The mansion had stood vacant for years, and now finally showed signs of neglect both within and without its whitewashed walls. I walked through a lavish dining room where high backed chairs waited at stiff attention for dinner guests who would never arrive. The table had once been set with shining silver and crisp linen napkins, but now only dust decorated its dark surface. I passed beyond the dining room and made my way down a vast hallway, shivering beneath the blank stares of a hundred musty portraits. Eventually my wandering brought me to a sun room, its very air honeyed by the golden light streaming through the room’s myriad windows. Dry leaves blanketed the pale tile, blown through the French doors which leaned open on rusted hinges. Above me hung a rectangular chandelier built of glass as golden as the afternoon sun. Inside were smaller chambers of the same clear glass, each filled with several inches of standing rainwater which had collected in the chambers from cracks in the ceiling. When I reached up and spun the chandelier with my hand, the water inside glittered as it sloshed back and forth. As I watched the ripples’ reflections dance on the ceiling and walls, I thought of the family which had once raised generations in this stately old home. I thought of all the children who had grown up in this place, long before the little plants began chipping away at the brickwork and pushing up between the flagstones. I thought of the men who had paced these hallways in heated debate; of the women who had gathered in drawing rooms to sew and cross stitch and gossip. They had all been part of this place once, as it had been part of them. But no more. There were no more men, no more women, no more children. The family had abandoned the mansion, and it was no longer home to anything but dead leaves and creeping moss. It could not be reclaimed, just as the past could never be repeated. The generations had all passed away, and eventually their childhood home would as well.

I touched my hand again to the chandelier, ceasing its gentle swaying. My gaze moved from the honey glass to a dusty portrait on the wall. A somber young man dressed all in black stared back at me, his kind gray eyes partly obscured by the little wavelets of hair which fell across his brow. He, too, was gone, and would never return. I wondered if the house mourned his absence as much as I did.

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