I have lived in this house ever since it was built, and it is an old house. I don’t remember where I was before that. Mostly I have lived in the box-room, with sunlight and moonlight sliding through the one smeared window in the ceiling, illuminating the cabin trunks, the tin chests, the rocking-horse with its glass eye and scanty mane. I have liked the silence, the sense of time drifting, the quiet dust.
When the new people came to the house, they hurried away the trunks and the rocking-horse, cleaned the sky-light, painted the walls pale rose, put in electric light. The man drilled holes in the walls and put up shelves; the woman stacked them with books. They brought in a desk. The box-room was ready. Ready for my darling.
I did not know she was my darling then. She was merely the eldest child, slight and quiet, with silver hair. They gave her the box-room for her own, to make up for sharing her bedroom with her sister, the rest of the house with her parents and brother. She thanked them for her pale pink room, shut the door against her brother and sister, and sat down at her desk to read.
I saw how the silver hair curled on her neck, heard how quiet she was. I liked her quietness. I reached out to touch her. My breath stirred the fine hairs on her nape and she smoothed them down with her left hand, shivering a little as she did so. In that second she won me. I had found my darling and I would not let her go.
But she did not know me. She did not know I was there. I tried to reach her, but to her I was a movement of the air, a trickle of cold from the ill-fitting door. I will reach her, I thought. I will make her know I am here. I left my quiet room, which I had not left for so many years, and went hunting through the house till I found, in the room that had once been a drawing-room, a blue glass vase. From the garden I fetched a single flower, also blue, with five fragile petals and a slender stem. That night I stood the vase on her desk, where she could not fail to see it. The flower I placed within it.
Then I took books from her shelves, opened them, laid them out on her desk in front of the vase and the flower. Now, I thought, she will notice me.
She blamed her sister for the flower and the books. Blamed, not thanked. She said that the room was hers, that no one else might enter it. Her sister cried; she had never been in the room. She was not believed. My darling demanded a key. It was given to her. And still she did not know me.
She must see me, I thought. But she could not see me. So then she must see me move, see me change her world. Once again I left my room, while the house and its people slept, and I searched. And after a while I found the things I wanted, and took them back to my room. To my darling’s room.
She was late coming next day. The sun had passed across my skylight and shadows were gathering when she opened the door, switched on the harsh intrusive light. I gave her time in which to ease herself into our world, detach herself from theirs. Then I moved. I dimmed the light, slowly, gradually, so that it took her time to realise. And when she looked up from her book, which she could no longer see, I was there. Waiting.
I lit the candles I had brought. I had not thought what she would see, what she must have seen. A box of matches that opened itself, a match that struck itself, a flame that wavered in the air. I had not thought.
She froze, screamed, flung the book at me. It hit the candle, sent it flying. The treacherous flame leapt to the scatter of papers on her desk, coiled in on itself, sprang back. It touched her clothes, scorched them. I called to her. I think she heard me, for as the flame ate at her silver hair she turned her terrified face towards me and her eyes changed, darkened, grew wide before they closed.
She noticed me.
I think she noticed me.