THE LITTLE GIRL played amongst the field of flowers, completely oblivious to her surroundings as she took a whiff of the daisy nearest to her. Her caregivers, two very oblivious 15-year-old teenage girls, were too busy gossiping by the nearby benches to bother themselves with the bubbly and all too energetic one-year-old they were supposed to be taking care of. As a result of such careless and thoughtless desertion by her current caregivers, little Addison Pilediah had taken it upon herself to find some entertainment to pass the time.
The town of Riverside Creek was set off into the far rural corners of America. It was a little town that was built upon a quiet village from the olden days. Long before modern civilization, Riverside Creek had been a fishing village and a dock for small merchants to gather. As the years went by, some of these merchants eventually decided to settle down and build their own homes by the island-like town. For many centuries after that, Riverside Creek’s population had only ever been continuously growing, having people of multiple ethnicities and social classes owning a residence or two in the once humble town.
A long winding river surrounds Riverside Creek, along with a long line of hills that bordered the other side. Past the waters, there were forests and trees surrounding the settlement for as far as the naked eye could see, a humble haven for many species of woodland creatures to rest.
In this park in which Addison was playing in, the line of hills and trees were not very far away. In fact, the short distance between the girl and the wooded areas was a dangerous factor.
The baby girl crawled slowly at a leisurely pace the very second she had spotted a squirrel running on the grass, a small acorn clasped tightly in between its teeth. Addison let out a gurgle of laughter, clapping her hands in delight as she made her way over, following the creature as it ventured further into the woods. Not knowing where she was going and not that she actually cared, the surroundings of towering trees soon grew unfamiliar, an eerie darkness creeping over the canopy of trees as she crawled further and further into the darkness. With each step she took, Addison was more and more distant from the urban jungle in which she called home, and nearer towards a foreign wooded wilderness.
She had not known then, or even now when she had grown older, but a pair of shining predator-like eyes had been watching her movements with utmost curiosity. The eyes were fixated on the baby’s every movement, observing with a hint of a smirk playing upon his lips that never quite faltered.
The squirrel’s little feet did not stop. It was running further away from the bright clearing and into the blackened forest as the baby followed, giggling every once in a while in delight, not knowing her doomed fate if she crawled on.
You see, a cliff drop loomed ahead, simply sending clueless explorers down to their demise had they not been more careful with where they were going. This drop down from the edge was labeled as a dangerous spot due to its imprecise location and unstable earth. It was a sudden drop with no warning, simply a notorious death trap set by nature.
Nevertheless, Addison’s speed never once slowed, only seemingly going faster as she neared the cliff even further. When she thought she had finally caught on to the little beast, the squirrel made its way up a creaking willow tree, stuffing itself inside a small hole in the trunk. The girl was left disappointed and confused, large round doe eyes darting back and forth the area as she continued on, edging closer and closer towards the cliff.
Just as her hand touched the bit of air without land, a pair of cold hands wrapped themselves around her torso, easily lifting her up into the air before holding her safely in its arms.
“And to think you could’ve met me way too early,” the figure said, a small smile appearing below its hooded figure when the baby giggled with excitement. “Aren’t you just a disgustingly happy child?”
The baby, not having a single damn clue as of to what the hooded figure had just said, simply laughed a little bit more, her joyous chorus of giggles resounding past the trees as she reached forward to grasp her carrier’s face. It was pure baby instincts, you see, to take a hold of whatever was in front of you. As her small chubby fingers made contact with the hooded man’s freezing cold features, she withdrew them almost immediately, staring at her hands for a few seconds in shock. Her reaction was akin to that of being burned by a scorching torch.
It didn’t take long for her to continue trying to grab his face though, unfortunately for him.
He stood there, hood over his head as he waited for the baby to stop rather impatiently. Her unrelenting round blue-green eyes gazed into his shadowed features, gurgling noisily as she tried to grasp his sharp and pointed nose once more. When their skins touched, she did not flinch away like she did the first time. Instead, it was as if she was trying to imprint his features into her mind solely by touch and touch alone.
The man was stunned, allowing the baby’s hands to gently graze his own facial profile for a few seconds as if mesmerized by her touch. He simply watched as her curious eyes scanned him over, smiling consistently and definitely more so than what was considered normal for an average baby.
But then again, Addison Pilediah was not exactly what one would call as an ‘average’ girl.
“That’s enough.” The man snapped, holding the baby slightly down so that she couldn’t reach his face. “Your disgusting fingers were just on the damn ground a few seconds ago. Such a filthy child.”
Needless to say, the child obviously did not understand the man’s words. Instead of taking offense like she should have, she only smiled wider, eager to play with her hero even further. The man sighed, knowing that whatever in which he does would not be enough to stop this force of nature that came in the form of an unsuspecting child.
So he relented, allowing the baby to grasp onto his nose once more before he started his way back towards the clearing where she had come from.
It was when they reached the imaginary line separating the dark forests and the bright grassy plains had the man finally placed baby Addison down onto the ground, snapping his fingers and creating the illusion of a butterfly out of snowflakes for her to catch.
This tactic worked well, for the snowflake immediately gathered her attention. In a matter of seconds, her small chubby limbs were already fighting to go fast as she attempted to take hold of the floating whimsical toy, the man left forgotten. He slinked further into the shadows, the darkness blending well with his figure as he watched her crawl her way back to safety.
“Addison! Where were you? Come on now, let’s get you home before your mother ends up nagging my ear off.” A young brunette girl nagged before picking Addison up from the ground.
As the two teenage girls picked up their belongings as well as the baby, the man blinked once, watching as baby Addison’s eyes met his own molten silver ones for a split second before they disappeared from his view right past the corner.
With that, he evaporated into a cloud of black and green smoke, events of the day forgotten by one out of the two for many more years to come.
“Addison, darling, do not go out too far!” Jane Pilediah’s voice could be heard echoing down the calm neighborhood, her intentions kind as she spoke to the child.
The four-year-old wasn’t listening, though, as usual. Addison Pilediah, with her glorious waist-length honeycomb blonde hair, was too busy frolicking in the grassy front yard to bother, her pure white sundress spreading about in the wind as she danced amongst the flowers.
That was the life she had as the only child. With no one to play with her, Addison spent most of her days alone in the front yard, talking to herself. It was a rather pitiful fate to have no siblings to play with, and more often than not, Mrs. Pilediah would berate herself for not being physically able to bear another child for the family. In her eyes, Addison would always remain as the lonely little girl that could never have someone to play with during the golden years of her childhood.
Or at least that was what her mother thought.
“And then, rich Sir Bear-a-Lot finally married poor Lady Emma Froggerson because they were in love. And that was what people in love do. They get married.” The child placed the two soft toys – one of a teddy bear and the other of a green badly-stitched frog with a flower by one ear – and mushed their squishy faces together. “And they lived happily ever after in a beautiful castle by the beach’s cliffside that overlooked their kingdom. The end.”
Her wide green eyes smiled up at the cloaked man – or boy, in this case – and although she couldn’t see it, his expression was scrunched in pure amusement as he listened to the child’s fairy tale fable. “Was their party lavish?”
“Lavish?” The child asked, eyes wide and confused as she tested the word against her tongue.
“It means... erm... Big?” His statement was more of a question, unable to think of a proper word to replace the one he had just used. However, if it bothered Addison, she did not show. “In other words, was their party widely celebrated? With a long guest list and many days of dancing?”
At that explanation, the little girl simply smiled as she nodded her head enthusiastically, her blonde curls flipping in the wind. Her pink tinted lips were curved up from the side, allowing her to beam as brightly as the afternoon sun during the summer days.
“Yes, yes, yes! A big party with loads of guests. And flowers, and dancing, and music, and cake, and a big chocolate cake!”
The figure did not bother pointing out that she had mentioned the same thing twice. Instead, he nodded for her to carry on.
“And they danced through the night, just like mommy and daddy did on their wedding day, and had cake, and threw the flowers for the bridesmaids. Pretty flowers, they are.” Little Addison flashed her pearly white teeth, giggling as she hugged the two soft toys tightly against her chest. She paused for a second before blushing a bright fuchsia pink about something that ran through her mind. “Will our wedding be as pretty too, Dee?”
He raised an eyebrow, lips curled in amusement as he shook his head slightly in disbelief, chuckling to himself. The little girl frowned, thinking that he was rejecting her proposal so quickly. A pout made its way onto her lips as she shrugged sadly, her hands drooping in disappointment and her eyes downcast.
“Oh yes. We will have a beautiful wedding, okay?” He teased, pinching Addison’s cheeks as the girl beamed in delight with the change of his words. “With loads of flowers. And you’ll get to pick them as well. Now, tell me more about the castle that Sir Bear-A-Lot and Lady Emma lived in. What was it like?”
Of course, he already knew what Addison was picturing in her mind. After all, he had seen her drawings of this legendary castle multiple times, all hung up around the Pilediah household. It would always be the same structure and the same setting, just with small changes here and there such as the positioning of the sun and the seasons that colored the roofs of the castle turrets.
And he knew that there was nothing more that Addison loved than describing this magical place in which most of her fairy tales took place in. That was part of the reason why he would always ask Addison to describe the details of the castle, even though she had done it many times before.
Before the girl could reply, however, a shout came from the kitchen, calling for Addison’s name. The girl turned immediately at the sound of her mother’s soothing voice. The woman called for her little girl to come back to the kitchens to test out a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies, and upon agreeing, Addison turned back to collect her toys and say goodbye to her best friend.
The second she had turned around, though, he was gone, leaving her to stare at the empty grass ahead. This was not something she was unused to, but once again, Addison found herself wondering if she had imagined it all and her best friend was really nothing but a presence in her own imagination.
It was a full year before she next saw her friend again.
The very night in which Addison had turned five, at the stroke of midnight, she noticed a gust of cold wind before the familiar cloaked figure appeared. However, instead of keeping the hood on as per usual, the boy had tipped it down, revealing his mess of a head of dark unruly curls, and his bright silver eyes that seemed too beautiful to be real.
He had decided to turn himself into a younger boy, so as to be able to fit in with Addison’s group of friends better. Furthermore, she would start remembering things along the way the more she grew older, and he did not want to be remembered as a creepy pedophile that preyed on little children.
“Dee! Why didn’t you come visit more?” Addison asked before launching herself into the boy’s arms. He was about two years older than her physically. His height, though much smaller than usual, still towered over Addison regardless. “I made a present for you in art class a few months ago, but you never came to collect it. I thought you had forgotten about me.”
When they separated, Addison’s eyes dropped to stare at her feet, shuffling her socked toes around in disappointment. This made the boy’s heart clench painfully in regret and slight guilt, condemning himself as to why he had not spared time to come and visit her every once in a while.
“I am sorry, Andy. I had... things to do.” The boy tried not to wince as he thought back to the gruesome year. It was one filled with bloodshed, enough to haunt the dreams of the deceased’s loved ones for the rest of their lives. However, he was determined to change the subject. “You had a present for me, you said?” He chose to ask instead.
The girl’s little orbs lit up in delight, raising a single finger to signal him to wait before she shuffled onto her bed, pulling at random drawers by her bed frame before withdrawing a single plain white box made of paper.
“Give me your finger,” she said demandingly.
Regardless of her tone, he reached out his hand, allowing Addison to grasp it as she fiddled around with the box.
“Look away! You are not allowed to peek!”
And so he turned away, eyes closed shut as she slipped on her gift for him. When he opened his eyes, a small grin found its way onto his usually sullen face. There on his fourth finger (yes, his left hand as well) sat a beautifully bent wire ring, made of two different colors of silver and gold. They were twisted around to form a simple band, not holding any further design except for the intertwining colors.
Pleased with the simple gift, he reached into his back pockets as well, pulling out a single silver bracelet before dangling it slightly in order for it to catch the moonlight’s glow, thus also snatching Addison’s attention by default.
“I have a gift for you too.” Easily, he slipped the silver band around Addison’s left wrist. It was slightly loose around her small arms, but enough for it to not drop off unless someone had forcefully tugged at it. There was a little imprint on the underside of the band, but Addison had not noticed. She was too busy examining the row of thirteen diamonds that dotted the top of the band.
“Wow!” Seemingly awed with her gift, she played around with the bracelet with heightened interest, not knowing that the diamonds were in fact very real. “It is so pretty! Thank you, Dee!”
The boy said nothing else and simply smiled sadly before giving Addison one last hug. After tonight, there was no way for him to be able to keep returning to visit her again. It was best for them to stay apart, and there would only be one way to do that without breaking her heart.
“Happy birthday, Andy.” He leaned forward, kissing Addison’s forehead a few seconds longer than usual as the girl’s eyes began to shut themselves due to the magic inflicted upon her mind. When he withdrew, Addison was asleep, falling gently into his outstretched arms before he laid her carefully in bed.
And with that, he disappeared into the shadows, memories of him erased forever from Addison’s mind.