Lane pried up the floorboard and ran her hands over the wood. She knew every groove and line in every board in the small room. The knots felt familiar under her fingers, and she sighed when she found the small dent she knew she'd find in this one.
The slip of paper between her teeth tasted like cheap liquor, but she didn't mind. That was familiar, too.
As quietly and with as much precision as possible, Lane lowered the slip of paper into the hole beneath the board and smiled.
The house she lived in felt like a dungeon. Her parents didn't understand their shy, creative daughter, and they didn't care to. They left her room sparse to keep her "free from distraction."
Other 17-year-olds had posters and books and magazines. Lane had walls and textbooks and the doll she got when she was five.
At school, though, she was free. She kept to herself and liked it that way. They gave her paper at school: notebooks and notepads and binders full of blank sheets. They gave her pens and pencils and erasers and rulers. Most importantly, though, they gave her ideas.
Once, when she was ten, Lane had written a story in her school notebook. Her mom had found it and promptly sent her to her room for "fooling around."
Since that day, she'd been writing stories and hiding them in the floorboard. Each floorboard had a story. She'd write snippets and ideas and quotes and hide them there. No one cared that she existed, so they didn't care to pry up her floorboards, either.
On her eighteenth birthday, her parents packed up what little she owned in a trunk and set it on the front porch. She couldn't tell them about the stories and she couldn't go back and get them, so she left them hiding, promising to return.
For ten years, Lane woke herself crying in the middle of one nightmare that played on repeat: her childhood home burning to the ground and her stories littering the grass, exposed but reduced to ashes.
The letter came four days before her 28th birthday: her parents had both died. They had left her nothing, of course, but it said the house was to be sold immediately.
Lane packed her bags and went to her old house, but there were already movers lugging unfamiliar things into the house.
She stood across the street, frozen. She wanted to charge up the stairs, push the men out of the way, pry up the familiar boards and read her stories.
That was the kind of thing she only did in her imagination.
After a few minutes of staring at the house, Lane noticed the older lady standing beside her. "Excuse me, dear. Do you know the people moving in?"
She swallowed and answered, "I don't. I used to know the people who lived there before, but they're…gone now."
"Not all of them, I'd wager," and Lane looked to see a smile on the older woman's face. "Come in, I think I have something for you."
Something about the woman felt familiar, too. Lane followed her across the street and into her former home. "You're moving in here?" she asked.
"I am. My son used to live here, and his wife and daughter."
Lane looked hard at her for a minute, studying the wrinkles the way she studied the knots in her wooden floorboards. "Grandma Jean?" she asked.
"They told me you died!"
"They thought I was a bad influence, Lane. You're a creator like I am, and they don't understand you. But I do, dear. Oh, how I understand you. Now, then, where are they?"
"Where are who?"
"You must have drawn or painted or written or crafted—it's part of who you are. Where are your treasures, dear?"
Lane led the way to her bedroom and sat down on the floor. Without thought, she pried the first floorboard up and ran her hand along the grooves. She closed her eyes and felt seventeen and smiled.