My grandmother always told me that Grey House is not a house of ghosts.
That there is nothing there but the smell the dead leave behind.
People leave their comments in the visitor’s book, telling of the scents they picked up in the house.
My entry, at age fifteen, read, “My nose must be broke. It is fine outside, where I could be overwhelmed by perfume of every kind. Nature’s best. Even the grass smelled sweet as I crunched it beneath my feet.”
I am twenty-eight now, revisiting Grey House with my daughter. Listening to the visitors talking about the smells. Bread baking, meat cooking, the scent of flowers brought in from outside, and now the smell of oranges where none grew outside.
Back home, once inside our house, there it was, the smell of oranges, clinging to my clothes, my daughter’s hair.
“Why are you sniffing my hair, Mummy?”
I asked if she could smell oranges. “No”, she said, looking at me as if I had lost my mind. “That was in the other house. The little girl told me her daddy had planted an orange grove for her on the day she was born, and when she died, he burned it down. ”
I could not believe what my daughter was telling me, and yet my house smelled as though I had oranges in every room…