I sit perched on the window sill. My legs stretched out, book in my lap. The house is quiet, the only sounds are the wind blowing through the curtains and the chirp of the birds. Tendrils of warm air curl around my legs and beg me to come with them to run free be free. I run my fingers over the stained glass window, the glass-smooth like water. No one knows what color the window truly is. It changes based on where you're standing. Sometimes cool deep tones of blue calm ocean colors, others fiery reds and oranges, and sometimes a little bit of both. It depends on who you are. I can almost hear my father's voice as I press my forehead against the glass. Being here makes me feel closer to him. Standing in front of a slab of rock does not. I can almost feel his hands on mine as he presses them against the glass. “What do you see?” he would ask. His voice is rich with knowledge and time. He’d pick me up and put me on the window sill. “What do you see, darling girl?”
I'd turn back to him, my large little eyes full of curiosity. “Go ahead.” He would smile. His smile felt like a lightbulb, that feeling when you turn on the light and it gets so much brighter, brighter than you ever thought it could be. And when the light turns off everything is dark, empty.
I would turn my head back to the window and squint my eyes making sure I saw the right thing. “I see.. I see mama!” I would exclaim. “and.. you.. and me and my sister and we were holding hands.”
“Do you now?” I would nod, not noticing how tight his smile really was. “Is she really out there?” I would ask hopefully.
“No, darling girl she’s not.”
“It's time for bed now, you can come back and look tomorrow. Maybe you'll see something different.” Then he would take my hand and lead me to bed. I remember getting up every morning to go look through that window. I would stare at it for hours every time it would be the same picture of our family happy, joyful. Sometimes it would be a picnic, maybe it would be movie night, game night or maybe my mom would be braiding my hair. It was the same thing for years day after day until my father decided things needed to change “Autumn?”
“Yeah daddy?” I turned around, tearing my eyes from the happy scene for just a moment before turning back.
“Autumn comes here.” I didn't move. “Autumn!” He scolded. I slid off the ledge and looked at him in annoyance. “What?” I asked.
“Let's do something else.” He suggested.
“I was doing something,” I said in confusion.
“Autumn darling, it's not healthy.”
“What's not healthy?”
“That time you're spending up on the window sill.”
“Bu..bu.. But I was looking at mommy!” I exclaimed.
“I know darling that's the point, would you like some ice cream?”
I remember I didn't see the window again for years. My father had boarded the window up and locked the door to the room. The house was old, the type where to lock a door you needed a key. My father had the key and the window was on the third story. It was such a magnificent room it made me sad to think it was all locked up just getting covered in dust. For the first month, I tried every day to get back into the room, every day. I begged and pleaded but he remained solid with his decision.
Over time I began to forget about the room, it was the only room at the top of the house so I had no need to go up there. Day by day cobwebs grew around the room and the magic of the window was left unused. My father day after day distracted me, giving me things to do, places to go so that the window would never be on my mind. years later I began to question if it was all just a dream, a fragment of my imagination. I would go to the top of the stairs and sit at the foot of the door wondering if the window was still there. I would lay in the grass and look up at my house, the boarded-up window so high up and wonder if it really was magic, or did my imaginative little child mind make it up.
And then there was his death. The day my father left the earth, a freak accident they called it, at the wrong place at the wrong time. The day my light bulb went out and my world was covered in darkness, everything was a blur that year, funerals, wills and so many complicated things I couldn't even begin to imagine. The house was left to my older sister who would take care of me until I was old enough to move out. All of his money was split between me and her which I would acquire when I came of age. That and an envelope I was left with, one small white envelope. It took me about a year to open it. I was so wrapped up in my grief that the note was the last thing on my mind. It slowly got covered up with clothes, books and other knick-knacks of sorts until one day I realized I needed to get a hold of myself. Time didn't stop when he died so neither could I. I cleaned my room, book after book until I found the envelope. The envelope contained a note and a large bulging item wrapped in cloth. The item fell out of the note and I unwrapped the ribbon and the cloth came undone. Inside was the key, the key to the room, the key to my magical window. The note read,
Dear My Darling Autumn,
Today's date is the sixth of June, you have just turned 14. I have left this in my will and testament so if you're reading this I must be gone. I hope you do not receive this for many many years when you are as grey as I am, but alas the world works in strange ways.. I have left you with the key to the room at the top of the house. If you are reading this soon after I have enclosed this, that means you remember but if you're reading this many years from now perhaps you may not. Inside the room is your window. It was never a debate on who it was for you were the one who spent all your time perched up there watching and watching. I remember the shrills of your screams when I took it away and maybe you understand now why I had to and maybe you never will. But that window is supposed to help you figure out what you want, not to spend your days hoping for an unlikely possibility, I just needed to bring you back to reality. I give you this key hoping you're older now and you'll know how to use the window the way it's intended.
Love you my darling
-Your loving father
That day I sincerely thought I was going to open the door. I really did. I ran up the stairs, key in hand ready to put it in the lock but I just couldn't. I sat down with my back pressed up against the door telling myself I was going to do it, but I never did. I fell asleep there and in the morning I put the key back on the dresser. I told myself I wasn't ready that I needed more time, but the truth was I was afraid. Father never did tell me what was wrong with seeing my mother. After all, it was natural for a daughter to want her mother. I overheard him in an argument one night with my sister.
“It's unhealthy!” My father exclaimed.
“But she loves it, she wants her mother, every little girl wants her mother.” Livvy countered.
“That's the problem, she can't love it. It's unrealistic.”
“It's okay for a girl to dream!”
“Dreams are realistic, this is not. Her mother left us two years after she was born. Left me with a two-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old. She left me after I figured out that she had been cheating the whole time! She had started seeing him right after we got married. Do you know how many years that is? For 10 years she was cheating on me for ten years and I had no idea.
“She took all her money and left, she left us with the house, that's all. She left me with the struggle that I had no food and money and that if I didn't sell the house.. Then we would starve. Do you know how hard that was? Her mother left and is never coming back! She's remarried and has three kids, I'm not sure why the window is even showing her that! It's supposed to show you a realistic future, not one full of rainbows and unicorns!”
“She doesn't want rainbows and unicorns, she wants her mother and if she's never going to get her mother this is the closest thing she's ever going to get to it.” Livvy crossed her arms.
“Well until you're in charge, this is my decision, Autumn is not going anywhere that window ever again!”
I remember standing paralyzed as the words sunk into my skin before running to the top of the house and crying myself to sleep on the window sill. I woke up the next morning in my bedroom and the Window room closed off.
When I got the key back I was so close to going in, but I was afraid, I was afraid that I would still see my mother after all this time. After that even after I had known she had done to us I would still want her. And it wasn't just that she had done much more, things I weren't supposed to know about but heard anyway. I was afraid that deep down that's still what I wanted, and the thought made me feel guilty. It made me hate myself and hate that I still could want that. So I never went in, I was going to avoid the answers for as long as possible. Out of sight, out of mind.
It was months later when I finally had the courage to open the door. I remember stepping into the room, I didn't even look around, just sprinted to the window and unboarded it. I remember looking through the window, I don't remember what I saw the first time I looked through but it wasn't my mom, I was so happy I cried tears of joy, happy that I didn't want something I knew I couldn't have didn't want something that made me sick to think I even wanted it. I fell asleep on the window that night. I woke up wondering if I was back in my bed and maybe father never wanted me to go in there again and it was all a dream, I never got the key and I never went in. But there I was perched on the ledge next to my window.
I visited my window every day after that, I still do. But it wasn't just to look out the window, it was to read, to write, to draw, daydream. I know now why my father had taken it away from me. It was good for a child to dream but if someone spent a whole life dreaming and never doing they would be stuck in a fantasy they could never get out of. The purpose of the window was to tell you what you wanted so you could achieve it. Not so you could waste your days hoping it would come true while never moving, never doing anything. The window isn't what it used to be, it wasn't an escape from reality where I could have a mom and a happy family. It was my motivator, my window telling me what I wanted was out there. I just needed to go get it.