Wren blinked rapidly. Light peeked crookedly through a half-shuttered window. Something didn't seem right. She sat up and scanned her room: small, dimly lit and in slight disarray. That, at least, was normal. She ran a hand through her tussled black hair. The thick waves snatched her fingers immediately, and it took her a couple minutes to free the entangled hand and moderately smooth the aggressive locks. Then she heard the banging.

It sounded like shutters slamming, doors thudding and feet stomping, but all in just a few raucous bangs. Wren flung her blankets off and jumped to her feet but instantly regretted the impromptu decision. The cold floor stung her bare feet and the icy air pricked her skin. Ignoring her body's screams for the warmth and comfort of her bed, Wren shivered over to her closet and pulled a thick coat on over her trembling limbs. The coat was also cold from the wintry night and did little to fight the frosty air. She quickly stepped into a pair of insulated boots and made her way to the door.

The brassy knob was icy on her palm as she turned it and stepped into the narrow hallway. The hallway seemed colder, and Wren shuddered in her coat. The walls were framed with paintings of places Wren had never been but felt like she knew after seeing them every day for nineteen years. Ornate tables of varying types of wood lined the walls and held objects that Wren knew nothing about. About the only thing all of the different objects had in common was their origin. Well, the only origin Wren knew of. Her father had brought all of them home from his work over the years. He claimed they were gifts, but Wren's mother just called them junky baubles that clogged up the house.

When she made it to the end of the hallway, Wren's cold tremors had subsided substantially. She pushed the door to the kitchen open lightly and peered in cautiously. The smell of bacon and eggs assailed her icy nose and waves of heat lapped against her chilled face. Her mother was standing in front of the stove, bending slightly to peer at the contents of the skillet. Her reddish hair fell loosely over one shoulder as she stirred and scraped the pan. Fluidly, her pale hand reached up and brushed the thin strands behind her ear.

Therese was exceedingly tall for a woman, about a head taller than her husband. She was also slender with long legs and arms. Wren had always seen her mother as a tree; not just physically, but her mannerisms as well. Therese was a nurturer. She was always right where she needed, and never hard to find. She seemed perpetually light-hearted and level-headed. Wren couldn't think of a time when she didn't rely on Therese and didn't want to think of a time when she wouldn't.

Wren walked into the room and made her way over to the fire. She was still slightly chilled. The pale morning sun was visible through the kitchen window. It had snowed during the night, and the ground glistened in the growing light. There were no cheery bird songs to awaken to this morning. "All the birds must have flown south by now," Wren mused aloud.

Therese jumped with a start and dropped the spatula. Her head snapped over to where Wren was sitting, her eyes wild. "Mom?" Wren questioned, getting up slowly and moving toward the kitchen. Therese shook her head slightly and bent down to pick up the utensil from the floor. Wren crouched down beside her mother on the floor. "Mom, what's wrong?"

Therese dropped her gaze to the floor and put her fingers on her temples. She stayed motionless for a couple of moments, and then she turned to Wren abruptly. "Wren, I-" she started, but was quickly interrupted by the loud banging that had woken Wren earlier.

"What is that?" Wren asked, slightly distracted. Her mother grabbed the spatula, stood up and made her way to the sink, her back to Wren.

"Oh, nothing. It's just your father," Therese responded nonchalantly. Wren rose to her feet and moved over to her mother's side as she scrubbed the dirty spatula.

"What is he doing banging around so early?" Wren pressed as she reached for a clean rag to wipe the spill off the floor.

"Wren," her mother breathed irritably, snatching the rag from her hand, "why don't you go sit by the fire and wait for breakfast before you catch a chill?" Wren wrinkled her brow and looked at her mother, but Therese didn't take her eyes off the spatula. Finally, Wren trudged away defeated and took up a space by the fire.

Wren opened her eyes slowly. The fire was all smoldering embers now, but she was sweating. She propped herself up on her elbows and peered around the empty room. The sink was filled with dirty dishes, and the skillet was left on the stove top. Wren stood up, stripped off her thick coat and walked over to the table. There was a plate left untouched.

"Mom?" she called apprehensively. Her mother had probably gone into town. It was likely her father was still in his study. And where else would her brother and sister be but outside playing? For some inexplicable reason, these thoughts did not give her any comfort.


Wren walked over to the door and was nearly sent sprawling by the force exerted on the other side of it. The door screamed on its hinges as it hit the wall behind it. Wren clutched her face in her hands as everything around her started spinning. She felt something warm ooze across the left side of her face. "Wren!" a woman shrieked.

She felt cold hands prying her own away from her face. Their cold tips stung as they prodded her sensitive face. She was having problems opening her left eye. "Wren, Wren, Wren...I should never have..." the feminine voice broke off into sobs. Wren felt thin arms wrap around her and lift her lightly off the ground. It felt like an eternity before she was set down, but now she was on something soft and warm. She welcomed this change by laying her head back and embracing unconsciousness.

"She's been out for a long time. You don't think she has a concussion, do you?"

"No, of course not. She'll be fine."

"You didn't see how hard I hit her. I didn't mean to. I didn't think she would be standing right behind the door!"

"She'll be fine."

"I hope you're right about this."

Wren snapped awake. It felt like someone had smashed a frying pan on her head a couple of times. She let her fingers trace the damage done to the left side of her face. Her eye was swollen almost completely shut, and there was a deep gash on her cheek. "Ouch!" she yelped as her finger hit a tender spot.

"Wren?" the feminine voice she now recognized as her mother called. "Oh, Wren!" Her mother grabbed Wren's hands and held them. "I'm so sorry, I was just in a hurry."

"Mom, it's fine. It was an accident." Wren shut her eyes. The light was hurting her head.

"Do you want something to eat? I see you didn't eat breakfast." Wren wished she could shut her ears. Even her mother's soft voice was excruciating.

"Sure, mom." Therese quickly hurried into the kitchen and returned shortly with a tray of food. Wren didn't realize how hungry she was until she was almost done with two sandwiches. "So where are dad and the kids? They decided to abandon me after I've been mortally wounded?" Wren laughed at her own joke. Therese squirmed uncomfortably and looked away.

"Oh, he took them into town today," she answered stiffly. "How are you feeling?"

"Well, my head is pounding, but other than that, I think I'm fine."

"Are you sure?"

"Um, I think so."

"And you can still see?"


"You can still breathe properly?"

"Yes, mom, yes! I think I just need to sleep it off."

"That's probably for the best. I'll let you get some rest." Therese lifted herself reluctantly from her daughter's side and disappeared into the hallway. Wren was asleep before she had left the room.

Wren opened her eyes lazily. Her vision was hazy, and her mouth was dry. Wren weighed her options. She could either sit and wait for someone to bring her a glass of water, or she could endure moving into a standing position and get it herself. After a couple minutes of deliberation, she decided to test the waters by sitting up.

The effort itself was daunting. She hadn't realized how lethargic her body was after sleeping all those hours. It was night now, and everything was dark except for a few embers in the fireplace. Her head was pounding regularly as she sat staring into the darkness.

With a moment's resolve, she pushed herself to her feet. Her head swam madly, and she thought she was going to lose her footing, but after a few seconds, she regained her equilibrium and managed to stay upright. She wobbled slowly into the kitchen, using familiar furniture to guide her. She reached the edge of the table and traced her hand along its surface when she felt a scrap of paper flutter to the floor.

Carefully, she lowered into a crouch and patted the floor in an attempt to locate the missing paper. Soon enough, she found it, but she couldn't make out the words in the dark

Rising to her feet again, she walked back over to the fireplace. There was just enough light that she might be able to see what was written on the paper scrap. The paper was thick and rough in her hands, and she instantly recognized it as the paper from her father's study. As a child, she had never been allowed to play with her father's special paper that he used for work.

Wren knelt by the fire and held the scrap as close to the embers as she could without burning herself or the paper. Her eyes soon began to adjust to the light, and she could make out the words on the paper. There were just two words neatly scrawled in her father's distinct pen: Goodbye Wren.