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“I want you out of here, you sick girl!”

Laughter filled the painted walls, spilling out to the street and up burnt lamps.

“Don’t worry.” Her hair spilled down her back.

“I won’t be long.”

The gravel crunches under my feet. I kick stones on the way to my two-storey home, passing lit schools and late skateboarders. The sky is black and the only sound on the street comes from my knapsack, where empty lunchboxes and a bouquet of keys clunk about. The street is lined with beer caps and fallen leaves. I watch as lights in downstairs windows are replaced with lights in upstairs windows until finally, houses go dim. I recall a time when this street was far more silent and far more haunting than it is today. And I remember her name and it’s sweet sound – Amelia.



It was a day in August when the Suttons moved in, and trouble stirred in the suburbs. Daily routines of lawn mowing and flower gardening were interrupted by the sound of cranes. Down the road, an army of yellow vehicles were parked by heaps of wood. I was seventeen, playing street hockey with my brother when our puck halted under the boot of an old man. Chester Sutton was his name. And behind Chester was an angel. Her white hair glistened in the blinding sun, a summer dress floating above her knees. That was the first day I saw Amelia Sutton – before the papers spread with false news and before the women in the media spoke of her. Amelia was a gift of sad glory – an unfinished story on Pinebush Road.

I still remember the way the neighbours reacted. One by one, they gathered on their porches and stuck their head out of second-floor windows. Mrs. Anderson across the street was fuming because her marigolds weren’t getting enough light. The Suttons had built a large home off the western field lots. The “monstrous” structure, as described by Mr. Winter, cast shade on our once sunny street.

“I’ll never understand it,” I’d hear my mom saying in the kitchen to my dad. “What father and daughter need that huge house to themselves?”

“Perhaps to feel lonely in,” my father would say, as he went back to his coffee and paper. My mother shrugged and went back to knitting.

Once the local paper got a hold of the story, the neighbours went crazy. My mind sometimes flashes back to Ms. Lisa’s face flickering on our television. “I knew that house was trouble from day one,” she’d say. “The kids on the street would go play in those fields, and suddenly this wooden block appeared. The neighbours tried to fight it, but somehow that horrendous thing got built. And look at where we are now.”

I took in her words, but hardly agreed. To Amelia, it was no wooden block. It was a dollhouse. And in there, she’d play, laugh, dance and sing, in the burrows of that strange home. And I never missed the view to those damp, green fields.

The sun came up, the sun came down. Months passed quickly like they do in movies and suddenly September came. It was school time and although we had three classes together, I barely saw Amelia around. In fact, no one did. On Halloween night, the town came alive, but the house down the road sulked in its darkness. Snow fell and it was December, and things were very much the same. Other than the fact that I took some posters down in my room and that Uncle Sam gave me this video camera that just sat on my desk, things were very much the same. I’d think back to summer, street hockey, and Amelia’s skin and wonder what happened.


The suburbs flicker past my car window. One moment a gas station, another a strip mall. My mother grips the wheel and chatters on.

“Your room’s been a mess lately, Alex. Your clothes are everywhere! Oh – clothes. That just reminded me. You have to go shopping with your dad on Sunday. And I’m assuming we’re paying for that too. You know, a job this summer wouldn’t hurt Alex. That old video camera of yours just sits on your desk anyways. Might as well sell it –”

“I’m going to use it, mom.”

“Okay, then use it,” she said, noting my defensive one.

“I forgot to tell you. Steven and the boys are coming down today. They’ll probably stay over. Is that cool?”

“That’s fine, honey. Just make sure they park on the street if they’re driving. That old house beside us is built so close we’re down to one parking spot.”

Amelia’s dress floated into my memory.  At that moment, as if choreographed, my mom slammed the tires in front of our house. A pile of chipped material was scattered throughout our lot. We looked up. It seemed to have been coming from Amelia’s roof.

She sighed. “I bet there’s birds living in that thing.”

The rest of the afternoon, I watched from my bedroom window as my mom and dad picked up the pieces, and drove the Jeep back into the lot.

Night fell and the boys strode in. Jimmy, the tall one, pulled out a joint and we all agreed to smoke it in the garage. We entered the cement dungeon and I asked Steven to crack a window.

“Dude.” He said, staring out the window in awe. “Who is that?”

The other boys crowded the window. I pushed them aside to take a look myself.

The whole bottom half of the house was glass. The wall was closer to our garage than I had thought. In the bathroom, you could see Amelia, lounging in a tub she filled with couch cushions, smoking a cigarette. She’d bring the thing to her lips, inhale, and let the smoke spill out slowly. When I watched her, everything paused. The smoke simmered in the air. It didn’t look like the window opened, so the smoke just sat in the room with her.  She watched the cloud float and disperse with every puff, like it was her best friend. I stuck my head out the window to get a closer look.

A sudden waft of roses hit my nose. She had soaked her clothes in a bucket of water and hung them up to dry. My eyes traced the landscape of light pink and delicate lace strung across the bathroom. She was ethereal.


“Stop drooling, man.” Jim patted my back. I flashed back to reality. “Smoke up,” he said, passing the joint. I let my puff swim out the window. When it cleared, Amelia was gone.

And that was the second time I saw Amelia. From then, the third and the fourth time were easy. The fifth, the sixth, the seventh time and all the times after that just blurred into one. She was my obsession. I remember heading home early just to catch her in the hallway, fixing that crooked painting of daisies like she always did at 3:00 PM. Her bedroom had no windows, so I’d catch her in the bathroom, in hallways, down stairs. Anywhere I could. She rarely spent time in the living room where her father was passed out drunk. Rather, she’d skip around in white socks from bathrooms to bedrooms to balconies. For a girl that was so often alone, she didn’t seem lonely. She gave birth to my filmmaking. I’d film her sitting in the tub, singing this one sad track – all flowers in time. I realized soon enough that the windows didn’t open, but I could hear her song through the thin walls of that strange place.  She’d bring the record to the balcony and make love to blank faces on the roof, night after night, and the moments collected in small tapes that I kept stacked under my bed. On nights she spent in her bedroom, I’d replay them, fall asleep to them, and try to understand her. The closest place I could get was not next-door, but in my dreams.

And in our time together, there was a constant distance that kept us sane. I had only seen Amelia’s life from my windows. I had never heard her voice or her laugh. I could only imagine her sweet sound. And all that I knew was filtered through the viewfinder of my video camera. That was until a night in June when everything changed.


I was in the garage, looking around for blank tapes when the smell of flowers entered the air. She was perched at my garage window, her arms crossed reaching to the sill from what may have been the only operable window in her house. I was awestruck. I had never seen Amelia so close. I could see her – every part of her. Her silky hair, her soft skin.  Her scent filling the air. She just stayed there, perched, cocking her neck and letting her hair spill – laughing.

“I know you,” she whispered, her laugh echoing through the walls.

Before I could reply, my mother burst in, angry. In her hands she held the tapes that I had hid under my bed for months.

“Get out of here!” she screamed. “I want you out of here, you sick girl!”

Laughter filled the painted walls, spilling out to the street and up burnt lamps.

“Don’t worry.” Her hair spilled down her back. “I won’t be long.”

Suddenly the house went pitch black. I ran to my bedroom to get a better view. I could see a flame starting on the top floor. Amelia’s dad, Chester, hit his head on the ceiling and made his way down the stairs. It seemed as if the tread was off, as he stumbled with every step. He struggled through narrow hallways and passages as the flame spread through the wooden box. Long halls only lead to walls and it wasn’t long until the man himself wore flames.

Amelia had jumped out a floating back door and onto the field. She wore white chiffon and her nightgown blew in the wind. I watched as she danced on a steel rod running down the spine of the building. It was loose, and I could hear it rattle in the night. I could only catch glimpses of her through smoke and fume. But it all vanished. All of it at once. Amelia was gone. Her dad was gone. Every piece of that burning box shrivelled to pieces and Amelia danced in the ashes. The whole street was outside on their porches and sticking their heads out windows like that first day. And all that remained were a few tapes, some articles, and the memory Amelia had left on Pinebush Road: the strangest secret in the suburbs.


 Artwork by Kira Leigh 


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