MTO Cynthia Hilston

Mom of three. Wife. Author. Editor. Publicist.

Those tags simply did not do justice to the speed at which life traveled for Cyndi. Her heart had all these amazing ideas: themed cupcakes, trips to the zoo or museums or parks, date nights, notes of encouragement for this or that, birthday signs, cards, flowers, gifts, special dinners, decorating, organizing, parties. All that, and writing too.

The one thing she could not get her hands around was the house. If she mopped the floor with bleach, one of the kids would spill tomato soup all over it. If she scrubbed the microwave, someone would heat up spaghetti. No cover. Of course, no cover. If she organized the fridge, the law of atrophy would scramble it before she made the next meal. And the spices. Don’t even get her started on the spice drawer.

The house had it out for her.

She knew that was ridiculous. Houses didn’t hate. They just were. They got old. Roofs sagged. Paint chipped. Pipes burst. Mold grew. Dust settled. Cobwebs formed.

She dusted the ceiling corners for the third time in a week.

“What are you doing?” Erik asked.

“The cobwebs,” she answered, trying to quash her rising irritation. Not that Erik did anything wrong. It annoyed her that he didn’t see the dirt. Like when the kids had their infamous milk battle, and they’d supposedly cleaned up. Erik missed all sorts of splashes of milk. It was like he was blind.

As if to prove it, he said, “I don’t see any cobwebs.”

“Well, thank God one of us does, or we’d be living in a pig pen.” Cyndi couldn’t help snapping a little.

The webs returned the next day and were worse. Thicker, darker. A stench accompanied them. This was especially concerning because the writer’s group was supposed to meet at her house that afternoon. Splotches of greyish mold appeared on the carpet and drywall, anywhere the webs touched. Cyndi used all the bleach they had on the walls. She steam cleaned the carpets and Swiffered the kitchen floor.

At some point while she was focused on vacuuming the couches, Erik took the kids to the park. Trying to clean while the kids played inside was futile. Thankful to go at her chores without distraction, Cyndi scrubbed until it was an aerobic workout, lost herself in it.

The doorbell rang.

Her hands were chaffed, and an ache had manifested in her chest, maybe from the fumes. A rawness took her throat and made her voice croaky when she greeted her friend, Kathleen.

“Oh, my dear,” Kathleen’s concern was written all over her face. She stepped over the threshold and asked, “Are you alright?”

Cyndi didn’t move to let her friend inside, but Kathleen put a motherly arm around her and led her into the now-thickly-webbed living room. In the dingy mirror, Cyndi spotted her own reflection. Her hair stuck out all over from effort. She’d forgotten makeup. Redness notched the skin around her eyes. She was not what she wanted to be: the composed and radiant hostess with a comfortable, clean, and welcoming home.

“I’m sorry.” She slumped and put her hands to her face. “I got behind on my cleaning.”

“Why, your house is stunning,” Kathleen replied. “I don’t know how you manage to keep it so perfect.”

Cyndi looked around, dumbfounded.

Webs and mold were everywhere. She didn’t know what to do. Kathleen was pretending not to notice how disgusting the house was. But if Cyndi didn’t cancel, the rest of the group would come, and any minute now, they’d see, too. They’d laugh and talk behind her back about what a lousy housekeeper she was.

Cyndi had no choice. She had to do something. Anything. No way could she have guests with her house in this state. She pulled out her phone and texted the group. Sorry for the last-minute cancellation. Kathleen’s just arrived, and she had a terrible accident. I have to take her to the hospital.

Kathleen frowned at the text. “Cyndi?”

True: A messy house causes Cyndi a lot of stress.

Also true: Cyndi has a heart of gold and manages to accomplish more than any human being I know. Either she somehow gets more hours in the day than the rest of us, or she’s bionic. I have fond memories of gatherings at her home. And yes, she writes prolifically. Check her books out here.

Also, also true: Kathleen is a beautiful writer-friend who would definitely be concerned and call Cyndi “dear,” but she’s more into cozy mysteries than horror. Hopefully, she’s not mad that I gave her a cameo. 🙂

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5 thoughts on “MTO Cynthia Hilston

  1. I’d put this story under the category of horror realism. It’s true in many ways. OCD is a debilitating disorder and when it meets psychosis it can destroy a person’s mind. You’ve captured that very well here. Great writing.

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