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A pane of glass surrounded by weathered wood and cracked paint. A window. That is all. An average window, clear except for the common piled dirt in the corners. A window, on the first floor of an average house, based by a blooming violet hydrangea bush. It’s nothing more than a picturesque suburban home in New Hampshire. I pass this home every day as I walk to my karate class, as I have since I was a child. And every day, as always, a new stranger stares out from the window. This window. An average window in an average house, in an average suburban neighborhood. Nothing special, but these people are.
Some are young, some are old. Some are sickly, some are bloody. Some are angry, some are content. They sit inside, on an old wooden chair, and gaze dreamily out as I walk by. They used to scare me, even the ones that smiled kindly, but after years it is nothing more than mundane curiosity that I feel. Who will be next? It’s always someone new. An old wrinkled man gazing wistfully, a small smile playing on his lips in memory. He would have labored breathing, if he breathed, but they never do. A young woman, bruises shadowing her frail face, blood dried along her neck in a deathly slash of abuse. A small boy dressed formally, blonde hair combed back smooth, his head at a constant snapped tilt of curiosity. They all came one day and were gone the next, only to be replaced by another in the window. I never hear them, despite the few I’ve seen screaming in soundless rage, crying for their past. I’ve never tried to speak with them either. We share nothing more than eye contact through this abandoned home’s glass window.
Perhaps I’m insane, a hallucinating teen desperate for attention, but I’ve never told anyone of my deceased friends, and I’ve never seen anyone look at the window as I do. It’s my little secret, my wonder. I pass by, each and every day, smile a nod to the deceased behind the window, and continue on my way.
That is, until the face behind the glass was familiar.
It was in the summer, a Wednesday afternoon. The sun shone with the warmness of freedom, and the light breeze blew worries and nightmares away. A few clouds were white lilies in the sky, floating along the lazy river of blue. It was the perfect day. I was fifteen at the time, well accustomed to the window’s visitors by then. But I was not prepared for this. On my usual walk to my afternoon karate class, I passed by the average house with the seemingly average window. Picking my eyes off the sidewalk, I glanced to my right to see who would be sitting behind the glass today, and stopped walking, as my heart filled with dread.
I saw Katelyn. My Katelyn. My little sister of just seven years, who was supposed to be away at a fun-filled camp with her friends for the week. Not here. Not here behind the window of the deceased. It couldn’t be her. It couldn’t be sweet little Katelyn, with her toothy smile lighting up a room, her brown pigtail braids swinging as she skips, her big blue eyes, a window themselves into her caring heart. My Katelyn, always the first to say “bonjour” every morning, because she had an adorable passion for French. She could not be here. She could not be here, through this window, this window of death and loss.
It could not be her, because this Katelyn, the small girl behind the window, would never be seen again. She sat behind the dark frame, in the old wooden chair where so many others have sat, and gazed into my average sunny world with eyes bluer than the feathers on the wings of the blue jays flitting in the trees. She looked not sad, but wistful, as if she were only daydreaming, watching the summer world pass by through a cold window. When I stopped in my walk, a small smile even turned up the corner of her lip. It could be any girl looking out any window, except for the red welt on her neck, a sting of some sorts, small, but deadly. This couldn’t be my Katelyn, my sister. No, it must be another, I thought, another girl with blue eyes and pigtail braids, and an unfortunate allergy to bee stings. With this decision, I settled my heart and my mind enough to turn and continue my walk to karate class.
On my first step, the cell phone weighing down my pocket began to ring. I pulled the phone out of my jeans and viewed the front screen: incoming call from Mom. I glanced at the window, to find the little girl’s dreamy expression gone, replaced with an intense stare, narrowed on me. I shook my head, and raised the phone to my ear, answering the call. My “hello?” was greeted by choking sobs. Mom never cries. “Honey? Honey, I need- I need you to come- to come home… right now,” my mother got out between gasped breaths and sobs. I didn’t answer, only turned towards the house, and stared into those deep blue eyes. “Can you- hear me? Come home. It’s… your sister… just- come home... Hello?” Still, I ignored my mother’s sobbing voice. I lowered the phone, and shut it, cutting off the cries. I was still, not breathing, staring, searching through the window, and knowing without a doubt that this was my Katelyn.
She looked out the window now with sadness, portraying a lost message in her striking blue eyes, not making a movement. She only watched me. My eyes began to blur, but I held the tears back. She wasn’t gone yet. She was here. I could see her clearly through the window. Maybe, she could still have a chance.
I pulled my eyes away from her blue, and regarded the front door. Chipped wood, painted a once-flattering ivy green, now just peeled away in shreds. The doorknob was gold, shiny gold, as if it alone had been polished while the rest of the house rotted. It was inviting. I took a step towards the house, and glanced at my Katelyn. She stared back, eyes wide with worry. Another step, and I was on the front door’s path. My phone began to ring once again in my pocket, but I ignored everything. My only view was this concrete path, that golden doorknob, and those blue eyes now rimming with tears, through that glass window. Another step, and I felt heavy. Weight pressed on my body, pulling me down, so I felt as if I carried the sky on my shoulders. A step closer, and the burden worsened, but I staggered to remain upright. My Katelyn was speaking now, urgently, words lost behind the window. Her small child hands pressed against the window, as if she wanted to break through. Her eyes were pouring tears. “I’ll save you,” I whispered, trying to protect her, as I always have.
One last step, and my hand grasped the golden doorknob. My other hand held me upright under this weight, resting on the house’s chipped paint. A deep breath and I swung the door open, stepping into the house. The weight was gone. I heard wooden boards creak beneath my feet. I heard crying, soft tears, and looked up. Blue eyes. Then blackness.
I am sitting in an old wooden chair. I face a window. A pane of glass surrounded by peeling wallpaper of dulled flowers. A window. That is all. An average window, clear except for the common piled dirt in the corners. A window, on the first floor of this average house, based by a blooming violet hydrangea bush outside. It holds nothing more than a view of a picturesque suburban street in New Hampshire. I used to pass this home every day as I walked to my karate class, as I had since I was a child. And every day, as always, a new stranger would stare out from the window. This window. An average window in an average house, in an average suburban neighborhood. Nothing special, but those people were, and now I am.
I remember my mother’s crying voice, and regret not responding. I remember my sister’s wet blue eyes, and regret not listening. I remember the golden door knob, and regret turning it in my blind, failed heroics. I remember the blackness. And then I was at rest, waiting for my turn. Now my wait is over, and today is my day, my last day to see the world I will leave.
During my rest, the warm of summer had turned to autumn, and fall colors decorated the street. I imagine their crunch underfoot, but I can no longer hear past the dull silence of this home. Outside, the trees stand stark, nearly stripped of their leaves, except for the few that cling to their branches in desperate memory of summer life. The street is still, besides the wind pushing the shriveled skeletons of leaves against the curb.
To the left, I see a young boy approaching, walking down the sidewalk, hands tucked warmly into his coat pockets. Head down, his charcoal hair obstructs his face, as he concentrates on the grey rock being kicked along with each step. I watch him, as the boy draws closer. A single kick throws the rock farther ahead, and the boy looks up after it, revealing deep green eyes and a somber expression. I watch him, and am surprised to find he watches me. The boy has halted in his walk, staring with obvious complexion at the window in which I sit. I smile, and offer a small wave, remembering how I enjoyed the friendliness of a few of my deceased friends. The green-eyed boy steps back and looks warily around the empty street on which he stands, before once again resting his insightful eyes on me. He waves. For a moment more, we regard each other, and then he in on his way again, kicking a new found rock down the sidewalk.
For the remainder of the day, I sit in this old chair, and watch the earthly day pass by. An old man walks his golden retriever, a mother pushes her child in a stroller, and various cars pass towards their destinations. None of them pay me notice. The world goes on, and I sit, observing, remembering, and accepting. The green-eyed boy passes by again, returning to his home. He regards me with a questionable look, but simply waves and moves on. The sun goes to sleep, bringing the brilliant hues of pink and orange, purple and blue, until the night sky blinks goodnight with its millions of lights. Still, I sit at this window, watching the moon hang in the sky over the street I once walked on.
On the first stroke of midnight, I rose from the old wooden chair, and gave the window one last look. It was time. I turn, and step up the creaking staircase. Au revior.