White Roses by Sophia Callahan

The house was already more than I wanted to spend, and I knew it would cost a fortune to upgrade, but as I walked through the quaint cape cod-style house, there was this gentle calling that told me this was it. This was the house. Maybe it was the quiet street, the beautiful property, or something unique, spiritual in nature. The inside of the house had character, and it was evident that it held blissful memories. The carpets were frayed and stained from spilled drinks, there were scuffs and dents in the wall from the recliner chair that sat in the corner of the family room, the couch cushions were deflated from the family that once snuggled together during movie night, the wooden banister was smooth and worn down from all the hands that touched it, and the front door of the house was squeaky, tired from all the hustle and bustle.

*      *      *

My husband and I started our family in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. As first-time parents learning how to juggle life with a newborn, we agreed to move back to my hometown so I could be closer to my parents for extra support. In June of 2005, we purchased the house, but the house didn’t truly become ours until the summer of 2007. I knew it was going to be a big undertaking, but something about this house was special.

On the day of settlement, demolition began. Within the first two weeks of owning the estate, substantial changes occurred. The stained carpets were the first to go. We ripped up the carpets exposing rich oak flooring. The vibrant floral wallpaper, a popular trend in the 60s, was next. We revived the dining room with a fresh coat of muted green paint and touched up the crown molding with dazzling white paint. The baby blue tiled bathroom was gutted and transformed into something more contemporary, and the squeaky wooden doors were upgraded to French doors that let sunlight pour into the house. This rapid change created a stirring. A sudden feeling as if we were not alone. It felt as if we were simply guests in another man’s home. Except we were the worst kind of guests, the guests who were taking over.

With all the construction happening in the house, we basically lived out of the boxes piled up in the garage. The garage was probably the creepiest place in the house up to this point. Every time I entered, I felt like an intruder. I would gather my things as quickly as I could and leave the garage. As construction continued, my dad and I worked day and night, transforming the house into a home. One of our many projects was to replace the back door. Ever since my dad and I installed the French doors, I would lock them before going up to bed each night, and every morning, my dad would arrive bright and early, and the door would be found unlocked. He would remind me constantly to lock the door, and every day I would say, “I did”! As time went on, strange noises started occurring. One afternoon while painting in the family room, I heard faint footsteps.

“Did you hear that dad?” I stopped painting for a second and listened intently. I could almost sense the presence of someone in the room, but it was only my dad and I and a bunch of tools and paint cans scattered across the floor.

“No, I didn’t hear anything,” my dad said, quickly getting back to spackling the holes in the wall. Soon the sound of soft footsteps became knocks, whispers, and shadows.

“Mommy? Who is that?” my daughter said one day as I read to her in my bedroom.

“What do you mean?” I said, confused. It was just the two of us in the room.

“The old man sitting in the chair,” she said calmly. I shot a swift glance over to the corner of the room. There was no one in the chair.

“What does he look like?” I said in total shock.

“He is dressed in his Sunday best, sporting a black suit, old fashion dress hat, and polished loafers. He is tall and thin, and his friendly smile is gentle and warm.” She didn’t seem frightened, so I told her he could stay.

I knew at that moment what I was hearing and seeing for the last eight months was real, not a figment of my imagination, but really a spirit. That was the turning point. From that point on, Old Man’s presence grew stronger.

*      *      *

“Hello, could you tell me more about the original owners of this house?” I asked my neighbor, who was bent over weeding his garden.  

“Of course. A devoted family man named Micheal Di Angelo and his wife and daughter used to live here. Sadly, he passed away about six years ago.” He replied in a sad tone. Based on his expression, I figured he must have been good friends with the family.

*      *      *

Over time, the Old Man’s patience level seemed to be running out. When his spirit entered the room, it seemed more intense. It was so intense that the little hairs on your arm and neck would stand up. It was almost as if he was trying to communicate with me, but I didn’t know how to understand. I asked my husband if he also heard noises, but he always told me the noises were just the house settling. He thought I was ridiculous and went about telling our friends that his wife thinks the house is haunted. So, when our friends came into town that week, they brought a Ouija board. 

On night one of their visit, the two friends, the next-door neighbors, and my husband were outside at the patio table playing on the board when they asked me to join. I declined. I didn’t think it was very smart of me to play with it. I thought it may make the Old Man angry. They shrugged their shoulders and carried on. After a few failed attempts to reach someone “on the other side”, Old Man began to communicate. He spelled out that he wanted to talk to me. He wanted me to find his wife and tell her that he was sorry. Of course, my friends were begging me to come out and lay my hands on the board. I refused and jokingly asked if I could send his wife a letter instead. NO, the board spelled out. Go to her. 

The next morning it was like Old Man was following behind me in the house. Are you going to go? It felt like he was trying to say. This weird image of white roses kept appearing in my mind’s eye. It was so strange; I was eager for answers. I made our friends pull out the Ouija board. As soon as they laid their hands on it, it said, “go to her with white roses.” I felt everyone’s eyes land on me. They were waiting for my response. I knew I had to go.

“How will we ever find her address?” one of my friends pleaded. What he didn’t know was that before we purchased the home, we briefly met Old Man’s wife, Ruth. All she told us was that she was moving in with her daughter who lived a few streets over, and that was all. One Sunday as my husband I and took a drive to get familiar with the area, we stumbled upon Ruth standing in the driveway of her daughter’s home. Since I knew where she lived, I had to follow through with Old Man’s request.   

We piled into the car and raced over to the grocery store florist on the hunt for white roses. I stayed in the car with my daughter while my husband and friends went in to purchase the flowers. As they were inside, a storm started to brew out of nowhere. Dark, ominous clouds smothered the sky, and the wind howled. Inside, my friend Bryan asked the florist for white roses. She pointed over to the stand and told him they only had one bouquet left. Brian searched, but there was not a white rose in sight. He begged her to go check in the back. Surely there had to be more white roses. She grumbled as she went to check, insisting she put them out already. Moments later, she appeared wide-eyed, holding the most delicate bouquet of white roses.

Standing on the doorstep with the white roses in hand, I knocked on the door. The daughter answered the door and welcomed us inside. The Old Man’s wife stood up to greet us. Starting from the beginning, I told the wife about the strange things happening at our home. I shared stories about her husband’s spirit, and she stood there, listening intently, her face full of expression. She quietly got up and brought me a photo album of old family pictures of them in my house. 

“Here is a photo of my husband sleeping on the couch with our daughter after Sunday mass. And this is a picture of him feeding our horses that lived on the property.” Her voice began to tremble.

“My husband loved our home so much. Before he died, he made me promise that I would never sell it, but once he passed, it became too much for me to take care of on my own.” I took her by the hand and told her that her husband said he was sorry, and he wanted me to give her white roses. Her eyes filled with tears. She shook her head slowly as if she understood and accepted the flowers. The daughter began to cry, explaining that white roses were something that her dad gave on special occasions. They both knew what he was trying to say. Their smiles were full of love and forgiveness.

The next day as I stood at the kitchen sink looking out the window to my backyard, I saw Old Man taking his final look at the house, soaking up the memories and saying his last goodbyes. He held his hat to his chest, and his eyes glistened with tears. A small smile formed on his wrinkled face, and with a sigh, he was gone. The house finally became ours. 

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