I Inherited a Run-down House from My Father & Uncovered His Double Life

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I clenched my fists beside my sister, Hazel, and her gloating fiancé, Mark, as I listened to the lawyer reading our parents’ will.

Hazel interrupted, fidgeting in her chair. “Mr. Schneider, but why did I get the main house?”

“Your parents met me. They knew we had plans to get married and have children,” Mark interjected, the corners of his lips rising slightly. “Freddy likes to travel and never brought a girl home, so the big house should naturally go to a potential family.”

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“Really?” I retorted sarcastically, but it was only because Mark’s attitude always got on my nerves.

Mark chuckled. “Your parents agree, obviously. They did this. Not me.”

“Mark, that’s not fair,” Hazel continued timidly.

“It’s more than fair, babe,” her fiancé insisted.

Mark and I stared at each other in a standoff. Mark broke the tense silence, making insinuations about my lifestyle, leading to our parents’ decision.

Hazel attempted to defend me, but Mark spoke over her, insisting they deserved the mansion versus the abandoned house.

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My voice cracked as I confronted my sister about our parents’ old-fashioned views, particularly regarding my own life choices.

Hazel shook her head despite acknowledging that our parents struggled to accept certain aspects of my life. “Things were different for their generation. They never knew if you would or could ever have kids,” she said, tightening her lips.

I laughed mockingly. “It’s the 21st century, Hazel. They could watch TV and movies and see how it works!” I continued, explaining that our parents started treating me differently after realizing my inclinations.

“Stop it!” Hazel frowned. “I will not allow you to talk about them this way.” She finally told me to accept our parents’ decision, making Mark smile wider.

Hanging my head, I nodded at Mr. Schneider, accepting the will, and walked out of the lawyer’s office, my shoulder slumped on the way out.

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I moved into the abandoned house as soon as I received the keys. It was better than I imagined. My father had bought it for a decent price, but after marrying Doreen, he moved into the big mansion that Hazel inherited.

It still stung me that our parents didn’t think I was good enough to get it. But it didn’t matter anymore. It was my new house, and I had to take advantage of it.

On the first day, I assessed everything that needed repairs and settled on remodeling the bathrooms and the kitchen. But after doing a little research on the internet about renovation costs, I sighed loudly. It would take thousands of dollars to make the place livable again, and that was only on labor costs.

“I could learn how to do it myself,” I shrugged, reaching for my laptop again. “How hard could it be?”

Spoiler alert: It was complicated. I, a theater kid turned world-traveling photographer, embraced this challenge as my most complex endeavor. I hoped to debunk stereotypes about my capabilities by documenting the renovation process on social media.

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Two weeks later, I finished the kitchen and moved to the bathrooms. But I stared at the main one for a long time, sighing. Renovating was a lot of work, and the bathroom seemed trickier than changing a few cabinets and the tiles.

“Hmmm, maybe I can do something else,” I wondered, walking through the house and talking to myself. “The bedrooms certainly need new paint. And the floor. Wait, what is that?”

I had just entered a small room, which must have been intended as a home office. But it was the first time I took it in and saw a strange protrusion in a corner. “Ugh, don’t tell me this floor is rotten or something. How much will that cost?” I lamented, thinking the rest of my inheritance would have to be spent on real construction work.

I bent a knee and touched the strange unevenness on the floorboards, and surprisingly, my hand went through the floor. “Yuck! It is rotten,” I thought, wiping my hands. But when I focused again, I saw a strange hollowness that shouldn’t have existed.

I immediately got my phone out, and with my flashlight, I took a better look and saw… stairs leading into the darkness.

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Days later, I contacted Mr. Schneider, curious about the house’s floor plans. “How do I find the floor plans for this house?” I asked, hesitant to explore the hidden staircase.

Mr. Schneider suggested checking the municipal office. “You know…My father’s old house had a bomb shelter that we didn’t know about until he died. Built it right during World War I.”

Mr. Schneider offered to find more information and get back to me. Several days later, I received the floor plans, confirming the house indeed had a basement hidden beneath a trap door.

I knew I didn’t have to look down there, but my curiosity was piqued, wondering if this secret part was why my parents left me the house.

So, I took a sledgehammer and destroyed all the rotten parts, which corresponded with the size of the trap door. The rest of the floor seemed normal enough. “Oh, man. I bet it’s flooded down there,” I muttered as I started going down.

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I had my phone flashlight out and could smell the heavy scent of mildew and moisture in the air. “Great, this will be more money,” I muttered as I reached the bottom of the stairs. From what I could tell, it was just a regular room.

Except…there was a desk in the middle, littered with papers and an old-fashioned typewriter. Did Dad know about this place? I wondered as my hands reached for one of the sheets on the desk bearing a short poem, and at the bottom of the page, I saw the name Milton.

Among the papers, I found poems signed by my father. Oh, my God! Dad was a poet and writer, I realized. Digging deeper, I uncovered an ornate box beneath the papers.

Rushing upstairs, I eagerly read through the poems, marveling at their depth and beauty. I opened the ornate box and discovered more pages, realizing quickly they were from a novel — a love story between two men.

“Is that why they kept this place?” I wondered and remembered the last words my father had spoken to me before he left home: “One day, you’ll understand.”

The realization hit me like a freight train — my father had hidden a significant part of himself, perhaps resenting his own limitations compared to my freedom in the modern era.

Eager to share this discovery with Hazel, I called her despite the late hour. “Hazel, I just discovered something, and I need to show you,” I said urgently. “Come to my house tomorrow. Without him. This is huge and should stay between us for now.”

Our conversation was interrupted by Mark’s intrusion, but I insisted on keeping it between siblings.

The next day, to my surprise, Hazel arrived alone. I showed her the hidden basement, the ornate box, the poems, and the novel I found. “It’s a love story between two men who go to war,” I revealed.

Hazel was shocked, struggling to reconcile this with our father’s known…biases. I explained my theory: our father had given me the house, so I could discover this story, suggesting our father might have struggled with his own identity.

Hazel processed the information, pacing the room in disbelief. “It’s just crazy! What about Mom?”

I urged her to read the novel. “I think Dad was struggling with so much, and he had to live a secret life because times were different. I think he projected all he felt—his self-loathing—on me because I was free to do what I wanted.”

Suddenly, the front door swung open forcefully, and Mark was in my living room, yelling at the top of his voice. “What are you trying to make my wife hide from me?! Or are you trying to convince her to dump me?”

“Hazie, tell me you’re not falling for that bull,” I sighed, rolling my eyes. “Even if you were dating an actual good guy, I wouldn’t have invited him today. This secret is too precious for anyone else.”

“He’s trying to screw us again like he wanted with the house. He’s getting you to hide something from me so I won’t act in your best interest,” Mark accused, smirking confidently while pointing his finger.

Hazel remained silent.

“You know I’m right, babe,” Mark whispered to Hazel, his voice turning sweet and coaxing. “He’s always hated me because you love me more than him. He’s trying to separate us.”

“Mark, stop it!” Hazel finally snapped, throwing her hands in the air. “If Freddy found anything here, it would be his legally.”

Mark tried to insist, wrapping his arms around her, but Hazel was done.

“ENOUGH!” Hazel screamed, pushing Mark back. “God, I’m so tired of you! You only ever cared about money! You never truly loved me. We’re DONE, Mark! I can’t believe I ignored all the red flags!”

I exhaled, relieved.

“You’re breaking up with me over this?” Mark spluttered, his mouth wide with shock.

“Yes, Mark. It’s over. I want my life back,” Hazel declared, crossing her arms.

Mark turned to me, begging. “Freddy, tell her she’s making a mistake.”

“Freddy’s not going to help you, Mark. He’s been trying to open my eyes to your true colors for years,” Hazel said, stepping towards the door. “Get out of here and out of my house!”

“It’s my house, too!”

“We’re not married!”

“I’ll fight you on this!”

“I’ll get Mr. Schneider on the phone right now,” I announced and didn’t hesitate to dial our lawyer to explain the situation.

Mark, now desperate, demanded, “I want my ring back!”

“That ring was my grandmother’s, Mark. It’s staying with me!” Hazel retorted, forcefully escorting Mark out of the house. Once he was gone, she turned to me, tears and relief in her eyes. “I think I need to stay here for a while.”

“You’re welcome to stay as long as you need,” I embraced her warmly.

After a moment, she pulled back, a small smile on her face. “Can we order some Chinese food? I’m dying to read Dad’s novel.”

“Absolutely,” I agreed, feeling a weight lift off my shoulders.

Publishing our father’s novel proved easier than expected. My friends in the LGBTQ+ publishing community were eager to help. Hazel, deeply moved by the story, insisted I keep all the royalties.

Mr. Schneider dealt with Mark, ensuring he’d never bother us again. Apparently, Mark had left town, but I didn’t care. My focus was on my sister’s happiness and honoring our father’s legacy.

Eventually, I felt the urge to travel again. I rented out my house and set off on a new adventure. Upon my return, I was delighted to find Hazel happily dating a kind, successful man who adored her.

The book wasn’t a bestseller, but it received excellent reviews. Therefore, I decided to publish our father’s poems, too, including a prologue detailing our father’s hidden life. It was a tribute to love, acceptance, and the importance of living one’s truth.

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