It was an old house. A brick house. Her 5th house. The first time she laid her eyes on it, she was very pleased. It had many corners and cracks, and at every turn she discovered a new place to explore. Now that they had moved in and she had staked a claim to the room in the attic, she was filled with excitement. 

After all, a girl with an imagination surely could not live in a boring house.  

She was particularly fascinated with the wallpaper. It covered the walls like old dresses that had gone out of style. Her mother had decided that she hated it all. Every single room was met with disgust, and layers upon layers had to be steamed off piece by piece. Once part of a beautiful paper patterned story, now thrown in a mushy pile on the floor. She thought of the different people who had taken such care to match up all those gluey pieces and stick them precisely on the walls. Excited about how great it looked, standing back and declaring how it made the room perfect. Now their choices were outdated and the wrong color for her mother’s design pallet.  She wondered what stories those pieces of paper could tell. The things those dressed-up walls had seen. But it didn’t matter now. Her mother scooped the soggy scraps off the floor and stuffed them into a garbage bag, and just like that the stories were gone.

It was sad really. 

She had a moment of silence as she carried the bag down to the trash pile in the basement.

The basement was cold and had no personality. It had never been finished, so the walls were made up of exposed pipes, cobwebs and untamed wiring. The old wooden stairs creaked as she went down into the depths of the darkness, and she searched for the little chain that she’d pull to get the light to come on. Her heart pounded a little each time she made the descent and sometimes she wondered if she would ever come back up. One of the old cement walls had been spray-painted with graffiti, which made her think that a sinister gang had lived here before. What happened down here, she often wondered in this creepy, spider-infested concrete land. And did they do their laundry during their illegal activity? Fabric softener and crime didn’t seem to mix. But everyone needed clean clothes. Even Gangsters.

Leaving the bag of soiled paper stories on the floor, she quickly ran back up out of the darkness. The creaky off tune stairs each played a different note as she finally slammed the door behind her. The basement was not her favorite place. But the rest of the house captivated her. As she walked around, every part seemed to come alive. The old upstairs doors looked like they would open their wide mouths and start talking to her at any moment. She would peer through their old keyholes, wondering where those keys were. Did someone out there still have them? Was there one key that would unlock everything? The high windows, the winding staircase – she loved it all. Even the fireplace in her parent’s bedroom grinned at her with a smile, waiting for a lunch of burning embers to be served.

Going outside she headed to her favorite place on the property. Technically she was a little old for a treehouse. However, when she first laid her eyes on it, she was so pleased. There was just something about having a little place to get away. A spot to be by herself. A hidden location to read, and write down her thoughts. All she had to do was climb up the ladder into the sky and the rest of the world would disappear. What more could a girl ask for? It was a bit of a challenge to keep the little brothers out. But she had her ways.  Bribery and kicking them off the ladder worked fairly well. Besides, there was important work to do. She had discovered what seemed to be a code of some sort on the back wall. Her dad had tried to paint over it all, but she had managed to hold him off until she could figure out what it meant. Anything that had been carved into the walls of a treehouse had to be important.

This was where she lived now. Freshly peeled walls, a gangster basement, mysterious key holes and a secret-coded room at the top of a ladder.  

Her name was Grey, and she loved her new house.