They had barely stepped into that house for nearly two years now. Walking through the rooms and hallways, things felt uncanny and sort of dreamy to the two siblings, like the old house was a space set aside from reality.
Everything was moldy and full of dust. Clearly, their mother had let things go during her late days. They just wanted to be done with their business and get out of there as soon as possible. But then, they found the secret passage behind a closet. What they saw there instantly shook them and brought tears to their eyes.
Ever since they started college and moved out, they had been focusing on their own lives as young adults, hardly seeing any of their parents. One could even say that they avoided their family.
In all honesty, they never really liked spending time with their parents that much. As years passed, what they felt for them had evolved into some sort of contempt or even repulsion that they couldn’t really explain. But then, they discovered something that changed their perspective on everything. That’s when everything started making sense.
The Gaddis had always been known as an eccentric couple in the neighborhood. They barely left the house or socialized with any of their neighbors, except for Mrs. Roberts, who lived next door to them.
Nobody knew anything about their occupations or their story, and they were often the subject of rumors due to their reclusiveness and secrecy. But that wasn’t the oddest thing about the Gaddis.
Steve, the husband, didn’t have legs and was in a wheelchair. His wife, Alice, always wore a mask covering most of her face, except for her eyes and mouth. Alice’s mask was the thing that raised the most questions about the couple among their neighbors.
Some wondered if the couple practiced some sort of religion that forced her to cover her face, while others thought it may be due to suffering from some disease. However, no one dared ask them directly. But there was another thing about Alice that nobody knew.
Steve rarely left the house, only going out occasionally to spend some time in the yard or the garden, but Alice would sometimes take their car and drive to the other part of town. Only Mrs. Roberts, their confided neighbor, knew Alice used to volunteer at a homeless shelter in the other part of town.
For some reason, the couple had only told Mrs. Roberts about this. She was her only friend in their neighborhood, but she was as loyal, kind, and devoted as she could be. And that wasn’t all.
As a matter of fact, when Alicia and Steve’s two children were born, she helped take care of them like she was a part of the family. However, despite being raised in a loving household, the two siblings never had a good relationship with their parents.
The two kids, Josh and Laura, were their parents’ pride and joy. Alica and Steve did everything in their hand to make sure they didn’t lack anything and to make sure they had a happy childhood. However, there was some sort of distance between them and the siblings. But why?
In a way, Josh and Laura knew their parents weren’t like everyone else’s. Alice never told them why she wore that mask, and the kids’ peers were puzzled by it.
“Mom, why do you wear this mask? My friends are always asking me. They say you’re weird,” Laura asked once when she was just five years old. “Honey, I think your friends should worry more about their studies than about how others’ moms look,” Alicia answered. But deep inside, she knew the sad truth.
Alicia and Steve knew that their children were ashamed of them. No matter how much they loved them or what they did for them, the siblings would always feel sort of inadequate comparing them to other children’s parents.
The couple hoped this would change as time passed and the kids became more mature. But that didn’t happen. Especially, one heartbreaking event would prove them wrong.
The kids grew more and more distant from their parents as years passed. When they moved away for university, they refused to have their parents help them or visit them on their first day. It became clear to the parents that the kids wanted to have as little to do with them as possible.
This broke their hearts, but they knew there was nothing they could do. Still, they tried to keep in touch, inviting them to the house and offering to pay them a visit. But every time, the kids would refuse. “What have we done wrong?” the couple endlessly asked themselves. And one day, something terrible happened.
Steve got terribly sick. In a matter of months, he passed away, only having received one visit from his children during his convalescence. And that wasn’t even the worst part.
When Alice tried to convince their kids to go to their father’s funeral, they refused to do so: they argued that they were really busy with their exams. They promised to see their mom the following days, but they never did. After this, Alice entered a deep depression.
She passed away just a few months later, not due to any illness but of grief. This time, after a call from Mrs. Roberts, the children went to the funeral. It was only them and the couple’s confided neighbor, who gave them the house keys for them to inspect it and see if there was a will.
The two siblings went to the old house with the intention of getting things done and returning to university as soon as possible. Little did they know that they were about to find something that would change their lives forever.
Walking through the house’s door, everything felt uncanny to the two siblings. For her last days, Alice had lived like a hermit. There was dust and mold everywhere, and the only thing on the siblings’ minds was finding the will.
But looking inside one closet, they found something that looked like a secret passage. They didn’t need a key to open it; inside, they found a newspaper page from 20 years ago, and they started reading it, intrigued.
The newspaper told the story of a bus accident that took place 20 years ago. The bus had caught fire; fortunately, a female medical student rescued all the passengers, risking her own life to get them out of the burning bus.
However, not all the people involved had come out undamaged from the accident. The driver, for instance, had lost his legs, and the heroic medical student had suffered burns on most of her body. As the siblings continued reading, they felt their stomachs drop to their knees.
Apparently, the medical student was sent to the hospital, where she had her whole body covered in bandages. According to the report, she would have to wear a mask for the rest of her life, as her skin would forever remain too frail to endure exposure.
At the end of the report, the names of the people involved were revealed: the heroic medical student was named Alice, while the bus driver was Steve Gaddis.
After they were done reading the news report, the two siblings immediately broke down crying. Now, they understood that they had been terribly unfair to their parents. The two of them were nothing but kind souls who did everything for them, and they failed to be grateful.
They both raised their sight and asked for forgiveness, knowing that their parents would be watching them from heaven at that very moment. Then, they embraced each other and left the house.