The first night in a new home. Maybe the excitement would come later, after unpacking, after hanging her posters on the faded yellow walls, and after she made friends at her new high school. Right now she just felt empty. She wanted so badly to be the kind of teenage girl who spends the whole length of the move arguing and haggling, forcing her parents to see how crazy it was moving to this freaky old house. Who cared if some strange relative they never met left her mom the house, it was her life too! And they couldn’t just take her away from all her friends like that.
But, she wasn’t that kind of teenager. She would be understanding and helpful, knowing that her parents spent almost four months debating about the move. She knew her mother was struggling to find work and her father’s job allowed him to work from anywhere, so he was open to the idea of a new “adventure” as he put it.
It still hurt, the day she had to say goodbye to her best friend Emily was the worst day of her life. Emily was the kind of teenager who would argue and haggle and put up a fight until everyone knew exactly how she felt, and Dawn loved that about her.
How could she not feel anything right now? She felt so much that day, anger, sadness, fear. Where did all those emotions go when her parents asked what she thought? It was as if someone else had taken over her body, making her nod her head and agree with everything they said. “It could be fun, living in such an old house.” Those words spilled out of her mouth before she even knew what she was saying!
Of course, it wouldn’t “be fun” to be the new girl in school, living in the big creepy old house on the block.
Here she was, her whole life stacked around her in cardboard boxes and she still felt nothing. Unzipping her purple and white striped suitcase, she began sifting through it for her flannel pajamas; Not only was this house old but the heater was an antique, and she was freezing.
Finally, finding them buried at the bottom, she changed and crawled into bed. The single desk lamp cast much of the room in a faint orange shadow. The only interesting thing about it was the fireplace and a large bay window. She would have to see if her dad would let her build a fire one night? Dawn tried desperately to look around the old faded room and see it as hers. To become interested in the people that used to live here and plan for all the nights she would spend sitting by the fire. She became focused on the fireplace, examining every curve every minute detail. A large wooden mantel surrounded the hearth with the most intricate carvings of flowers and garden paths. There were no repeating patterns, but one singular design seeming to tell a story. Dawn could just make out the figure of a young girl underneath all the ash and soot.
As the light flickered, Dawn could swear that the young girl had even glanced at her, urging her to come closer. But that was silly. It was simply the light casting shadows on the old wooden carving, nothing more.
A sudden knock on the door pulls her attention away from this miniature world, and Dawn turns to see her mother, still in her jeans and sweatshirt, peering in from the doorway.
“Hey there sweetheart, I thought you would be asleep by now.” coming into the room she sat at the edge of Dawn’s bed. “Is there anything on your mind? You have been awfully quiet today.”
Dawn still wasn’t sure how to explain what she was feeling, or in this case not feeling, to her parents, so she settled for a version of the truth. “Hmmm, Oh I was just looking at the fireplace.”
“The, fireplace? Okay, I’ll bite what is so fascinating about the fireplace?” She was sure Dawn was avoiding the question, but she went along with it.
“I’ve just never had one in my bedroom before, and the carving on the mantle is just so, so unique.” She shrugged, apparently, she wasn’t even able to describe why it captured her attention so much. She knew there was something familiar about it and also a bit hopeful, but her mom would think she had lost it if she told her that.
Standing, her mom crossed the room, looking at the carvings of different plants and animals, she nodded, “Well it is beautiful, there is a lot of detail her and hmmm, what is this?” She was looking at the figure of the young girl. “This bit could use some cleaning; it is almost impossible to make out any detail for all the ash and soot.”
“That was what I was looking at when you came in; I was trying to make out what it was.”
“Well, lets clean it up a bit then.” Whipping the small figure with the sleeve of her sweatshirt, Dawn’s mom cleared away the layers of black ash to reveal a smiling young girl, dancing down a stone path. “Dawn come here and look at this! she reminds me of you for some reason.”
Dawn came over and stood next to her mom, staring at the carving there was something very familiar about the young girl. It was in the way she smiled – looking genuinely happy to be here. So why couldn’t Dawn feel the same? She began to envy this little etching.
Reaching up she rubbed the final traces of ash from the girls face when the small figure shifted under her thumb followed by a loud ‘click.’ Pulling her hand back in surprise, Dawn and her mother jumped back as the wall to the left of the fireplace suddenly opened.
“What in the world..” Dawn’s mom walked over to the place where the wall used to be and began examining the dark space behind it. “Dawn grab me a flashlight! you will want to see this.”
“Okay, there was one in the box on the kitchen counter I think. I’ll be right back.” She bolted out of the room and down the back stairs that lead into the kitchen. Her heart was racing, how cool was it that they found a secret passage in HER bedroom. Her mind started to race with ideas and questions. Why was it there? Who used to sleep in her room? She suddenly became very curious about the former owners. The only thing she knew about them was they were distant relations of her mom, an aunt or possibly great aunt.
Turning the light on in the kitchen Dawn went to the box on the counter, it took her a moment before she found the flashlight.
“Dawn! were you able to find it?” Her mom yelled down from the top of the stairs.
“Yeah, I got it!” smiling for the first time in months she climbed the stairs two at a time, and almost knocked her dad over in the process when he stepped out into the hallway.
“Whoa! Slow down speed racer. What are you in such a hurry for? and what is all the commotion about?” He grabbed onto Dawn to keep her from falling backward. “Did you find a rat or something? I wouldn’t be surprised, in an old house like this. But never fear, Dad is here.”
Steadying herself on the landing Dawn had to take a moment to catch her breath, she was so excited about finding out what was behind the door.
“No rat, something way cooler!” she blurted out between breaths.
“Dawn is that your dad? Tell him to get his butt in here! I can’t believe this!”
To be Continued….
This is the first part of a short story I am working on. It started from a writing prompt, and I am so happy with how it is turning out. Check back for the next installment soon!