Winter Lane

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“A-A-AHHH!” I screamed, swatting away a hairy black dot with eight legs. Oh, it’s just another spider.

“C-c-curse you!” I yelled at it, trying to sound brave. Who was I trying to fool by yelling at something so small?

My house is an old Victorian, sturdy and musty. The rooms are cold and smell of year-old laundry. I am 18 years old and live alone. My parents died in a car crash four years ago, and I miss them dearly. I have been afraid to step outside the house since then. I am petrified that if I ever leave the house, every single thing would have the potential to kill me. I imagine the outside world to be ugly and mean compared to my fragile and precious life. I hate living in fear, but I hate the thought of death even more.

My name is Nel, but everyone in town calls me Nervous Nelly because I stutter. I wish I was not so nervous. Truth is, I do not have any friends. I sometimes wish there was someone else out there who understood my loneliness, but who would, in this town full of hoodlums and rascals?

One day, however, a mysterious man showed up at my doorstep, and my life changed forever. He knocked on my door. He extended his slender arm and said, “Here, try this.”

I looked at the man skeptically. He was standing in front of a large white truck that was blaring a cheery jingle. He was dressed in a black suit and a red tie. The way he looked kind of reminded me of my father, and his soothing voice sounded like my mother’s. I bit my lip and tried to fight back tears from this thought.

The object in his hand was a red- and white- striped cylinder with a handle. Inside there were two bright pink globs of something I could not recognize. I cringed. What if this thing was poisoned? But the man’s eyes looked so warm, and his smile genuine. It was nice, yet almost too nice for someone from Winter Lane. Even so, maybe it couldn’t hurt to reach out and take the object from him. This could be a bad idea, but what if it wasn’t?

I hesitantly took the object from his hand. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. He noticed me glaring and squinting at it like it was some kind of foreign animal.

He laughed gleefully and said, “You taste it. With your tongue. Like this.”

He brought the cup to his lips and stuck out his tongue to lick the top of the unidentifiable glob.

“See, it’s not poisonous,” he reassured me.

It was like he had read my mind. I cautiously stuck out my tongue and tasted the odd ball of pink. It was creamy and sweet. It tasted like the strawberries I had picked with mom and dad every summer, back when they were alive. I wanted to cry, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but smile.

“You like it, huh? It’s called ice cream.”

Mmm … ice cream. I had never heard of it before, but I liked it. I really did. It was the first time I genuinely felt … happy.

“Th-th-thanks, sir!” I said, and then he was gone. It was like I had dreamed him up, but the taste of strawberries still lingered on my lips. A tear of happiness came to my eye.

Now I heard the sound of foot steps. I ran back into the house and up to my sanctuary. I peeked out the window and saw a boy. This was not the first time. Everyday at high noon, this boy looked up at my window. A Peeping Tom of sorts. I wonder who this boy was. Was he lonely too?

On this particular day, I did the unthinkable. I tapped on the window. The boy stood there looking right at me, emotionless. I slowly lifted my hand and waved. Much to my surprise, he waved back.

I unlatched the window and stuck my head out, calling, “Hey! D-do you want to c-come inside?”

The boy shrugged and left. Had I scared him off? I heard a knock on the door, and I ran downstairs, smoothing out my dress. I cautiously opened the door, and on the other side stood the boy.

He waved. He seemed kind enough.

“H-h-hi” I managed.

He shrugged.

“Do you want to have some ice cream?”

He shook his head no.

“Come on, you’ll like it,” I said.

He ran away. Strange boy. I think I just blew my first chance at having a friend.

But, I had talked to someone, and it didn’t kill me. That was progress. I smiled.

 

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