Charming, cozy, needs a little TLC!
Small. Old. Crumbling.
So close to nature!
The local wildlife are gonna fight you in the kitchen.
Perfect for a family just starting out!
Perfect for an idiot who parts well with their money.
Emilia knew the tactics, and the words between the lines, well. She had been through 16 condos, 34 houses, and 97 different Zillow searches to get here, in this dreary entrance, of an abandoned church the owners had attempted to convert to a home-stay. Apparently, those owners had run away screaming.
From where she stood, there was a rolled up rose-colored carpet that once graced the entryway, leading hopeful sinners into the sanctuary. The graying wood underneath was rough and badly marred, but Emilia bet that the experienced house-flippers had gasped with joy at the site of real ash flooring, and the thought of its silver swirls glistening under a little buffing. The ceiling in the hallway was about twelve feet high, teasing an echo that grew in the narthex at about fourteen. Windows along the wall had already been retaken by the bodies of fallen mayflies, as well as moss and just the general green-brown dust Emilia associated with all old things. But underneath. Oh underneath, there stood the old-world glass in every single pane. So lovingly made, still bending the light with their hues of deep blues, aching reds, and reaching shouts of yellow. Not like new, cheap windows in the sold-out churches with their yelling and their politics- but truly stained panels. One Emilia was particularly drawn to depicted a clam, proudly presenting its pearl at the top of a mountain. She gently wiped her finger over the smooth oval until its iridescence was clear of debris, and it could make its rainbows along the floor without hindrance once again.
Why had the owners run away screaming? Well the real estate agent tried to drama it up with all the ghost stories of the region, how the St. Minerva Church had once been the home to a leading pastor of southern witch trials, and there’d been a witch who’d cursed him and the land and the town and your momma and blah blah blah.
Emilia’s inspector pointed out that it was more likely the black mold in the hall bathroom. Emilia was inclined to agree, especially since Klokville was no where near the geographical belt of witch trials. Other horrible historical mistakes? Perhaps. But not those ones.
She was inclined, however, to also agree that there may be… something among the old ripped out pews and half-redone wall sconces.
And this is why, against her inspector’s, parents’, friends’, and honestly her own, advice, she put down the only offer the building had seen in five years.
Within the hour, she received a resounding “yesthankyoukeysunderthematbye.”
“Sugar, you wan’ us to go up tha with ya while you get ya settled in?”
“Thanks Aunt Lu, but I think the first time I go into my house, I want to walk in there myself.”
“Just like your grandmama, bless her. Gotta run before you walk! Richard! Are you gonna let your baby go’on up there by herself with that big trailer?!”
“No, Aunt Lu,” Emilia’s father called from the small apartment kitchen, where he’d been hiding most of the afternoon, “She said me and her mom could come up with the truck next week. But you heard her.”
“Mmmm.” Aunt Lu turned her steel blue eyes on Emilia, where she knelt on the floor taping the last box marked ‘knick-knacks, office’ closed. They held the look for a long moment, and then Aunt Lu winked and went back to ordering the poor moving men around.
Aunt Lu was actually Emilia’s great Aunt Lu. She had lived with Emila’s grandmother Hilda and grandpa Joseph just about all her life. But when they both passed, first Joe, then Hilda, Aunt Lu came to live with her nephew Richard, his wife Betty, and their kids when Emilia was a freshman in high school. Lu and Emilia had bonded quite quickly over their grief for Hilda, their love of antiques, and their hatred of green beans.
Six nails completely chipped and gone to hell. What was the point of paying all that extra money for the gel-dip stuff if it couldn’t even stand up to hauling a hatchback full of boxes, putting together a bed frame, cleaning an entire kitchen of dust and grime, explaining to a family of bats that yes they were cute and yes a professional bat-house had been added to the Amazon list but no they cannot stay in what is now a human bedroom, and scrambling together a grilled cheese?! Emilia thought it was ridiculous, and was glad she left her old nail-lady in her last town. Perhaps downtown Klokville would have someone more suited for the task.
And perhaps, after finishing said grilled cheese, she should freshen up and go downtown. Window shop for a new nail place, the local favorite pub, and start on the search on that something-in-law she’d promised her mother.
But she felt it was time to truly introduce herself, now that the place was really hers.
The pearl in the window cast its light out in front of her. The difference now was, the window belonged to Emilia.
She stepped softly through the hallway, passing into the Narthex. The silver ash wood did indeed seem to shiver its silver at her. She promised it that she’d buff and wax it first thing in the morning. She hummed a few bars of an old Christmas hymn to the vaulted ceiling, and it echoed back to her, just as the narthex of a far away church had, many years ago. So some structure still very much stood.
The pews were all still there in the sanctuary, though now detached from the floor and bent forward to lean on their backs. Like askew little knight templars, kneeling. Emilia hoped this meant that perhaps their hand-embroidered cushions were somehow protected, but she dared not yet check. She touched them each as she walked down the short aisle, her arms extended to either side, as if leaving one out may be rude in some way.
Sunset’s rusty light hummed through the tall stained glass, like a quiet overture. At the end of the aisle, Emilia looked upward, to see two large steel cords, covered in spiderwebs, where there was once most likely a cross suspended between them. She wondered if the house-flippers had moved it, or if antique-scavengers had come upon it in the between years.
Behind the cords were large empty sockets where the organ pipes had once stood. She knew that the organ had been the only thing saved when the church shut down, and it still sang somewhere. The scars of its presence were marked with the occasional bird nest and dust bunny. It appeared if the previous owners had done much work here, Mother Nature had done more since.
But what is a sanctuary, Emilia thought, if not a place where creatures are safe? And she added more bird houses and seed to her growing shopping list. She spotted an odd shadow in the corner, and quickly added another dog house for her father to build when he arrived. That raccoon family would need a slight relocation.
She sighed. There was so much to do. But at least she wasn’t doing it alone.
In the quiet, in the the humming, Emilia spoke.
“Yes, dear. I’m here.”
Y’all it’s been so long I had to look up which header I used for this. I’m still not sure it’s right. Go with it:
Collective (adj): Done by people acting as a group. (noun): A cooperative enterprise.
Have you taken a peak at Zillow lately? The housing market is really… something. The past two years I have been threatening to leave my whole life behind and go raise goats on a hill, but honestly- I can’t afford the hill! Who can?!
It’s on a miiiild downturn right now (watch me jinx that) but it’s still insane compared to what earlier generations of home buyers dealt with. More young families are turning to townhouses and condos, or attempting to flip old houses. That would be my dream- take a sabbatical from work, and flip a cool piece of property. Mind you my house-flipping resume has three bullet points: Am only 2 degrees from an ACTUALLY successful house flipper, can fix anything wrong with a toilet, and thinks I know colors better than you. That’s it. That’s all I got.
But much like any big project, flipping a big old building can’t be done on your own. Yeah, maybe you have to use just your two hands- but you need someone with you, beside you. Cheerleads are a thing for a reason, you know? Don’t forget that in this world of bootstraps and all-for-one. The other part of that phrase is all-for-one! We need each other.
St. Minnie’s is something I want to turn into long-form. No, don’t worry, I won’t make y’all memorize all these characters too! I just wanted to put this out there, see how it feels. We’ll get back to our regularly scheduled programming around here (Queen of Diamonds has been UP to stuff! And where did Pepper go?! All in good time…)