The Unfinished Piece by Abbey Frank
 By the age of twelve I had memorized every paint color at the Farrow & Ball paint store. I knew every aisle at Home Depot so well that I could’ve worked there. I learned the infinite number of ways in which a house could be decorated and how the color of a bedroom can determine one’s mood for the rest of the day. My favorite furniture stores were in Soho; these were the stores that had chairs and furniture like a playground. In fact, it was my playground. The women and men who worked at Klaffs (the home design store) knew me on a first name basis. When I walk into a house and instantly, in my mind, redecorate the room to make it more presentable, I realize my skewed upbringing. We moved from a ticky tacky house in a uniform development to a strange house when I was six. The only reason I agreed to the house was because it had a basketball court in back, not that I even played basketball at the time. The house was big with high ceilings, rich character, and awkward architecture. It was built in the late 1800s and was an old barn, which rested in a unique U shape. It used be called Odell Farms. Living in an old barn in the suburbs of New York City brought originality and a change of scenery to my view on the world. The kitchen was a large open space with high ceilings and worn-out wood flooring. The garage divided the house in two, leaving the bedrooms, kitchen, and living room on one side and the guest room, office, and another random room on the other side. My mother does not particularly like the idea of rooms, which is what I think lured her to this house. There were bedrooms and bathrooms, but besides that everything else was open. She hates the idea of living in a house and never using rooms. So she made sure that everything was connected. The kitchen was the dining room as well as the living room; this has always been my favorite place to hang out. The wood was splintered and decaying, half finished and half in its original form. The wood told a story through its pattern of wearing down. I knew exactly where to step on the kitchen floors without getting a four-inch piece of wood stuck in my foot. My sister didn’t map out the floor too well and always got the splinter. And my mom would yell at me to put shoes on, but I never listened. The kitchen floor had little cracks in it, and I would bring a towel spread it out on the floor and lie down and look through the holes trying to see what was hiding under there. My mother has always enjoyed a challenge. As though working full time, travelling on business trips once a week, and taking care of two girls and my dad wasn’t enough. She just had to buy the house and “flip it” like on the TV shows she watches every morning. The look my mom was going for was to keep the old barn exterior and create a modern interior. Nothing was to be out on the counters and “stuff” was to be nonexistent to the motherly eye. When we ripped up the floors and began the renovation, I learned the truth that was lying under the wooden floors. The kitchen was once where the cows lived. There was a concrete floor with two trenches running down, which held water and feed for the cows. The other side we learned was the slaughterhouse. The white tile etched with red stains in the cracks and the square that was used for the beheading gave it away. Since that discovery I concluded that there is a ghost that lives on that side named Melinda. You can still feel her presence and weird events are always occurring over there.
 The other side was knocked down and rebuilt so that the garage was no longer in the middle of the house and I could walk from the other side right into the kitchen. Our mailbox stood alone at the end of the street. Every day after coming off the bus, I would get the mail, carry it past the bridge and waterfall, up the long drive, to the half livable home. “Hola Abbey!” the construction workers would yell as I trekked up the drive. The construction workers became my good friends. We would have snowball fights together, and they would build me forts out of the snow. They would give me lollipops, and in exchange I would make them some tea and cookies. They helped me with my Spanish and looked after me when my parents weren’t home. The other side was finished in a quick three years. And after it was completed, we had to get a new architect and a new contractor, so I had to say goodbye to my friends and prepare for the real renovation. My family moved to the other side. This consisted of my fourteen-year-old sister, two parents, and an eleven-year-old me, living in two rooms. Everyone had a bed except for me⎯ my mattress rested at the foot of my parents’ bed on the floor. We all had to share one bathroom and a tiny room with a table and unopened boxes, which became our dining room, and a living room that could only fit a desk, couch, and TV. The wood floors had a Styrofoam runner that created a walking path to protect the floors. The whole side was barely decorated and never had that finished feeling of a home. We had rented a storage unit that was across the driveway. Being the smallest of the family I would have to climb the mountain of chairs, boxes, bins, and bikes to get whatever was needed out of the unit. Re-arranging the boxes and stuff in the unit never ended; I was always improving the appearance like a game of Tetris. It was like a trek up Mount Everest, never knowing what was sturdy to rest my foot on, or what would leave me plummeting back down towards the other miscellaneous objects. I loved getting tangled and lost in the mountain of our belongings. It was like a rock wall in my backyard. We thought that this part of the renovation would be simple: knock a few walls down, rearrange a few rooms and done. After knocking down the sheet rock walls, the workers found decaying wooden walls. They said that we were lucky we got to the walls in time, because they could have collapsed at any moment. Many sidetracks occurred that delayed the construction, things we couldn’t even prepare ourselves for. I started at a new school when they laid down the new floors as a fresh start. Middle school blurred into the mixed paint that covered the walls and was changed three times when the color wasn’t right On the weekends I would wake up in the morning, throw on a sweater, jacket, hat and gloves and make my way to the garage, which I declared as “the kitchen.” I would spend about thirty-five minutes over the hotplate trying to cook two scrambled eggs. I was the only one that used the kitchen, probably because I was the only one desperate enough to stand in the freezing cold and try to make real food. I had a hotplate, an electric kettle, a mini-toaster oven, refrigerator, and a crockpot. We ended up eating out for every meal, sometimes going to the same restaurant two or three times a week. The four of us lived on top of one another, sharing personal space and dealing with the teenagers and angsty adults. For some reason we ended up getting a dog while we were crammed in the other side. The chaos was somehow manageable, but my family still has issues when dealing with space. All modesty went out the window. Privacy wasn’t available and with that, we grew closer as a family. No big fights occurred, at least none worth remembering, but we had to coexist because there weren’t any other options and family is something you are stuck with through thick and thin. I finally got my own bed and room five years later. I often forget everything that happened to this house. I only remember when I drift off and think about redecorating other areas. Sometimes I sit in the school library and redecorate the whole room in my mind: ripping out the carpets and laying wooden floors, erecting built-in wooden bookshelves, repainting the walls and having colors that make studying fun, and chairs that don’t look like they are from the mid ‘80s. It has been eleven years and the house still has its complications. We still use folding chairs at the kitchen table, and my parents haven’t even decorated their room yet. Decorators came in and out of my room as my style preferences changed from rock & roll and punk, indie and diffusers, to classic modern. My walls still stand white and bare with accents of blue from my paintings and posters from surf magazines. Simple is the phase I have decided on for now, but leaving the room white lets me redecorate everything else as I continue to find my individuality. If the fireplace is lit, it will set the whole house on fire because there is exposed wood in the chimney. The house will probably never be finished until a new family moves in. We went through two architects, three contractors, and four decorators. With all of the people that know our garage code and have come and gone through the phases of my life and the house, it’s still incomplete. We recently found out that the whole house wasn’t insulated and that explained why the heat never worked. We got that fixed even though I like a cold house. The design of the house is “transitional modern” according to my mom. It’s white with accent walls, dark wood floors and subtleties of furniture pieces you would find at MOMA. It’s cold, and it looks like it needs to be decorated from its barren feel, but when I look around and drink my tea late at night, it feels like home in an empty way. The process of renovation is way more intricate than what they show you on T.V. shows. Once you fix one thing, the cycle begins and will never stop. In life there is always room for improvement and nothing is really finished; after we leave it’s still there, for someone else to fix