Her grandmother's house was prim and proper, the way old houses owned by old people often are.
The living room was uncomfortable. It felt green, like being underwater in a murky lake, even though there was very little actual green in the room. A formal sofa, hard wingback chairs, and an upright piano that was never quite in tune stood on dark hardwood floors. There was a loose floorboard under the sofa with a metal box hiding under it.
Next to the house was a garage that felt like a barn. It wasn't really a barn at all; but it was painted red, and it had a dark loft that was reached by climbing wooden boards nailed to the wall. In the back of the loft was a shelf (a warped board sitting on cement blocks) with old tools and mason jars. In a box behind a stack of pickle cans, we found a stash of old magazines that probably belonged to her long-dead grandfather.
Melissa and I spent most of our time in the attic. The stairs pulled down from the ceiling in the hallway, as all proper attic stairs should, and it was our favorite room.
It was the kind of attic that belonged in a movie. Racks of old clothes from the early 1900s to the 1970s were lined up on the left side with hat boxes piled precariously next to them. Old trunks sat in a row under the sloped ceiling. One trunk contained lace shawls, and had small compartments holding an assortment of fancy hat pins and jewelry. We found love letters her grandmother had saved, from a man whose name did not match her grandfather's, hidden under the shawls.
Shelves and trunks full of books sectioned off the right side of the attic. It was bathed in red and blue light that streamed through a round, stained glass window. Melissa and I spent hours sitting on bean bag chairs, feet propped up on the trunks, talking and eating Hot Pockets. I taught her how to cross stitch, and she tried to teach me how to crochet.
When night fell, we lit candles, and turned on a small lamp with a ridiculous pink fringed shade. In our teen years, we raided the trunk that held the books from Melissa's mom's teen years, left in the attic when she moved away to college. We would giggle late into the night, until her grandmother banged on the ceiling with a broom handle, yelling at us to be quiet.
When the weekend ended, fall had always settled in. I left Melissa, and her grandmother's seemingly prim and proper house, wearing a coat with a few borrowed books hidden in the pockets.