There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.

-Charles Dickens

1: A very unhappy girl.

Leah was a very unhappy girl. She sat in the front row of rock concerts, private boxes at football games, and had her own private tutor. She lived in a house with twenty-seven bedrooms, and nine bathrooms. There was an entire floor of the house which had been turned into an "enchanted forest" for her when she was seven, and thought that kind of thing was still cool. In short, Leah could have whatever she wanted, but still she was unhappy. Why was she unhappy? A wise question to ask, given the circumstances, and a difficult one to answer entirely. But I suppose the best possible answer I could give you is this: Leah was lonely. You see, these times when she was in the front row, or in a private box, or in her enchanted forest...she was alone. Sometimes her nanny, Patrice would be with her, but usually Patrice had other things to take care of now that Leah was really too old to have a nanny. Patrice was still around at Leah's request, because she loved Patrice more than anyone else in the world. Her father granted Leah's request, because of course he did.

Leah's father was a very famous man. He was in a rock band, and toured the world. Most people think that children of celebrities are spoiled and self-centered, and most people are right...if you think in terms of generalities. But Leah wasn't like this. She wasn't an ungrateful child who took her life for granted. That's what made her so sad. She didn't feel like she had a right to be sad. Look at all that she had. What right did she have to be sad? How many children around the world wished their father was a famous rock singer so that they could have their own enchanted forest and nine bathrooms to choose from? So Leah bore her sadness as best she could. Complaining about it didn't seem to be an option, at least not to her. She found solace in her books, and (although she wouldn't like to admit it to a friend if she had one) her enchanted forest. She knew that it was fake. She was fourteen years old and she wasn't stupid, but she liked it in there. It was peaceful and since it wasn't a real forest, there was plenty of light to read by. She liked stories that were far away best. She had been to London, and she had been to Prague, but not the real ones. The real London was in her books where orphan children made it out okay and became happy millionaires, not the sweaty, busy city her father had played in. And who is to say that her version of London is any less valid? I certainly wouldn't. She was in the forest, reading one of these stories when Patrice came to her.

–Leah, dear are you in here? she asked, brushing her way through the fake vines and creepers.

–Back here, Patrice, by the hollowed out log.

They each knew their way around the enchanted forest extremely well by this time and it was not long before Patrice was sitting down next to Leah.

–I think it ought to be bedtime, Leah. She said. –Find yourself a reading break and come and get ready. I'll have some tea for you.

Leah didn't argue. She flipped through a few pages until she saw where she would be able to stop. Patrice shuffled away to the kitchen to set on the kettle, but before she was out of sight, Leah called to her.


–Yes dear? she said, holding back some vines with her hands, looking back at the girl she had raised.

–Is mom coming back tomorrow? She said she would be.

Patrice needed not answer. The answer was written all over her face and Leah could see that plainly enough. She wouldn't be coming home.

–I'll check and see. Now finish your reading. I expect to see you in your bedroom soon. It's after midnight.

Leah's mother was a painter...or a sculptress...or a literary critic. She wasn't sure what it was most recently. If anything could be said to be definite about Leah's mother, it would be that she was passionate. She was passionate about a great many things, and she was always trying new ones on for size. At the moment we're currently in with Leah and Patrice in the enchanted forest, her mother is in Bali, learning the art of tai chi. You didn't read that wrong. It doesn't seem like a very logical place to learn tai chi to me either. Sadly, it seemed that the only thing Leah's mother wasn't passionate about was her child.

Leah put her bookmark in her book and made her way to her bedroom, stopping first at bathroom number seven, which was her favorite. It was just outside the entrance to the enchanted forest, and it was forest themed as well. The shower curtain was vines, and the sink-bowl was a very large upturned beetle. A lot of children would have found this vulgar, but Leah didn't. She thought it to be the most wonderful sink in the world, or at the very least the most wonderful sink she had ever heard of. She padded down the hallway to her bedroom, and on cue, Roger, their Australian Shepherd followed her to her room. Roger was technically her father's dog. He had gotten him in college and was nearly as old as Leah. Roger had taken a great liking to Leah, and it doesn't take a great genius to see why. Dogs are very simple. Leah was around the house the most and therefore was able to pay the most attention to Roger, and being a sweet girl, she did just that. He usually slept at the foot of Leah's bed (to Patrice's great annoyance) and this night would be the same as any other (at least in that regard).

–Must he? Patrice said, taking Leah's teacup and tray from her and motioning towards the great, shaggy shepherd.

–You should go easier on Roger, Patrice. He's one of us. He's a dweller of the house.

Leah had taken to calling herself, Patrice, and the other house staff as "dwellers of the house" because it sounded like something she had read in one of her books, and they rarely left the house anyway.

–Well he's okay as far as dogs go, I suppose. Patrice patted Roger on the head and he panted gratefully. –Can I do anything else for you before bed?

–You'll call my mother in the morning?

–Of course I will. I'll let you know the moment I find anything out.

–Alright. Goodnight, Patrice.

–Goodnight, Leah.

Leah lay awake in her bed as she usually did, and wondered what she would do the next day. This kind of forethought is unusual in children, but not so much in children that do the same thing on a daily basis. She always wondered if she would do anything other than read her books in the enchanted forest. Maybe she'd ask Patrice to take her to the park and they could feed the geese. She liked feeding the geese. Other people said the geese were mean, but Leah envied them. They were so easily pleased. Why couldn't she be as happy as the geese with a small piece of bread? The geese waddled to her scraps of bread like their life depended on it. Leah had never had any experience like that. She could not think of a single moment of her life where her life had depended on anything. Maybe that's the key to happiness, she have your life depend on such a small thing.

And that's when it happened.