I arrived at our usual spot. We always met at the park, just a 15-minute walk from my house. Mirabelle went to a different high school than me—whereas I went to public school, she went to a small, all-girls private school, so, aside from weekends, we could only meet after the school day ended.
Luckily, we got out at around the same time. But today was Sunday, so we agreed to meet at a slightly earlier time: 1:00 PM.
I sat on a bench in front of a small pond, watching the sunlight reflect on the water. I browsed my phone while I waited, checking my notifications. It was now 1:20 PM, and she still wasn’t here. I wanted to text her, but Mirabelle’s parents didn’t allow her to have a phone.
I stood up to hug her, but she didn’t reach her arms out like she usually did. Her arms were hidden behind her back.
Mirabelle gave an awkward, closed-mouth smile.
“Is there something behind your back?” I asked.
“Well, yes,” Mirabelle said.
Slowly, and almost reluctantly, she revealed what she was holding: a medium-sized package, wrapped in brown paper. As she held it in front of me, she didn’t meet my eyes.
“What’s inside it?”
“I wanted to ask you a favor.”
“Okay, sure,” I said.
“My family and I are going out of town tomorrow,” she said. “It’s on short notice, and the post office is closed today. So… I was wondering if you could help mail it for me.”
“Um, what’s in it?”
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you.”
“Well, I guess I can help. So… how long are you going to be gone for?”
“I’m not sure yet, but listen, I need you to mail it fast. Like, tomorrow, if possible.”
“All right, all right. So it’s pretty urgent, huh?”
“Yeah, you could say that.”
“I can do that. So, what do you want to do today?”
“I actually need to start heading back,” Mirabelle said.
“Yeah, like I said, we’re leaving on such short notice. I’ve hardly even had time to pack.”
“But you just got here,” I said.
“I know, I’m sorry. I’ll make it up to you, K?”
Mirabelle smiled again, but this time her eyes seemed sad.
“Bye,” she said, running away.
“But wait! You didn’t even tell me where you’re going!”
Mirabelle didn’t even look back, though. She ran down the road, out of sight. I sighed, staring down at the package. What was in this thing, anyway? I gave it a slight shake. It felt light, as if there was nothing inside it.
I zipped open my backpack, pushing aside the snacks I’d brought for me and Mirabelle, and stuffed the package inside.
I started my walk home, wondering the whole time about where Mirabelle was going, and why she was being so secretive about it. Maybe it was a funeral or something of the sort, and she just didn’t feel comfortable talking about it.
When I arrived home, my mom was in the kitchen, chopping vegetables. When she saw me come in, she walked over.
“How was your walk, sweetie?”
“It was fine.”
“I think those walks are good for you. You always seem so much happier afterward.”
I nodded, and she walked back into the kitchen.
I didn’t like to mention Mirabelle to my mom anymore, since she’d always just say I needed to find friends at my actual school. So, instead I just lied and said I was going on walks. It was much easier that way.
I went back to my room, closed the door, and immediately took out the package. I read the address that was written on it, though the letters were barely legible. It said 6893 Clover Lane. I’d heard of Clover Lane before; it was relatively close by.
Maybe, instead of taking it to the post office, I could just deliver it myself. Maybe that would give me a clue about what, and who, the package was for.
I couldn’t deliver it today, since it was Sunday, and the person might be kind of skeptical of a package delivered on Sunday. So I decided I’d deliver it tomorrow, after school. Taking out my phone, I checked how far away the address was if I rode my bike there.
Turned out it was 30 minutes away. I could do it. I put the package under my bed.
The next day at school, I sat by myself at lunch, as usual. Afterwards, all the students in the cafeteria poured out into the hallway, and I headed back to my locker. While walking, I suddenly heard a voice yell “freak!” behind me, and then someone shoved me, causing me to lurch forward. When I turned around, a bunch of eyes just stared at me, and I couldn't tell who did it.
Anger bubbled up in my chest. But not knowing what else to do, I just kept on walking. Why on earth would someone call me that?
It seemed like Mirabelle was the only person in the world who accepted me for who I was. But even she seemed like she was pulling away, not giving me any explanation behind her sudden out-of-town trip or the contents of the package.
I couldn’t wait for the final bell to ring.
My mom picked me up from school that day because we had to stop at the pharmacy and refill my prescription.
When we were driving back to the house, she asked, “How’s the new medication?”
“It’s fine, I guess. I don’t really notice a difference.”
After arriving at the house, I ran to my room, pulled out the package, and put it in my backpack. Then I went back out into the living room.
“Hey, Mom, I’m gonna go for a bike ride.”
“Wait, sweetie. Before you go, I need to ask you—you’re not still having those visits with Mirabelle, are you?”
“No, Mom, I just want to get some exercise.”
“Okay. Well…don’t be gone too long. You know I worry about you.”
“I’ll be back soon. Bye.”
I went out into the garage to get my bike, pulled out my phone to view the directions, and started riding. The closer I got to the house, the more barren the landscape seemed. The houses got farther and farther apart from one another. And when I finally reached the house on 6893 Clover Lane, it looked so old and worn down that it almost seemed abandoned.
The surrounding area looked empty, with barely any trees for miles and miles. The land was covered in dry, brown grass. But the house did say 6893, clear as day, next to the door, so I knew I must be at the right place.
I went up to the front door and unzipped my backpack, taking out the package as quickly as possible. I set it down on the doorstep. I thought about just leaving it there, but I couldn’t help myself—I knocked on the door.
I suddenly panicked and ran back to my bike. I started riding away, until I realized the familiar weight on my back was missing: I’d left the backpack. I pressed the brakes and turned around, but the package was still on the doorstep.
Maybe they weren’t home, I thought. But I noticed something else about the house: one of the windows was slightly agape, and the curtains inside were fluttering from the wind.
Who would leave their windows open if they weren’t home?
I decided I’d go get my backpack. I started riding back, my heart thumping in my chest. When I got there, I slowly walked up the porch steps. I went to the front door and grabbed my backpack, putting it on. Then I pressed my ear to the door.
Inside I heard… nothing. Absolutely nothing.
What if the house really were abandoned? Was Mirabelle playing some weird prank on me?
I looked down at the package, so tempted to open it. All that mystery surrounding it—Mirabelle had to know I’d be curious. Maybe she wanted me to open it. Maybe that was the point of all this.
I reached down and began opening the package. In this silent place, as I tore through the brown paper, the sound seemed amplified. I kept ripping and ripping, until eventually I saw what was inside.
It was a cardboard shoe box, unmarked. I opened up the top and inside were… pictures. I picked one up and observed it; there were two girls in dresses, side by side, in front of a house. But when I looked closely, I noticed that the house in the picture looked eerily similar to this very house, except that it was actually in good condition.
One of the girls was me. The other was Mirabelle.
I must have been about eight or nine years old, and so was she. When I looked through the other pictures, they were very similar, with the two of us at varying ages under the age of 10. Yet, for some reason, I couldn’t remember this house, and I couldn’t remember any of the things in the pictures, like me and Mirabelle going down waterslides, playing with leaves. When I really thought about it, I couldn’t remember when Mirabelle and I had even met.
And besides all that, why would she want to send these old pictures to an abandoned house? It’s not like anybody would ever find them.
Somehow, I felt as if a great void had opened up in my chest, and I didn’t know why. I closed the shoe box and put it back in my backpack. Afterwards, I rode straight home as quickly as I could. I felt light-headed and hardly able to balance, but somehow I managed to make it home, out of breath and covered in sweat.
When I got there, I didn’t see my mom anywhere, so I went to her bedroom and knocked on the door.
“Come in, honey.”
I walked inside. She was sitting on the bed, reading a book.
“My goodness,” she said. “You sure do look tired.”
I dropped my backpack on the floor and pulled out the box. Without even opening it, I handed it over to her.
“Do you remember these pictures?” I asked.
She opened the box, looking through the pictures, one by one. She looked up at me.
“Well, yes. You must’ve gotten these from the basement.”
“The basement? No, they’re from Mirabelle.”
My mom sighed.
“No, honey. We’ve tried you on so many medications over the years, hoping one would finally work. But now that you’ve found these pictures, maybe you’re finally ready to face the truth.”
“What are you talking about? What truth?”
“See…when Mirabelle was 10, she got sick. She stopped going to school. And at recess you’d… talk to yourself, pretending like she was there. But you’d still visit her at her house, the one on Clover Lane, until…”
“Until eventually, she died.”
“No! No, that can’t be...”
I felt like I was falling apart. None of this made any sense.
“But… all my meetings with Mirabelle, at the park—”
“There were no meetings with Mirabelle.”
Tears welled up in my eyes. I ran out of my mom’s room, hearing my mom yell “Penelope!” behind me. Ignoring her, I rushed into my room and grabbed my new medication off the nightstand. Then, I took it to the bathroom and poured all the pills into the toilet. Flushing them, I watched each small white tablet disappear.