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Moving abruptly was not the way Timothy had wanted to spend his summer. Despite the arguments the 9-year-old put up, his parents would not budge. Once he found himself in the spacious, new house in Florida, he decided to bite his tongue. He appreciated the house in a sense because of the grand size of his room and its close proximity to his Nana, who played a large part in their uprooting. She had moved to Florida just two years earlier and Timothy had missed her smiles and homemade cookies. Those were the things that made moving bearable.
Timothy started unpacking their first Wednesday they got there, but at a slow pace. He was too busy imagining how awesome he could make his room, where he could put all his Hot Wheels, where he’d have his Lego building station. Moving was starting to feel exciting to him, it was just the unpacking that made it such a tedious process. Timothy’s mother walked into the doorway of his room, leaning against the frame. “You’ve been in here for hours and it looks like you’ve hardly done anything,” she scolded. “Come on Timothy, we’re supposed to go see Nana soon! If you don’t finish, we won’t go.”
“Mom, we can’t not see Nana. Especially now that we’re so close to her,” the young boy argued. His mother sighed deeply and stepped into the room.
“Well your father and I have our own stuff we need to unpack and take care of,” she told her son sternly. She flinched when she heard a loud bark from across the house.
“You think Duke will help me unpack?” Timothy asked, half teasing. He called for the dog; the happy St. Bernard came bounding in and halted just before the end of the bed. “Here boy,” Timothy said, handing Duke a folded shirt. Much to the boy’s dismay, it only ended up on the ground.
“I’ll help,” his mother stated in defeat, smirking at her son who was giving her an ‘I-told-you-so’ look. “You’ll have to learn how to start doing things on your own, sweetie. Your father and I can’t keep babying you. You’ll always be my baby, but I can’t baby you.”
“I’m not a baby, I’m a big boy,” he defended indignantly. His mother laughed and patted his head.
“Maybe one day when you have kids, you’ll understand.”
✽ ✽ ✽ ✽
Seeing Nana was the incentive to getting the clothes unpacked. Timothy had picked up his pace until his mother gave in and said she’d call Nana to let her know they’d be over in 15 minutes. When most of his clothes were unpacked, Timothy hopped in the car behind his father. “Be good, Timmy, ok?” he said to his son. “Nana will be very happy to see us but don’t wander off without asking her first. It’s her house, remember?”
The young boy nodded eagerly as he reclined himself in the backseat. He waited impatiently for his mother to climb in on the passenger side so they could leave. His mother came out a short minute later, clutching her knock-off brand purse and taking big strides. “She’ll be expecting us,” she said with a smile as she opened the car door. “Alright, John, let’s go,” she prompted her husband delicately before he proceeded to back out of the drive.
The car ride made Timothy dizzy; palm trees, cows, and horses whizzed past the window. There was a lot of that between his house and Nana’s. He could feel the excitement growing from the pit of his stomach and filling him like a balloon. They were almost there, he could feel it. No traffic lights held them up, they were making good time.
Once they pulled up into the driveway of a large, wooden looking house, Timothy was ready to jump out of his seat. “Don’t unbuckle until we are at a complete stop,” his mother warned without glancing back. She knew how eager her son was. The second the car stopped, Timothy unbuckled and climbed out of the car. His parents were close behind as he bounded up to the front door. Nana opened the door to the towering entrance and met her grandson with open arms. She hugged him tightly and laughed with pure joy. “I’ve missed you, Nana,” he told her as they both pulled away. “I want to see how cool your house is!”
“It’s haunted, you know,” she teased. Timothy’s eyes widened in surprise.
“Really?!” he asked with excitement. “No way.” She laughed at his reaction and patted his shoulder sympathetically.
“I was just pullin’ your leg, kiddo. It make look old enough to be haunted but it’s not. I’ve been here two years and it hasn’t given me problems.” She strolled over to her son and daughter-in-law, embracing them both gently and briefly. “Come on in, I just finished cooking a pot roast and I’ve got some of those cookies I know a certain little boy likes.” Timothy could see that Nana’s hair was whiter and her face had more wrinkles. She looked significantly older that she did two years ago; her back was hunched more but she still walked like she used to.
✽ ✽ ✽ ✽
“I’m full,” Timothy groaned, clutching his stomach. After wolfing down the pot roast, he had eaten three cookies. “I missed your food, Nana.”
“And me too, I hope?” she joked. The boy nodded slowly and started to rub his stomach. “Let’s go for a walk, I could show you around the house.” She waved Timothy’s parents on for them to follow but they insisted on staying in the parlor. Nana grabbed Timothy’s small hand, securing it in hers. She led him into the kitchen, which was one of the first rooms off the parlor. It was a large kitchen with long counters display food, a crock pot, and utensils that needed to be washed. It still smelled slightly of pot roast and of chocolate chip cookies. Other than that, the room left Timothy uninterested and he tugged gently on Nana’s arm. He was ready to explore the house. “Why do you live in such a big house?” Timothy asked, staring up at the steep ceiling and the lighting fixtures that adorned it.
“Believe it or not, it was one of the cheapest things I could find and I’ve been renting out rooms to people for extra money,” she told the curious little boy. “The last people who had this house were no longer interested in keeping it and they put it on the market for a low price. I think they even left some boxes in the attic, I never went through them. Maybe you could help? We could keep some things and donate the rest. I’d say give them back to the previous owners, but I have no idea how to get in touch with them.”
“I’d love to help. Lead the way.” Nana held Timothy’s hand behind her as she led him up a narrow stairway just past the kitchen and one of the bedrooms. Nana knew this was the fastest way to the attic; it was a straight shot. The atmosphere was starting to get stuffy as they reached the entrance.
“It’s going to be a little crowded up here. In Florida, we have no basements so we put all our crap up here,” the old woman said in an amused tone. “Over in that corner,” she began, pointing to her right, “those are the boxes that were left here.” Timothy walked over to them to count.
“There’s five boxes to go through,” he announced and Nana approached the stack. “We should start with the one on top. The one that says T. Baker.” Nana gripped the sides of the box while Timothy gripped the top to help her set it down where they could access the contents easily. Without a second thought, Nana whipped out her house keys and cut through the tape that sealed the top of the box. It opened with a loud rip. There were old shirts, jewelry boxes, photo albums; nothing that really interested Timothy. Both he and Nana set the items aside to donate. They dug down to the bottom. There was one more thing and Timothy brushed against it with his grubby fingers. He pulled it out. It was an old Polaroid camera.
“At least there’s something good in there,” Nana pointed out. “Go ahead and take it if you’d like. I’m not even sure if it works though. Try it out.” Timothy pointed the camera at her and took the picture. It flashed and printed out a polaroid, which Nana took out from the front of the camera. She shook it back and forth to help the photo develop. “Go ahead, kid. It’s all yours.”
✽ ✽ ✽ ✽
Even after they all left Nana’s house, Timothy continued to play with the camera. He took pictures of his parents. It fascinated him. “Tim, sweetie, save your film,” his mother told him as they walked in the door of their home. “I know that’s a cool toy but you should save it.”
“Ok mommy,” he answered. He was good about restraining from it all throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening. It wasn’t until his parents went to bed that he began fussing with it once more. He took a picture of the closed bedroom door. The flash lit up the room. Timothy was amused and placed the polaroid on the blanket beside him. He took one of the window. This was one of the most fascinating things to the 9-year-old. He pointed the camera toward the closet and pressed the shutter.
The flash caught a hunched figure that Timothy wasn’t even sure he had seen; hunched much like Nana, but more contorted around the joints. She had looked a lot paler and something didn’t seem right. It was like there hadn’t be clothes on the figure. Timothy felt a shiver up his spine. “Nana?” he called out into the dark room. There was no response. “Nana? Is that you? What are you doing in here?” His breath caught in his throat at the sound of scurrying across the laminate floor of his room. The weight shifted on his bed and then he heard a raspy, gravelly voice in his ear. It made Timothy’s blood run cold.
“I’m not Nana,” it hissed.