It was dark. But there was light. I squinted at the tiniest beam of illumination, mesmerized and focused. I walked forward, towards it, expecting it to grow bigger and bigger as I came closer. But it didn't. It was still small, and it wasn't moving. It was just simple, white and bright. I stood still not able to tear my eyes away from the glow for everything around me was just darkness, and I was afraid I would never find the light again. It must have just been 10 minutes or even an hour, but it happened. As I stood there, in the room of shadows, I blinked once, and it was gone.
I woke up blinking. Once, twice, then repeatedly. Sitting up from my bed, I peered into dim light. Suddenly, I was scared again; terrified that I was still in that dark place. But I spotted it. Light. And it seeped through my closed window curtains. I got up, and pushed the curtains away revealing the early morning sunrise, and the front yard of my house. I was instantly relieved. It was just a dream. As I went downstairs, the scent of waffles and syrup wafted in the air. I breathed in, and smiled contentedly. It was mornings like these I wished would last forever. I grew up with this smell, and I hoped it would keep continuing.
"Morning," I greeted as I sauntered into the kitchen. My mother turned around and smiled at me.
"Good morning, sweetheart," she replied and turned back around to the pan of eggs she was cooking.
It was a routine. An everyday thing. I always woke up early, no later than nine. I probably got my early-bird trait from my mother, seeing that she wakes up even earlier than me, and still manages to cook breakfast.
I loathed change. I try to have the least amount of change each year in my life. I kept things in order, where they need to be. I kept my social relationships mutual, the friends I'd met in elementary still being the only friends I have up to now. I also never changed my view, my opinion, and my perspective. In other words, I was stubborn. I would probably be the best in the debate club if only I learned how to speak up louder. Some people hated me for that characteristic. Once they saw I wasnt as open-minded as an average person, they would sneer, leave, and ignore me.
My mother and I have lived in the same house since my father died. Fifteen years to be exact. After that, we moved; far, far away, to the other side of the country. From New Jersey to rain-prone Oregon, we had to start getting used to the rainy weather. From then on, after moving in to an acceptable two-story, three-bedroom house, we kept things in order. From literary works, to the spices in the kitchen, we were obsessed with cleanliness and tidiness.
Schoolwork was no different. I was a good student; As and Bs most of the time, and of course the occasional Cs. Even Ds from my worst subject, Math. But I was good, never late, and never absent, unless there was a good have enough excused rather than a quick curable cold. I was no teacher's pet, nor a rebel. I was just an average scholar, aiming to be accepted in a great university.
This no-change thing, I didn't want to think of it as a disorder, if it was. I knew it also meant missing opportunities. When one door opens, I close it myself. It would affect my everyday custom, and I didn't want that.
My mom is the same way. Though she's more outgoing and sociable than I am, she liked having a schedule, a To-Do List. I didn't write up lists, since they're already mentally engraved in my brain. I didn't take risks either. I liked it like that.
"There you go," mom set my plate of waffles and eggs on the table.
"Thank you," I smiled, and started on eating.
We ate in silence. An enjoyable and content silence rather. Like always. It was nice. Quiet. Pleasant. As I brought my fork up to my mouth to suck off remaining syrup, the stillness of the lovely morning was interrupted. The doorbell rang; a loud buzz then a ding sound disturbed our ears. My mom stood up, and headed out towards the front door. I looked out at the window which was directly in front of the kitchen table covered with light tan curtains. Leaning over, I pushed the curtains aside slightly enough to just peek over at whomever was to visit us at such an early hour.
I couldn't see the person, but their car was parked out near our yard fence. It was one of those old-fashioned sorts of cars. It was a vintage Mustang, I supposed; tainted a lighter blue though some paint was fading off completing its classic touch. I pondered for a few moments until I heard some voices from the front door. I leaned back from the window, and tried to listen, but it was undecipherable. The stranger's voice I realized to be a man's. I waited patiently until my mom came back. I finished up my food, and washed it in the sink then sat back down on the chair.
They were still talking from what I could hear, but it was hushed. Secretive. What were they talking about? Did my mom know this man? And why was she not letting him in to get introduced? I shook my head refusing to over-think. It was a continuous problem of mine, analyzing everything. Every bit of information entered into my mind, I scrutinized with keen curiosity and vigor. Sometimes I would get in over my head, and tend to realize how I disliked the result of it. So I tried to stop. But of course, it was me, and I had no other choice but to accept this trait.
Wrapped up in my own thoughts, I almost didn't notice the front door shut close, and the rumbling start of the Mustang's engine. I sat up, keeping my eyes on my mother as she returned back to the kitchen. She didn't meet my look as she sat down on her chair, and continued on with her breakfast as if nothing had happened. Her expression was passive yet alert, and I couldn't help but wonder what kind of scene caused her in this apprehension.
I opened my mouth to speak, "Mom."
She looked up surprised I was still there, but when she didn't say anything I went on,
"Who was that at the door?"
It was a moment before she replied, chewing her food slowly and thoughtfully. But still I waited, getting more and more inquisitive by the second.
"He was no one you should be concerned about," she finally answered.
If she really thought I would believe that, she was wrong. Twice, actually, have I heard them mention my own name during their cautious conversation, and I thought I had every right to probe on.
"Do you know him?" I questioned.
"Very vaguely. An acquaintance."
"Why didn't you introduce me to him?"
"I've told you, he's not of your concern. Or mine for the matter."
"What did you talk about?"
"Madelyn, please. No more questions," Mom looked up at me with a stern look, and stood up with her dish.
I frowned realizing that I could obtain no more information. I stood up, and started out the kitchen when I stopped, and said, "Is he coming back again?"
Silence. I took another step forward thinking I wouldn't get an answer until,
"Maybe. I dont know. Most likely not."
I nodded though she couldn't see me, but accepted the answer nonetheless, and headed upstairs to shower, and get dressed for the day.
As I walked out of the house, refreshed, and a book in one hand, I started down my usual path. I wouldn't say that I lived out in the country, or the suburbs. But the houses were pretty much a distant far apart not like in the city. My neighborhood was quiet, surrounded by trees, casting a shadow on the street. It was currently a summer afternoon, unusually sunny for a regularly wet place.
I was headed for the park nearby our neighborhood. It wasn't like any other park with clean cut green grass, a playground, and a picnic area. For one, the lot was big, bigger than an average park. It also had lots of trees. Not palm trees, but pine trees, willow trees, and quite a variety of wildflowers. There were two main trails: Ridge Trail and Clear Lake Trail. Personally, I would always go to the Lake Trail, though I don't see how one would want to walk a path where the lake view was unseen, but that was just my opinion.
One would probably call this park a typical wood. A forest even, perhaps. But for me, it was my humble retreat. My second abode. I spent more time there than in my own home. And if you walked a couple of miles opposite of the lake into a new path called the Wildflower Path, you would end up in a lovely small cottage surrounded by beautiful rose gardens. The most amazing thing about it was that the quaint little house was a library. I visit there almost every time I go for my walk that the owner of the library, an elderly couple who lived at a house nearby it, knew me so well that every week, the lady would stack up several books of recommendation by her. Just for me, since she knew my taste and interests very favorably.
I walked along the sidewalk, the vine covered fence entrance to the park coming into view. I entered through it, and instantly I was taken into another place, another world. I breathed in the smell of fresh leaves and ferns. I heard the birds chirping above me, and this one moment I thanked God for a place like this. A few minutes into the familiar enchanting land, I reached the two post signs that read off each trail. I instinctively pursued into the lake track, but couldn't help but pause first as I looked at the Ridge Trail sign, and the path that led beyond it.
But I shook my head, determined and refusing to break my habit, my custom. So I walked my way through Lake Trail, my feet automatically pacing at the right turns, hiking at small hills. I was eager to see what Mrs. Callaghan had picked out for me this morning. Last week, it was a part of a mystery collection, and when I'd gotten home to read the first book, indeed she had succeeded in knowing my choosy taste.
I'd walked at least half a mile when I heard the ducks quacking, and reeds ruffling in the water. I had reached the lake, and seeing it, like many times before, gave me a rushing feeling of peace and serenity. No one could disturb me at this moment. No one.
The lake was as usual, breathtaking. Not as magnificent as the ocean, of course, but wonderful nonetheless. It helped that it was natural, not man-made, and that it was a perfect size to fit into the whole lot of the park. Like most lakes, the water was dark, mysterious, and gave an unknowing atmosphere to people. And right smack dab in the middle was a small piece of land. The island was home to the ducks that waded across the water surface. It was a little hill full of trees, reeds, and...who knows what else is hiding in the shadows since Ive never been there before. Not that we were actually allowed to but whatever.
I spotted a few dragonflies zipping through the reeds in the lake, and a family of ducks sitting on the grass contentedly. They started to quack in alarm as I neared them, but seeing when I walked past without any harm, they quieted down, and went back to their satisfied gathering.
It was too soon when I perceived the Wildflower Path sign that led to the garden library. I routinely followed the trail leading deep into the woods before it broke out into a glorious location filled with sunlight. The rose gardens were everywhere, lined up and organized on each side of the path. A brilliant array of colors welcomed me to enter the sunshine haven, numerous patches of wildflowers here and there. I started walking down looking everywhere as I did whenever I came here. Butterflies fluttered around me, soaking up and enjoying their time here while it was still day, like me, as much as they could.
The ground beneath me changed from a dirt covered trail into a cobblestone path. I followed my feet as it led me around the flower-filled and bright area. Soon, there appeared more trees for shade, and my eyes were ready and anticipating the sight of the cottage. And there it was, in all its wonder and beauty. It was almost like any other cottage, small and cozy, yet mystifying and hidden, each one having its own charm. The walls were made up of stone and wood, and the roof covered in straw. It was colored a light kind of blue with clean white shingles. Bougainvillea flowers crept up along the sides of the walls.
It was like something out of a Thomas Kinkade painting. But it was here, real and nestled in the heart of the woods.
I walked to the large wooden door, and slowly opened it as if by taking on a quicker pace, it would disappear suddenly. The sound of the little tinkle of bells announcing my presence brought a shuffling noise and nearing footsteps. I caressed the book in my hands, and started to the desk.
The setting was the same, though there was no reason it should be changed. The delicious aroma of maple and redwood was pleasant, and I could smell a hint of cinnamon and apple somewhere. The furniture and decor gave an air of comfort and elegance at the same time. I was past the entering hallway and soon enough, I was surrounded by shelves upon shelves of books. Fiction here, biographies there. Fantasy over here, mysteries over there. The room I was in was the circular part of the cottage, and above me was a homely type of chandelier that would illuminate the room in yellow night when evening came.
I was walking toward a bookshelf, running my fingers over the various bound covers, when I heard the footsteps stop right behind me.
"It's wonderful to see you again Miss Locklear," said a familiar voice.
I turned and smiled. "Mr. Callaghan, hello," I greeted.
He looked his usual pleasing self; a friendly grin and a merry expression always. His gray hair, I noticed, was thinning out more, but his light brown eyes always twinkled.
He spotted the book held in my hands and gestured toward the desk behind a shelf.
"Lynette has got your books ready to be checked out. You can check that one in now too."
"Okay," I followed him out the circular room and entered another hallway leading to the front desk.
Mrs. Callaghan had her back turned to us, shuffling through a bookshelf appearing to look for something. She was mumbling to herself, a usual thing for her, and I waited until she turned to see us.
"Where...where did I put it? It was over here, no, I think I put it there..." she was muttering, and moved to the next shelf before calling out, "Marshall? Have you seen-Oh!" She looked shocked upon seeing us just standing there when she turned. "You could have at least said something! My, you scared me for a moment. Hello Madelyn."
I gave a small wave and said, "Hi Mrs. Callaghan."
"Jesus, Lynette, sometimes you overreact to the smallest things," said Mr. Callaghan as he stepped forward to her. He had a joking smile which she returned.
They were so in love, the thought suddenly came into my mind. After all these years, how did they manage to stay together? Well, I guess being around all this nature helps magically. I'd always admired their affectionate relationship. An elder couple already, yet so inseparable and youthful. I wished my father had been alive a little while longer. Then I'd be able to really appreciate the loving bond between him and my mom wholly.
"Madelyn, sweetheart, I see you've got that mystery novel ready to return," said Mrs. Callaghan.
I held it up and set it on the desk. "Yeah, I loved it. Agatha Christie really has the talent," I commented. "Plus, I got to learn a little bit of French."
She chuckled lightly, "That's great! I've always wanted to learn another language. French, especially. It's always been an interesting verbal to me."
She checked in uMurder on the Orient Express/u and set it aside. Then she reached down under the table and pulled out two aged hardbound books. The covers were plain, one brown and the other black. But the titles were typed in clearly:
Macbeth, William Shakespeare.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
As I read these two headings, a smile crept slowly into my lips. I looked up at Mrs. Callaghan, and once she saw my satisfied grin, she held up a finger to indicate that I should stay put, and she walked away to a shelf located under the fiction label.
I waited patiently and of course, curiously, to what else she had in store. Mr. Callaghan was looking at me thoughtfully, his arms folded casually and the eyes behind the glasses still glowing back at my own.
"There you are," I heard Mrs. Callaghan say quietly and grasped a book from a high shelf. She looked down at the light colored cover, and nodded satisfactorily.
I got the book as she handed it to me, and instinctively spied the title.
Pride and Prejudice
"Pride and..." I began.
"I know it's one of your favorites, hunny," said Mrs. Callaghan, her eyes smiling, and a happy grin sketched upon her face. "You haven't checked it out in a while. This is probably what, the third time of reading?"
"Fourth," I corrected, and smiled.
She nodded, and walked around back to the desk and checked out the three books that would soon be the satisfiers for the next three weeks for me.
I got them and began to exit the library, "Thanks Mrs. Callaghan, again. Goodbye, to you both." I held up a hand to give a small wave as the couple stood beside each other watching me happily until I disappeared out of their view.
I exited the cottage after getting a last whiff of pine and paper, and started down the path back home. I felt like whistling a content tune, if only I could whistle. So instead, I hummed, making up a melody. I sounded and probably looked so cheerful and blissful to another, but I was okay with that. Let people see this person, this exterior. Madelyn, the happy-go-lucky one, always finding the smallest things in life joyous. I had no problem with that either, I do find the smallest things in life to be happy about. Take this whole enchanting place for instance. Anyone who is anyone should be enhanced, mesmerized, and full of thoughts and desires, and even nothing at all. A blank mind. A feeling of bliss. It all surged through me.
I almost felt like skipping as I thought this. If you think happily, then you will be happy. Be an optimist. Be cheerful, be lovely, be--
"Oof!" a whoosh of breath escaped my lungs, and I fell backward abruptly, the books falling out of my hands. Fortunately, I caught myself before crashing on the ground. Brushing the hair from my face, I looked up at the stranger I'd bumped into.
He looked completely dazed and shaken as I was, but then he opened his eyes and I stared.
Ocean. Sea. Sky. Blue. His eyes were beautiful.
I gazed upon the stunning azure eyes, not able to look away. He was also staring back at me, saying nothing, his expression unreadable.
It was a few moments before he snapped out of it, closing his eyes and shook his head.
"I-I'm so sorry, miss," he apologized, and his gaze fell upon the books lying scattered on the dirty trail. He bent suddenly and picked them up handing them to me.
I looked at the books, forgetting I had had them. What has happened to me? Is my memory okay? Did I fall back after all?
"Miss?" he asked, brows furrowed.
"Yes, yes, sorry. Thank you," I got the books and brushed off the dirt on them.
"I see you're very fond of classics," he said, eyeing the covers.
Look up, I wanted to tell him.
He obeyed as if reading my mind and looked up when I didn't answer for a few seconds.
The eyes, blue, so blue. I felt my heart skip a beat.
"Yes," I replied, slightly out of breath, "Yes, I just borrowed them from the library nearby."
He raised his eyebrows. "A library? Around here?" He asked and looked around at the green environment.
I nodded. "I haven't seen you around here before. Is it your first time here, then?"
"Yeah," he responded.
We stood awkwardly and silently, and I took the chance to study his appearance more carefully. A mature oval face, yet there were still traces of youth in him. His nose was prominent, and the dark brown hair was half messed and half combed with bangs that weren't grown out long enough yet. He was dressed casually; dark wash jeans, and a dressier shirt.
When I fixed my eyes back on his, I could tell he was also inspecting me. I shifted uncomfortably.
Then something seemed to snap in his mind when he hastily glanced down at his watch.
"I need to get going," he murmured to himself. "Goodbye, miss. I'm so sorry again," was his parting and I watched as he disappeared around the trail and out of my sight.