After she rang the bell, she felt a shiver run through her. The silence was so absolute, and it seemed to take an age before anything happened. Rose shifted her weight, patted down her skirt, wondering if she looked presentable. Perhaps not. It had been so long since she had bought new clothes. These were old, but when she chose them out to pack, Ellen agreed that they would be acceptable.
A woman opened the door. “Yes? Hello?” It seemed to Rose as if this women were looking at something in the distance past her, rather than her. She was old, as Rose knew she would be, but her body was squared in the door and unmoving. She did not look fragile, despite her thin frame and the wispy white hair that formed a halo about her head.
Rose, after hesitating, extended her hand; “I’m Rose McGann. Ellen’s sister.”
“Yes, of course. I was expecting you. I am Mrs. Stevenson. Millicent.”
The older woman’s hand felt dry and papery, and Rose was afraid that her she was perspiring and the woman would feel it.
“Come in, please.” Mrs. Stevenson turned and walked into the ill-lit lobby. Rose followed with her suitcase in her hand.
How strange to be in a house not her own. The ceilings were high and everything smelled of wood and rosewater – like church when her mother and father would take Rose and Ellen as children. It smelled like the holy water and the old pews that creaked as you knelt or sat.
Mrs. Stevenson walked in front of Rose without turning back and without talking. The paintings and flocked wall paper were too unfamiliar, so Rose looked at the back of the older woman’s head, the stooped shoulders and craggy neck. It seemed more comforting to be looking at another person – even the back of another person – rather than the formal and expensive-looking furnishings.