The Cottage in the Woods

A perfunctory look as one was passing this quirky little stone cottage might draw only superficial assumptions: a tale of a once immaculately kept garden; vibrant, twinkling stained glass windows. But the privet boundary has become unruly from neglect and intermittent rain has left muddy tears on the windows, draining the colour from them. Monstrous trees cast dark, shapeless shadows across the tired brick path that meanders its way onwards to meet the natural beauty of stained wood. The years have been peeled away to reveal the door’s former glory, vein-like grain running through unyielding English oak.
At the foot of the door lies a mat with the sole word ‘Welcome’ dyed, cerise pink, in its prickles. A, rather conspicuous, white plastic intercom has been fitted next to the original brass doorbell.
Shadow and light have broken through the dulled green leaves and red rose petals within the bevelled glass, creating warm spots on the slightly scuffed floorboards through the hallway. They creak a little in certain places. About half way up the right-hand wall are three surprisingly loud bursts of oil on canvass – none of which make any logical sense to the fingertips.
Natural fibre carpet marks the entrance to the living room, tickling bare methodical feet and pads. Smooth, young walls in neutral shades of fresh cream and mocha have been left as matt foundation. Wooden slatted blinds hang, slightly crooked, at small windows through which warm sunbeams gently flow, magnified, bouncing back off the tempered glass of a coffee table. A vase of deep lavender Angel Face roses sit, about centre, amid an assortment of literature and audio CDs. The intense aroma rising like plumes weaves its way into every nook of the space.
Two sofas, perpendicular to each other, frame the coffee table. The thick beige cotton is punctuated by cushions of various sizes and shapes in hues of duck-egg blue – some, with a satin-like smoothness, some, soft and furry and some, a bumpy, dense cotton weave. Forty-five degrees to the left stands a single armchair which has been recovered in dark chocolate corduroy. Several short, blonde hairs have stuck, stubbornly, to the navy blue velvet cushion propped upon it, despite attempts to remove every last one; a folded fleece blanket has successfully prevented others from naughtily breaching authorised boundaries.
Six steps to the right and warm, stubbly sea grass meets the cool, hard tile of the open plan dining kitchen. Behind the subtle pink, black and grey mottled marble breakfast bar several labelled jars stand on counters although, at first glance, they may appear quite blank. The jars are arranged left to right, tallest to shortest. Cupboards house neatly grouped cans with raised markings on them: tinned fruit on the left, tinned vegetables on the right, packets in the centre and so on. The hob has a protective glass cover and notches have been etched into the dials. A small cubic bookcase stands against the adjoining wall to the living room. It has been placed on its side so only reaches hip height. It contains an eclectic buffet of recipe books – some large, heavy hardbacks, some small paperbacks, encased in plastic covers, each with a sticker along the spine and front cover. On the floor, touching the right side base of the bookcase is a large metal bowl of water that makes a rather unpleasant scraping noise when nudged. A small puddle has accumulated around the perimeter and erratically dispersed blobs of saliva mixed with fresh water create a slimy trail in the direction of the armchair, and the still warm blanket.

By Gaile Austin

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