The World That She Sees
I have been a part of this neighborhood for a long time. I’ve seen a lot of weird and wonderful things over the years. My personal favorite began a few months back and involved Old Man Wilson.
He and his wife Lucy were some of the first homeowners in the neighborhood. They lived in the house on the corner across from me for the last fifty years. They were a sweet couple and were always very friendly to all of their neighbors over the years. Sometimes when Lucy was about, she’d see me or my sisters and wave. Wilson hardly ever noticed, but we didn’t mind. We knew it was nothing personal. The two were some of the nicest people you would ever meet, up until a few months ago.
Lucy passed away in late spring and the entire neighborhood went into mourning. For a week, people brought flowers and well-wishes to Wilson. My sisters and even dropped by to offer our own condolences, but by then, he’d stopped answering the door. After that, he didn’t get out much anymore. When he did, a frown covered his features, which gradually grew to a scowl as the weeks turned to months.
It hurt to watch the once jolly man become bitter and isolated. For a while, his neighbors tried to cheer him up, but a person will only continue to try to help so many times after being yelled at. And so, in very little time, Wilson managed to push everyone away.
It was sad, but there was nothing more anyone could do. It seemed that the man was determined to be alone and miserable until his own time came and he could be with his wife again. That is, until one morning he received a package.
I remember the look of confusion on Wilson’s face when he saw the plain cardboard box. He lifted up the little box in his hand. He rolled it over studying it for a moment, and then pried it open. When he saw the contents, he froze and the box fell from his hands. The box bounced and out flew a small glass vial that shone in the morning sun. It landed safely in the grass, where it remained for quite some time. Wilson’s pale face stared at the object as if it were a ghost. Then his eyes hardened and he shouted for the world to hear.
“Leave me alone!”
As much as he looked enraged, I heard the way his voice cracked as he shouted. Whatever he’d received shook him to his core.
The man retreated back inside, leaving the vial where it lay for the rest of the day. That night, my curiosity got the best of me and I snuck onto his yard to study the object and its container. The package was simple brown cardboard with no address or label sticker. The vial it had contained was a bottle of perfume. I tested a spray and understood why it startled Wilson so. It was the Perfume Lucy used to wear.
I panicked when I heard a car approaching. I dropped the bottle and dove into the nearby bushes just before a green pick-up truck came to a stop in front of the house. A teenage girl with long, dark hair got out of the truck, pulled a box out of the bed, and carried it up the walkway to the front door. When she got there, she noticed the first box and the discarded bottle in the grass. She set the first box down and picked up the perfume. She sniffed it, smiled appreciatively, then repackaged it and set it down on the new box. Then she returned to her truck and drove away.
I returned home and fell asleep with questions drifting through my mind. Who was the girl? How did she know Wilson? What was in the box? I awoke with the sun and waited for Wilson to come out that morning. When he did, he paused at the sight of the two boxes. He lifted the first box and extracted the perfume bottle with trembling hands. He sprayed it once and inhaled deeply as he clutched the bottle to his chest.
He carefully set the bottle back in its package and examined the new one. He extracted a large book, the kind you would find on a coffee table, from the box and flipped through some of the pages. When he closed it, I could just make out the image of the Eiffel tower on its cover. I remembered hearing Lucy talk about wanting to visit Paris one day, but I don’t think they ever made it.
Wilson wiped at his eyes before closing the book and retreating inside with his two gifts. And so things continued, every night, I watched the green pick-up truck meander down the road and stop in front of his house. The girl would get out, walk up the path, and drop a package off on the doorstep before getting back in her car and leaving. The next morning, Wilson would open his screen door to find a package waiting for him. In the beginning, the packages had upset him, but they seemed to grow on him with each new gift. Each morning he opened his door earlier and earlier. Whenever he opened a box, a smile would spread across his face and soften his wrinkles.
Soon enough, he was back to his old ways. He left the house more often, interacted with neighbors, and smiled a lot more. He would even talk about Lucy. He’d get misty-eyed in these conversations, but a smile never left his lips as he thought of her.
There were many nights where he went to neighbors for dinner, and some nights he even had people over. The transformation that the packages had caused was amazing, but like all good things, it didn’t last forever.
One particularly cold night, when the girl arrived, she went to pull a box out of the bed, but something seemed wrong. Her arm danced around in the bed as she seemed to fumble for the night’s package. When that turned up no results, she leaned over the bed and dipped her head into a sack as her legs kicked out behind her. After a minute or two of this desperate searching, she came up for air while scratching her head.
In an instant, she froze, before whipping around and bounding across the lawn to pound on the door and ring the doorbell relentlessly. I waited for the lights to come on, but they never did and I could feel my heart stop as my body chilled.
The sirens of multiple vehicles wailed together in tumultuous harmony as they approached. When they arrived, the girl directed them toward the house. The entire neighborhood watched through the flashing lights as the emergency personnel rushed into the house, and returned at a slower pace.
Wilson had died in his sleep on a November night with a smile on his face.
The girl stuck around until the last of the flashing lights left and everyone returned to their beds. I watched her, puzzled. Those first few questions I had from when I first saw her still echoed in my mind. Who was she and how did she know Wilson?
I crossed the street to find out. She sat there on the rim of the bed of her truck, with her legs dangling over the sidewalk. Her gaze remained fixed on the house, and I could hear her sniffling as I approached.
“It’s pretty cold out. Shouldn’t you be heading home?”
She jumped and practically fell into her truck. I quickly apologized.
She waved me off and wiped at her eyes with her sleeve, refusing to look at me. “It’s no big deal. I’m used to the cold, and I’ll head home soon.”
We were both silent for a moment.
“How did you know Wilson?” I asked.
She cleared her throat. “I, um, I didn’t.” she looked at me with a sheepish smile and I found myself stunned. First off, how could she not have known him? The gifts she gave him seemed so perfect for him, and they cheered him up so much. How could she have done that without knowing him?
Secondly, her eyes captivated me. Even in the darkness of night, they seemed to shine all on their own. Instead of simply being one color, they were all of them. Each iris held every color of the rainbow within it and sparkled as she looked at me.
When I didn’t say anything, she extended her hand out to me. “I’m Fidela.”
I shook it and responded in kind. “I’m Kalara.”
Her gaze returned to the house. “How long have you been watching me drop off the presents?” she asked.
I gaped for a moment or two, to which she smiled.
“I mean, you blend in pretty well with that birch tree of yours over there,” she pointed her thumb over her shoulder to my tree. “But, hiding there doesn’t work so well on full moons.”
I managed to snap my mouth shut and crossed my arms over my chest. “Most people don’t see me.”
She nodded and looked me straight in the face. “Most people aren’t looking for dryads.”
Once again, this girl caused me to gap like a fish out of water. How had she known? “What makes you think I’m a dryad? Aren’t those the weird mythological tree ladies?” I asked trying to play dumb and cover my tracks.
Fidela didn’t seem to buy it. “Like I said, you blend in pretty well with that birch tree and only dryads have that kind of camouflage. I almost didn’t believe I’d seen you at all the first time. My parents taught me a lot about magic and ‘mythological’ creatures.” She used her hands to put air quotes around the word mythological. She looked at me with a smile, and when she noticed my frown, she added. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. I’m pretty used to keeping secrets.”
My face scrunched up as I studied this girl who seemed so accustomed to seeing a magical creature. “Well, Fidela, since you seem to know so much about me, mind if I ask some questions?”
“I’ll answer what I can.”
“Why were you leaving gifts for Wilson?”
She shrugged as she answered. “He seemed like he could use some. My parents have always been about giving gifts, but they mainly focus on kids and their parents. I figured I could do the same for grown-ups that didn’t have kids around anymore, if at all. I know he was in a dark, lonely place after Lucy died.”
I scrutinized her. I hadn’t expected an answer like that from someone so young, especially when she hadn’t actually known him. “How did you know all of that?”
She rubbed the back of her neck. “Yeah, I don’t think Mom and Dad would want me to answer that one, sorry.”
“Okay, how did you know what to give him then?”
“I didn’t.” She climbed into the bed of her truck and began to rifle through a sack. “Not really. I just know that they related to his wife in some way. He wanted her back more than anything, but gifts can bring back the dead.” She pulled out a small box and studied it for a moment with a raised eyebrow. “I was going to leave another gift, but I couldn’t pull anything out until now.” The right side of her mouth twitched into a smile before she handed the box to me.
Shocked, I tentatively pulled the box open and revealed a necklace with a silver birch tree pendant. Embedded in the metal were eight pieces of amber. I didn’t know how this could relate to Wilson and Lucy, but it did mean something to me. I was a birch dryad, one of eight sisters, but I had never talked to her before. How could she have known?
I looked from the necklace to the girl in awe.
Fidela’s smile grew. “And that’s what it is all about, making people happy.” She hopped out of her truck and surprised me with a hug. She released me and walked to her door. “If you ever want to talk, just give me a call.”
She smirked as she got into her truck and rolled down the window. “I’ll keep an eye out for you, Kalara.” She started the car, waved goodbye, and drove away. As she did, something clicked as I noticed her license plate: NP01E3. Suddenly a lot of what she did and said made sense.
“Huh,” I mused out loud, “I didn’t know they had a daughter.”