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Daniel Fredericks was not a happy man. He must’ve been, a long time ago. Back when he had a family, and a life… But Martha Fredericks had run off years ago, choosing a man that was both rich and handsome rather than her husband and two children. The boy had gotten to age eighteen before running away to the countryside. It was only a week later when they found his body dumped in a ditch, already crawling with maggots. Their baby daughter, Elizabeth, had caught influenza and had died peacefully in her sleep. Now Daniel Fredericks lived alone in a drafty mansion, air thick and heavy with memories of pleasure.
Daniel had boarded over the childrens’ rooms, keeping their clothes and toys where they had left them, almost as if they had never left, or perhaps that he expected them to come back soon, that they weren’t buried under the earth, slowly rotting even as we speak.
Daniel was in a particularly foul mood that day. Maybe it was because it was five years to the day that Martha had run away, or maybe it was because the sun was shining vibrantly and merrily, or maybe it was because some sixth sense was warning him of things to come.
He stomped down the sidewalk, grimacing more than usual at the children that passed him, carrying lollipops and humming juvenile tunes. He threw open the door to the local coffee shop. The bell on the door rang alarmingly, warning everyone that Mr. Fredericks was here. He walked over to the counter where the woman already had his iced coffee ready. He swiped it bitterly off the counter and threw a wad of bills down. The woman counted the money, and, gazing wistfully off into space, handed him his $6.46 in change. He snatched the bills from her hand and, grinning evilly, strode out the door.
When Daniel walked out of the coffee shop, clouds had begun to form on the horizon. They were dark, heavy things, threatening rain in low, ominous voices. Daniel continued to stomp along until he got to his house. He opened the door, listening to the eerie creaking of its rusted hinges.
He entered the dark room and sat down onto an ancient chair. He whacked his boxy television with his umbrella and mindlessly watched the black and white image. He had never allowed himself such modern luxuries such as color TVs or smart phones (or any cell phones, for the matter.) Daniel was stuck in the past. Or perhaps he just wanted it back.
Rain pattered the window, beckoning Daniel to let it in. When Daniel didn’t, it angrily persisted, banging against his window with brute force. He almost didn’t hear her knock on the door.
Daniel stood up hesitantly, umbrella gripped in his white hands. “Hello?” he asked. “Who’s there!?” again, a cautious, quiet knock. He reached the door and slowly turned the doorknob. The door creaked open, revealing who was on the other side.
There was a girl there, a very young one, too. She had fair (and sopping wet) dirty blonde hair and very pale green eyes. She was tiny and frail so it looked hard to tell her age. She looked about… six? “What do you want?” Daniel snapped. The girl didn’t speak, simply began to walk forward. “Stop it right there” he said, throwing his hand to block the girl’s path. “What… Do…You…Want?!” he asked as slowly as possible. The girl pointed towards the doorway. “Not gonna happen.” He said, then swung the door closed.
Daniel slept fie that night, no thoughts of forlorn little girls in the rain lurking in the dark recesses of his mind. He woke up with no incident, plodded down the rickety staircase with nary a thought in his mind; micro waved his oatmeal like he always did, opened the door to get the paper, and screamed. For there, on the doorstep, lips nearly blue with cold, was the little girl, still gazing at Daniel with that pleading expression. He jumped back in fright and the girl walked on in, into the kitchen and sat down mildly on a chair. All without saying a word. “What are you-You can’t just-” Then he looked straight into the girl’s pale green gaze. “Can you at least tell me your name?”
She didn’t speak, just grabbed a napkin and a pen Daniel had left on the table. Then she began working, writing in disjointed, preschool letters:
“Michaeline, huh?” she merely stared at him. “I guess so…” he muttered. Michaeline suddenly stood up from the chair and walked into the living room. “Er…okay?” he followed her into the room. “Oh” he said. He picked up a throw blanket and a pillow and threw them onto the couch. “You sleep here.” He said. “Why don’t you watch some” he picked up his umbrella from the floor and whacked the TV. “Cartoons.” Michaeline stared at him as she sat down on her makeshift bed. “I have to go now, to the office…” he trailed off. The child probably couldn’t hear him. She’s probably deaf, he thought. He then walked out the door without another word. There was silence except for the unintelligible crackle of the TV. Michaeline smiled to herself, then stood up to go explore the dilapidated old mansion.
After work, Daniel checked every bulletin board, every paper, for a ‘Missing’ ad for a deaf child. There was only one, and she was fourteen and didn’t resemble Michaeline at all. Daniel sighed, Defeated. He decided to go back to his house and check on the stupid kid anyway.
When he got back to his house, it was empty. And eerily silent. “Hello?” he called. His voice echoed back to him, but no answer. Stupid, he thought, the child can’t hear you. But still, he listened intently for a minute. There appeared to be some sort of knocking sound coming from … the third floor.
Daniel climbed up the rickety staircase apprehensively. As he looked at his gloomy surroundings, dark memories flashed through his mind. But there were happy ones, too, Mingling briefly with the darkness. Memories from before Martha… He reached the top. He crept down the hall, wincing as the floor creaked. He followed the source of the knocking until he found Michaeline, rasping cautiously on a boarded up door. “You can’t go in there” knock, knock “It belongs-belonged to…” knock, knock “Elizabeth.” Michaeline stopped knocking to turn and gaze sadly at Daniel, She pointed to the door. “No” he said harshly. She continued her silent plead. “Maybe” the silence that followed was the loudest Daniel had ever heard. He sighed. “There’s a hammer in the garage.” He said. Michaeline handed him the hammer, silently, as usual. He didn’t even bother wondering how she had known where the garage was; God knows what else she had found while he was gone. He turned slowly to the boarded up door. Brief memories swirled through his head as he struck the boards. The day he had proposed to Martha at the County Fair, the day Elizabeth had been born, the time when Luke had broken Martha’s favorite teacup. They whirled through his mind and slowly eradicated the pain. Finally, he dropped the hammer and pried the last board loose. His hand toughed the ice cold doorknob and turned it as slowly as physically possible. The door creaked open excruciatingly slowly. Their eyes were met with a sinister sight, a sight that would haunt Daniel for the rest of his life. The room was soundless. On the floor lay a scattered array of child’s blocks. In a terrifying coincidence, four of the blocks placed together spelt HOME. The large windows were locked closed and the dusty curtains thrown over the windows. The crib in the corner once was white, but now was chipped beyond recognition. The mobile hung limply, turning slowly in some undetectable breeze.
The room was thick with a heavy layer of dust… and hopelessness. And it was the worst kind of hopelessness, the kind of hopelessness you get when your life was just so beautiful yet so fragile. The kind of hopelessness you get when something takes that flimsy life and punches it in the stomach. Daniel sank to his knees, gasping from the pain. “Elizabeth” he managed to say in between tortured sobs. Michaeline walked silently over to Daniel. She squeezed his pale hand tightly, desperately trying to help. She released her grip and took the nearest block and placed it alongside HOME:
Daniel gasped once more stared at the little girl. She couldn’t have been older then six. “Please,” he pleaded “Who are you?” More arranging of the blocks:
“No” he said. “Who are you really?” Michaeline scattered her current blocks and started over.
Daniel squeezed his eyes shut, trying to register it all. But when he opened his eyes, the blocks once again said MICHAELINE.
The next day, Daniel stopped at the Walgreens by his house and bought a notebook and some pens. All day long he had been in a fog. All he could think about was Michaeline. Possibility? What the h*ll does that mean? He so stuck in his own world that he didn’t see her until they crashed straight into each other. The both landed hard on their backsides. Daniel was about to get up and mutter an apology when he saw the woman’s face. She wore an olive green beret with short curly light brown hair peeking out. Her nose was freckled and her eyes were pale jade. “Mabelle!” he exclaimed. “Daniel?” she asked in astonishment. He nodded. “I didn’t even recognize you.” They both stood up and gaped. “I haven’t seen you since collage, Mabelle. Where’ve you been?” Mabelle blew a strand of hair out of her face and waved her hand. “Oh, here and there.” Then Mabelle said. “What about you Daniel? How are you doing?” she asked. “Okay” Mabelle’s crooked smirk spread across her face. “Really, now? A nice mansion, a good job, what are you missing?” Daniel suddenly thought of Michaeline. “A lot.” He said. “I have to go.” Daniel said, slipping past Mabelle and out the store. Mabelle watched him leave. “Oh Daniel, how can you be so blind?”
Daniel walked into the kitchen and placed the plastic bag on the table. Michaeline wasn’t in the living room. He walked up the stairs and saw the door to Elizabeth’s room hanging open. He crept over and peeked inside. The wide windows hung open. Michaeline sat on the edge watching the cloudy sky, lips moving but making no sound. Daniel carefully closed the door.
Michaeline walked down the stairs and stared at Daniel sitting at the kitchen table, waiting for her. “Sit down, Michaeline.” He said, then to make sure he patted the chair across from him. Michaeline sat down and continued to stare. Daniel placed the notebook in front of her and put a pen in her tiny hand. “Okay, let’s start small. What’s your full name?” Michaeline brought the pen down and wrote in large printed letters:
“What’s your last name?”
“You don’t know?” she nodded. Daniel sighed. “Where are you from?”
“Please, Michaeline, tell me where you’re from.”
“What are you?!” he asked, panic edging in his voice.
Daniel blinked, and once again:
Daniel could hardly sleep that night. When he finally did, he saw images flash through his mind. Michaeline on the ledge, speaking words never to be heard, the blocks spelling HOME?, Michaeline in the rain, Him and Mabelle ten years ago, throwing dead leaves around in the Fall. The last thing he saw was Mabelle’s face, curly dirty blonde hair falling from her hat and pale green eyes sparkling. Then he woke up. “Possibility” he whispered into the night.
The next day, Daniel bought a ring. He checked the phone book and found Mabelle’s address. Then he took a forty-five minute drive to her house at the edge of town. He rang the doorbell and waited as she opened the door. “Dan-” she began, but Daniel cut her off. He got down on one knee, took Mabelle’s hand, and began his speech. “Mabelle, you’re the one. You’ve always have been. I don’t why I was so blind not to see it before. I left you years ago for a life that turned out to be full of cr*p, but I just have one question,” he pulled out the ring.” Will you marry me?” Mabelle laughed. “It took you long enough.”
Daniel pulled the key out of the ignition. He bounded out of the car and up to the door. He unlocked it quickly. He ran into the living room and up the stairs. “Michaeline!” he called, dashing down the hall. He reached the open door. “Michael…” his voice died in his throat. Michaeline was on the ledge again. The sky was pitch black, the only source of light the round disc of a moon. “Michaeline. I understand now. You’re what could’ve been. You’re a possibility. If only I had married Mabelle before.” Michaeline turned to look at Daniel. She smiled, and Daniel could see Mabelle’s kindness radiating from her. Then she turned slowly back to the window. “Mic-” he started to say. Then Michaeline jumped off. “MICHAELINE!” he screamed. He ran to the window and looked down. All that was left of what could’ve been was millions of white flower petals, floating through the air and through the window. “Michaeline,” he whispered. “Thank you.”