Rising above the hills was the smallest cottage you ever saw. When you looked out of its single glazed, diamond pane windows, you could see the hills sloping away, trees lining their edges, and a magnificent lake glittering in the groove the hills made. And if you raised your eyes a little higher, you could see the mountains pale blue in the distance. If you squinted, and if it was a clear day, you could even see their ancient, snowy caps. The cottage was the perfect place for a newly wed couple to start a family.
They said the murderer was born here. In this cottage. With its gleaming wooden floors and solid oak tables. Its hewn shelving, built not into, but out of the walls. The windows lovingly scrubbed, the garden tenderly kept – roses on the border, colourful hyacinth along the pathways and in the summer, the explosion of colour almost obscuring the little white house on the hill – with hydrangea of purple, blue, white, pink and magenta bobbing gently in the breeze, cascading over the small wooden fencing that formed a perimeter around the cottage gardens.
Two upstairs bedrooms overlooking the lake, one living space, one small, cosy kitchen, one bathroom out back and a tiny attic accessible by a pull down hatch with a roped ladder.
How could they say the murderer was born here. Walking under the low ceilings, seeing the stunning scene out of the windows – this place could only spawn motherly souls and gentle young ladies. Gentlemen who tipped their hats to you as you walked by, and who held doors open for you and gave up their seats for old folk.
If you went into the bedroom where he was born, you could see little white curtains framing the window. A wardrobe built of pine, in the crevice in the wall. A large double bed, a bedside table with a lamp and frilly lamp cover. Paintings of the scenery outside dotted the walls in odd places, and a little writing desk. A small journal lay open on top of it, on a blank page. A small rocking cradle under the window, a baby rattle hanging off the side.
I leaned on the wall. I felt so at peace with the world. The stillness of silence pressed into my ear drums, I could feel, then hear my heart thumping gently, regularly. I was alive. I was breathing. The world outside was alive, alive and beautiful. Unaware of the evil that walked its earth. This house was still, restful. This house that brought generations into the world and housed them under its sturdy beams. This house that helped rear the murderer, unaware of his innocent little brain flourishing and blooming and then plotting within its pristine walls. Satisfied another child was in its mother’s arms, away from the ragged winds outside.
My heart ached.
Everything was still.
I turned my head to look out of the window, and closed my eyes for a moment, just breathing.
The man who murdered my husband lived in this cottage. It’s funny. How circumstance can get you. The man who murdered my husband was reared in the cottage we bought together just after our honeymoon.
When I exited the building, and turned the key in the lock of the last time, I faced the lake and the mountains and breathed deep.