The Boy At The Window

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
The story of a girl and her imaginary friend

Submitted: November 25, 2007

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Submitted: November 25, 2007

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I drove slowly up the driveway towards the house. It was a big house, old, the type of building that some people would say had character. Its once white walls had gone a sort of mouldy yellow over the years and it shone dimly in the fluorescent moonlight. I ran my eyes along it as I drew even closer, long black beams of wood criss-crossed over the walls hidden by shabby trees and parasite like vines which clawed hungrily at its luminous surface. A very old house, one with a strange feeling about it.
I got out of my car and walked up to the door. The doorbell was broken so I knocked hard, once, twice. The door opened and I was greatly warmly by a friendly face and an out stretched hand:
‘Dan old chap, I daresay you might even be early for once. Oh no don’t worry, you must come in, you’ll catch a cold. Come in come in, Elaine’s just preparing the food in the kitchen.’
I smiled, ‘It’s good to see you John. It’s been far too long.’
The man detached his hand from my grasp and placed it firmly on my shoulder, ‘Yes, yes, too long, too long! Oh but you must see Megan, she’s grown ever so much. Megan! Megan!’
We both turned to look up the staircase but there were no replies from the vacant walls. We waited there a moment, in silence, then my host turned to me and spoke again:
‘Ah she must be playing with her dollies or something, she gets so absorbed when she does that - such a sweet little girl.’
I looked at him for a second, adoration beaming from his bushy face, then I turned and looked back up the stairwell, towards the empty halls that lead to rooms unknown.
‘Perhaps I should go up and see her,’ I suggested.
John’s smile seemed to grow even further, ‘Marvellous idea old chap,’ he told me, ‘I’ll be down in the pantry reading the paper, it’s third door on the left just across from the bathroom.’
I nodded, turned away, walked towards the stairs and began to climb them one by one. I seemed to grow more distant with every footstep, the noises below sounded like a world far far away. John and his wife’s conversation sounded like a T.V. left on whilst sleeping, you can just hear the voices in the dream but you have no real idea of what they are saying.
There was a long corridor at the top of the stairs, poorly lit with an eerie gloom. Every meter or so there was a door, heavy and forbearing, with a single brass knob that seemed to glow silently in the thick dark air. It made the corridor look like a runway, lights up either side guiding the way down. I counted the doors as I walked up the corridor, third on the left just across from the bathroom.
I put my head to the door to hear if anyone was inside. I heard voices, indistinct, the giggles of a child as she played with a friend.
I opened the door and revealed the girl, Megan, no older than four or five. She sat with her back to me facing the wall, playing quite contently, I could see the shadow of excessive dolls hair emerge from her hands.
‘Oh,’ I said as I looked around the room, ‘I thought you were in here with someone else.’
She turned around quite suddenly and smiled at me broadly, ‘I was in here with someone else Uncle Dan,’ she said.
I laughed, wondering what childish game she was playing now, ‘And who would that be?’ I asked her.
‘Tom,’ she said quite simply, ‘I was playing with Tom but he went when you came in.’
‘Oh? And why would he go when I came in?’
‘He says he’s scared of other people, I think he’s shy… Do you want to come and play dollies with me Uncle Dan?’
‘I’d love too.’
I moved along the floor and sat down beside the girl. She had definitely grown a lot since I last saw her, even if it wasn’t that long ago. She starred at me with affectionate eyes and I felt the warmness of her character calm my mood.
‘Here,’ she said thrusting a doll at me from the floor, ‘You can have this one, it’s the one Tom was playing with before he left.’
I smiled, ‘O.K. Megan.’
We sat there for a while, I asked her questions about her life and how she was getting on, and she replied politely, but impartially, as if she didn’t care if we sat there in silence or whether I was there at all.
‘So you like school?’ I asked her.
She paused, shrugged, ‘It’s O.K.’ She seemed to take a moment to contemplate whether what she had said was an adequate answer then went back to her playing, ‘It would be nice if Tom came sometimes though.’
‘Tom?’
‘You know, Tom, the boy I was playing with before you came in.’
‘Oh yes, Tom - of course.’ I paused for a second, considering the child, she had her head down and was putting a hand bag on the arm of her doll, ‘Why would you want Tom to go with you?’
‘I dunno. He’s really funny. And he says he gets lonely here without me sometimes.’
‘Oh…’ I began to grow more curious of this childish fascination, ‘How long have you known Tom Megan?’
‘Errrr, as long as I can remember, he’s really kind. Sometimes when I’m sad he gives me presents and if I’m crying he gets me toys.’
‘He sounds really nice.’
‘He is. - But he’s got weird eyes, they don’t really have a colour. It’s like they never decided what colour to be.’ She paused, then looked up at me for a second, ‘Would you like to meet him sometime Uncle Dan?’
I smiled, ‘I’d like that very much.’
She nodded and continued with her playing. I heard footsteps along the corridor and the door swung open, ‘Dan old chap, the food’s just about done.’
I thanked my host and got up, said goodbye to the child and began to walk towards the stairs. I heard John speaking to Megan as I walked away; ‘Daddy and Uncle Dan are just gonna have some dinner princess, you be a good girl and just play up here ‘till we’re done.’
I sat down at the table where I was greeted by his wife. I was offered a drink and she unscrewed a bottle of wine. I told her I couldn’t drink too much because I was driving but she tossed her hand and told me it was nonsense, ‘If it comes to it you can stay the night,’ she said.
The food was good and John and Elaine were certainly good company. We spoke about the good times in the past and what we planned to do in the future as well as what was happening at present. I missed their friendship while I sat there, I wished we could all have been together again like we used to be.
The conversation twisted and turned throughout the meal, we spoke about the quality of the wine and sincerity of the weather and eventually we came to Megan.
‘She’s such a lovely girl,’ I told them, ‘Really. You guys must be so proud.’
John and Elaine smiled at each other and tightened their lock on one another’s hands, ‘We are,’ John said, ‘She’s something special that kid isn’t she.’
‘And she plays so quietly,’ I continued, ‘Such a well behaved child.’
‘Ah well you have her mother to thank for that,’ John answered, ‘You can’t over rate the firm hand of a loving mother.’
‘Still though,’ Elaine said, butting in, ‘I kinda wish we didn’t live somewhere so isolated sometimes, for her of course.’
‘And why’s that?’ I asked her.
‘Well, just she must get so lonely up there all the time by herself. And she never brings anyone home from school… I dunno. I guess it would just be nice if she got some friends to play with.’
I smiled at the couple above my glass of wine, ‘Maybe you should have had another one then, eh? Spent the cash and bought the car with four seats instead of going for the cushy triple seater. Bet you wished she was a twin now, eh? You’d have a little boy an’ all.’
She glared at me then, the sharpest stare I have ever been subject to, so intense it brought tears to my eyes and even more to hers. Then her husband detached his hand from hers and looked at me slowly over the table, he seemed to bite his tongue searching for the words to say;
‘Megan was a twin Dan. Her brother passed away in labour.’
I felt my pupils pull apart inside my sockets, I felt so much pain for this family I loved so much and I felt so stupid for putting myself into such an awkward position, ‘I’m so sorry,’ I told them, ‘I had no idea.’
John nodded, accepted my apology, ‘There’s no reason why you would have, we don’t talk about it much.’ He turned back to his wife and stroked her arm, tried to condole her.
She looked at me, still, unblinking, then opened her mouth, ‘Never learnt how to breathe,’ she told me, ‘Died before he even had a chance to open his eyes. We never even knew what colour his eyes would be.’
‘Does Megan know?’
‘No! No… We could never bring ourselves to tell her. And she’s so young, she wouldn’t understand, it would just upset her. But I suppose someday soon we’ll have to break the news…’
‘I’m so sorry, really, I’m so so sorry.’
‘It’s O.K. Dan, you weren’t to know.’
There was a silence, a very uneasy silence where no one spoke, nor for that matter moved, and the only sound in the house was the ticking of a clock somewhere in the background. Then I broke it, spontaneously, didn’t even think about what I was doing:
‘Elaine,’ I said to her, suddenly demanding her attention, ‘This may seem really random but I need to know. What did you call him, your son, what was his name?’
She starred at me for a second, from that long way across the table and that very different world which she had suddenly been thrown into. I could feel her very person reach out to me through her eyes and beg me to help her, plead for the hurting to stop. A tear spilled and ran clumsily down her cheek.
‘Tom,’ she told me, ‘His name was Tom.’
 
*
 
The rest of the meal passed uneasily and although there was only one course left it seemed to take three times as long as the first two. I decided to go straight after dinner, although I had drunk too much I resented the idea of having to stay. John and Elaine said this was silly and that I could stay if I wanted too, but I knew deep down they were glad I was leaving and wanted to be alone with their pain.
I bumped into Megan as I went towards the door, John had brought her down so that she could say goodbye. ‘I’m going now Megan,’ I told her, ‘Take care of yourself yeah? I’ll speak to you soon.’
‘Bye bye Uncle Dan.’
I bent down so she could kiss me and I heard her whisper in my ear, ‘I tried to get Tom to come down but he was too scared. Maybe you can meet him another time.’
I rose to my feet and looked down at the smiling child below me. ‘O.K. Megan,’ I told her, ‘Another time.’
I walked out of the door and got into my car. Put the key in the ignition and slammed into gear. Pulled away from the house towards the world outside, the sky had gone cloudy overhead and long arm like branches cast menacing shadows along the horizon. I looked back in the wing mirror at the house I was leaving behind;
And that’s when I saw him, the strange little boy watching me from the window.
 


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