shower without another thought about it.