After Nara’s mother passed away, she inherits her mother’s home. One day, when she’s going through dusty scrapbooks and diaries, Nara realizes that she inherited more than just a house — but rather, years worth of secrets.

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Months after my mother had died, and I had come to terms with her death, the family lawyer told me that I had inherited the old family house. It was a place brimming with childhood memories and laughter. Even walking into the dusty house, I could remember all the times I had baked with my mother and grandmother.

A brown coffin in a hearse | Source: Unsplash

A brown coffin in a hearse | Source: Unsplash

But I had been away for years — when I started college, I rented a little apartment that was perfect for myself. I went back and forth to see my mother for years, but I couldn’t bring myself to move back home for good.

“I’m not getting any younger or stronger, Nara,” she said. “You should come home, live with me for a bit.”

But as much as I loved my mother, I couldn’t bring myself to move back to our sleepy little town.

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A person taking medication | Source: Unsplash

A person taking medication | Source: Unsplash

And yet, when she passed on, I regretted not moving in.

“That’s how it goes, Nara,” my boyfriend Lewis said when I admitted how I felt. “In the moment, everything feels right, and then when the moment passes, it becomes the worst thing you could have done.”

Then, the lawyer called and asked me to meet him at his office.

“Nara, I’m sorry that it’s taken this long, but it was difficult to find your mother’s will and to tie up everything.”

A man writing on paper | Source: Unsplash

A man writing on paper | Source: Unsplash

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“But it’s all sorted out now?” I asked, hoping that there wasn’t anything for me to do. Physically, I could do whatever was asked, but financially, I could not.

I hoped that I didn’t inherit any of Mom’s debt.

“It is,” he smiled. “The house is yours now.”

I knew that my mother would leave me the house, it was something that she had constantly spoken about. But a part of me thought that my father would swoop in and take the house.

They had gotten divorced when I was about six years old. My father had remarried, and while he didn’t really care for us — he was materialistic.

“Your Mom made sure that it was yours,” the lawyer said, as if reading my mind. He shook my hand.

People shaking hands | Source: Pexels

People shaking hands | Source: Pexels

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Later, when I was reading at home, Lewis came over. I told him about the house.

“‘Let’s go over this weekend,” he said. “We can sort through your mom’s things. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will become.”

I didn’t disagree. And with him smiling at my side, I knew that I would be comfortable to go through everything.

So, when the weekend rolled around, Lewis drove us to my mother’s house.

A young man smiling | Source: Pexels

A young man smiling | Source: Pexels

I never imagined that going through an attic could change my life. But it did, in the most unexpected way possible.

Entering the house felt like being in a time warp — everything was exactly as I remembered it before the funeral. Each corner was a reminder of my mother, and walking through the rooms was a bittersweet journey.

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In my mother’s room, her old record player stood still. It was one of her most prized possessions, having bargained for it when I was younger.

An old record player | Source: Pexels

An old record player | Source: Pexels

“I’m going to mow the lawn,” Lewis said, peeking through the window and looking at the overgrown lawn in the backyard.

But I knew that he was just trying to give me some privacy.

I went to the attic first — before moving away, I wanted to transform it into a cozy reading room.

As I cleared away years of accumulated belongings, I heard Lewis and the lawnmower and I stumbled upon an old, leather-bound scrapbook hidden in a dusty corner.

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A red lawn mower | Source: Pexels

A red lawn mower | Source: Pexels

Overcome with curiosity, I sat down amidst the clutter, flipping through its pages.

It was filled with family photos, and little notes stuck here and there. But what got my attention was a section to a young woman I didn’t recognize, marked with the name: Emma. The photos depicted her in various stages of her life — primary school, family trips, and most shockingly, her visibly pregnant, looking both scared and defiant.

But it was the familiarity in her eyes that drew me to her. She had my mother’s eyes and we shared the same smile.

“Who are you, Emma?” I asked the photograph.

A person looking through a scrapbook | Source: Pexels

A person looking through a scrapbook | Source: Pexels

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As I moved onto the next box, I found stacks of my mother’s old diary entries, revealing the painful truth. Emma was my older sister.

Emma let it slip that she’s pregnant. She’s only seventeen. Wade doesn’t want anything to do with her. He says that she’s an embarrassment to our family. And that our family will never recover from this. Especially his parents.

He told Emma that she could stay, but she would have to give up the baby.

A woman reading a diary | Source: Pexels

A woman reading a diary | Source: Pexels

A few entries later, my mother wrote this:

Emma chose to leave and Wade has forbidden the family to speak of her. He says we should try for another baby. He wants to get the next one right.

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That explained why I had no clue about a sister. I had grown up as an only child, coddled by my parents until they divorced. I had been blissfully unaware of Emma’s existence.

I had a sister! And a niece or nephew who was a bit older than myself, too.

“That’s insane,” Lewis said, when he came in dripping with sweat and smelling of freshly mown grass. He looked out the window to inspect his work.

A young man looking out the window | Source: Pexels

A young man looking out the window | Source: Pexels

“I know,” I agreed.

“You mean it just never came up?” he asked. “Even after your father left?”

“Not that I can recall,” I replied, flipping through my mother’s diaries. I knew my mother. Even if there was no contact between her and Emma, I was sure that there would be an address or a contact number.

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“Are you sure about that?” Lewis asked. “She didn’t exactly tell you about your sister to begin with.”

Eventually, I found a contact number with Emma’s name penciled next to it. It was a wild goose chase — the number was for someone who knew Emma, but it wasn’t her actual number. I got forwarded to about three people before discovering that Emma lived in a small town a few hours away.

An old notebook with old photos | Source: Pexels

An old notebook with old photos | Source: Pexels

She worked as a teacher and was raising her son — he was a year older than myself and Emma was putting him through college.

I met my sister late on a Saturday afternoon. She opened the door to her bungalow while holding a wooden spoon.

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“Can I help you?” she asked.

“Hi, I’m Nara,” I said.

Emma stared at me blankly; clearly, she didn’t know about me.

“Emma, I’m your sister,” I confessed.

A view of a house from the road | Source: Pexels

A view of a house from the road | Source: Pexels

Emma was initially hesitant, the wounds of the past still raw. She invited me in and continued to cook her chili.

“What do you know?” she asked me. “Why are you here?”

I told her everything that I had discovered from the diaries and scrapbook.

“So, you only found out now?” she asked.

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I nodded while Emma made us some tea.

“And Mom died?” she asked. “How?”

“She was sick for a while,” I said. “But I also think she was just tired of all the medication she was taking.”

A bowl of chili | Source: Unsplash

A bowl of chili | Source: Unsplash

Emma nodded and added sugar to the cups.

“I can’t believe you found me,” she said. “But what do you want from me?”

“I needed to meet you,” I admitted. “I couldn’t stand living with the fact that I now knew you existed.”

“Where’s Dad?” she asked abruptly.

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“Gone. He’s remarried,” I said, watching her visibly calm down.

Clearly, my father was the villain in this story.

Over the next few months, Emma and I began to bond. Her son, Austin, and I grew closer, too. Lewis had taken to them as well, and it was easy to go back and forth.

Sisters looking at a screen | Source: Pexels

Sisters looking at a screen | Source: Pexels

But then, one day, I asked Emma whether we should move into our mother’s house or sell it.

She shook her head vigorously.

“I want to make things right,” I said, as we split a pastry. “I thought about selling the house and splitting the money with you.”

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Emma shook her head again, a soft smile gracing her lips.

“I’ve built a life here, Nara. With Austin. I don’t need the money, but thank you, truly.”

In the end, I ended up renovating our mother’s house, turning it into our safe space — in an attempt to help Emma heal from her final memories of the house.

A house renovation | Source: Pexels

A house renovation | Source: Pexels

“It’ll be your space, too,” I told her over the phone one evening. “A place for you and Austin, and myself, whenever we need it.”

My sister was silent for a moment before responding.

“That, Nara, would be lovely. Thank you.”

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The renovation process became a labor of love for Lewis and me. Austin even came over to help when we started painting.

The final piece to go into the house was a welcome mat.

“I think we’ll heal here,” Emma said. “Maybe it will finally feel like a home again.”

A person standing at a welcome mat | Source: Pexels

A person standing at a welcome mat | Source: Pexels

What would you have done?

Here’s another story for you | After our mother’s death, my sister, Sharon, inherited everything, leaving me with nothing. But upon discovering Mom’s actual will, I was left wondering: what else didn’t I know about my sister?

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