When the estate sale sign went up in front of the beautiful old brick home, Ellie took notice. She always gawked at the house when she went by, wondering what it was like inside, and here was a chance to find out. Not that she needed a thing; she’d just look. It would be a distraction from the sadness that was always with her. She swung her car into the drive and parked on the grass beside other vehicles. A lot of people were already here.
Ellie wandered through spacious rooms made disorderly by the wares laid out for inspection. An estate sale company was handling it all, so there were display tables and proper price tags. Sunroom, family room, living room, kitchen, dining room, library, office, bedrooms, bathrooms…as she walked and looked, Ellie imagined the family that had lived here.
The lady of the house must have gone to a lot of fancy parties, because formal dresses hung in one room. There were evening bags and costume jewelry and fluffy wraps. The sounds of laughter and popping champagne corks lingered around those dresses.
The kitchen and dining room seemed filled with the aromas of good food. Conversation buzzed and forks clinked on plates. A welcoming blaze crackled in the fireplace; she could almost smell the wood smoke.
Upstairs she entered the master bedroom. At first, she thought it was vacant, but then she saw an elderly gentleman standing at the window, gazing out over the lawn. He turned with a smile. “Come on in, my dear,” he said with old-fashioned courtesy. “Are you looking for anything in particular?”
“No, just poking around,” Ellie said. “It’s such a lovely house, I’ve always admired it. What happened to the owners, do you know?”
“Oh, I expect they got old and needed a smaller place,” he said.
She stooped to see the price tag on a large framed mirror leaning against the wall, and when she looked up, he’d gone. Ellie worked her way through tables of glassware, dinner plates, linens and curtains. She could tell everything had been chosen with care, but now wore the patina of age. A decorator would say the home needed updating, but Ellie thought it must have been perfect.
In the sunroom stood a huge dollhouse, almost as tall as she was. It was furnished in detail, complete with tiny tea sets and rugs the size of postage stamps. The old gentleman stood beside her again.
“It would be fun for a little girl,” he said encouragingly. “Do you have children?”
“No. No, we want them, but it just isn’t happening.” Ellie heard the quaver in her voice. What was wrong with her, blabbing to a stranger about the most personal sorrow of her life? But somehow she continued, “My husband is one of six and he really wants a big family. He’s so sad that we can’t seem to have a child. I hate to keep disappointing him.”
“Oh, you’re going to have your family,” the old man said. “You know, it would be a good idea to take this doll house home, be ready for that first little girl when she gets here. I know she’ll like it.”
Ellie tried to laugh. “There might never be a little girl to play with it, though.”
“What you seek is seeking you,” he said firmly.
He seemed so sure that Ellie blinked back tears. When she turned to speak to him again, he’d moved on. Fascinated, she stood before the dollhouse; she couldn’t seem to walk away. Don’t be silly, she admonished herself. What would Jake think if she dragged home such a huge toy for a child they didn’t even have?
But in the end, it didn’t matter what he’d think; she simply couldn’t leave without it. The old man had spoken with such quiet authority and his words reverberated in her mind. She manhandled the dollhouse to the table where the clerks sat.
“I’ll take this,” she said. “An elderly gentleman convinced me I need to buy it. Say, would you happen to know where he is? I’d like to thank him for something he said.”
“What does he look like?” one of the women asked.
“Oh, a little taller than me, but a bit stooped, white hair, glasses, wearing a green plaid shirt.”
The women at the table exchanged looks. “You say you spoke with him?”
“I did. Do you know him?”
“Not exactly, but we’ve seen him around.” From beneath the table, she pulled a photograph of a smiling couple. The engraved picture frame said World’s Best Grandparents. “Is this him?”
“Yes. Why do you have a picture of him?”
“This was his house. He died six months ago.”
Jake was as puzzled as she thought he’d be when she arrived home with the big dollhouse crammed in the back of the car, but he gamely helped her unload it. They set it in the garage, took a step back and regarded it together.
“Why in the world did you buy this?” he asked.
She smiled up at him with perfect confidence. “It’s for our daughter. She’ll be along soon.”