As Michael looked outside the small basement window, he longed for a friend.
The noise coming upstairs from his ‘Family’ only saddened him further.
It wouldn’t be long before his mother would come downstairs to give him his dinner, but that didn’t help his loneliness at all. It only increased it.
When she came downstairs, she would make the same repulsed face she did every day she brought him his meals.
He couldn’t understand why they treated him this way. He was a little deformed, but he was still a part of the family.
The basement had been the only home he had known.
In the corner still stood his crib, where his mother would leave him, only to visit when it was time to feed him or change him.
All the basic necessities he needed were down there. A bathroom, a bed, and a small window for him to look outside whenever he wanted.
He never saw anybody through the window. He wasn’t sure if they lived away from most people, or if there weren’t many people out there at all.
Sometimes he would ask about going outside, but the answer was always the same. There was nothing for him out there, and his place was here.
He knew he had two other siblings, but he had only met them a couple of times. They were told never to go downstairs, no matter how much Michael cried or screamed, which too was rare.
This was the only life he had known, so though lonely, he didn’t know any other way of living.
As far as he could tell, the only difference between them and him was the way he looked.
He had asked his mother once why they didn’t just kill him, but her answer was always, because killing is a sin in the eyes of God.
“Isn’t it a sin to keep me down here?” he had asked once, but she replied that it wasn’t.
Sometimes, he would get frustrated that he couldn’t get the answers to all of his questions, but his vocabulary was limited. He had only picked up how to speak through the few conversations he had with his mother, and what he had overheard over the years.
As he aged, he felt that if he continued to grow, he may be able to just walk out, but for now, he wasn’t able to bust through the locked door, or open the one window he had.
He turned away from the window when he heard the basement door unlock and open. The stairs squeaked as his mother walked down.
His father only came down when he needed punishing, and after the first few beatings he could remember, he did his best not to give his father a reason to come down anymore.
Just like every other day, his mother walked down the stairs, and then over to the small table where he would eat.
She wouldn’t eat with him, though he had invited her several times.
He got the sense that the less she had to interact with him the better.
His stare seemed to make her nervous. He only stared hoping she would speak to him, but to her, they looked menacing.
Quickly, she laid down the food, and walked back up the stairs.
Not feeling very hungry, he turned his attention back out the window. What he wouldn’t give to be able to go outside.
As he started to turn away from the window, he caught movement out of the corner of his eye.
In the distance, he saw a figure of a girl walking towards the house.
When she got closer, he could see that she was wearing a wide smile.
Instinctively, he smiled back, though he knew she couldn’t see him.
Once she was close to the house, he could see her examining it, most likely looking for the entrance. Realizing where it was, she changed her direction to walk to the front of the house.
She stopped as she neared the house when she saw Michael looking out the basement window.
She waved, and without hesitation, he waved back.
It wasn’t long that she disappeared around the corner and Michael heard her knock at the front door.
He ran to the top of the stairs and pressed his ear against the door to hear what was going on.
“Hi,” he could barely hear the girl saying from the front door. “My name is Sally. I’m new to the area, and saw your home as I was out for a walk, and thought I’d stop by to say hi.”
“Well, hello,” he could hear his mom reply. “My name is Nancy. Would you like to come in?”
“Oh sure,” Sally answered.
Michael strained to hear as his mom introduced her to everyone in the family. He quickly fixed himself up as best as he could in anticipation of meeting her, but he never did.
He heard each of his family members greet her, and when they finished, instead of walking to the basement, he heard their footsteps walk the other direction to the living room.
They were now too far for away him to hear what they were saying.
He wanted to bang on the door. Force them to introduce him, but he knew that would only lead to a beating from his father.
Defeated, he slumped on the stairs and came close to crying.
When he heard the girl being escorted out, he ran back to the window to at least watch her leave. She was the first person he had ever seen come to the house. His parents and family had left on many occasions, but he had no idea where they went.
He saw the girl round the corner of the house and start to walk the way she had come.
Knowing it would probably be the last chance to make contact with another human being, he banged on the window, but only hard enough for her to hear and not his family inside the house.
She glanced over, and seeing him, walked over to the window.
She knelt down to see who was knocking on the window.
Michael expected her to recoil when she saw him, but if she did notice how repulsive he was, she didn’t show it.
“Hi,” she said through the glass. “What’s your name?”
Shyly, he replied, “Michael.”
A quizzical look appeared on her face.
“Why didn’t your family introduce me to you?” she asked.
He only shrugged.
“I think they are ashamed of me,” he said.
Ashamed was a word his mother used often.
Her quizzical look turned to one of sadness.
“I’m sorry,” she said sincerely.
They talked for an hour before Michael heard his family moving around upstairs. He didn’t want to get caught talking to Sally. If they caught them, they would never let her come back.
“Alright,” she said. “Would it be alright if I came back again to talk to you?”
Michael was all smiles as she walked away, but when he heard the basement door unlock, his smile faded. He didn’t want his mother to ask why he was smiling.
Sally came back the next day, and instead of going to the front door to knock, she went straight to the window, where Michael was already waiting.
As they talked, Sally described her home life to him.
Apparently, her life was only slightly better than his. She wasn’t locked in the basement like him, but she hated being home because both her parents were cruel. Her father was a drunk, and her mother never wanted to be one.
So when they had moved to this place, she went on walks as much as she could, for as long as she could.
Michael asked if she had met many other people during her walks.
“Not many,” she answered. “In town, there are a lot of people, but I don’t like crowds. I’ve been mostly meeting them walking to or from the town.”
Michael wondered why she had come back to talk to him, when there were others she could talk to.
Before he could ask, she said, “When I talked to you, I could tell we were a lot alike. Even though I don’t live in a basement, I can understand a little of how you might feel.”
Michael couldn’t believe she found him interesting enough to talk to. He had wished for a friend for so long, he had almost given up believing he would ever find one.
He listened as she told him everything about herself. He himself didn’t have much to say, but she had traveled and lived, so he wanted to hear all about it.
She talked about her travels. Her family traveled wherever work was. They would stay until something would happen, like her father losing his job, or getting into a fight, or committing some other crime, and then they would pack up and find a new place to live.
This had been the fourth time she could remember moving, and she was tired of it.
She talked about how she hoped one day to settle down in one place and have a family of her own. Michael told her he wanted the same.
As time went, Michael would talk more, telling her about what his miserable life was like.
“That’s horrible,” she replied. “You look a little different, but you’re by no means a monster.”
Hearing her say that made him feel better than he had in a long time.
Every evening she would spend a couple of hours with him, and then quietly leave. His parents never knew she was there.
She would always arrive after dinner, and his parents rarely went outside that late.
One night while he was sleeping, he heard a rapping at his window.
After rubbing his eyes, he slowly walked to the window to see what was making that noise.
When he saw Sally, he closed the distance faster.
As he approached, he could tell she had been sobbing, and was now whimpering.
“What’s wrong,” he asked.
“Will you run away with me?” she asked bluntly.
“What?” he asked, confused.
“I can’t live with my parents anymore,” she explained. “They’re horrible and I can’t take it anymore!”
She was talking through sobs now.
“Where would we go?” he asked.
“Anywhere we want,” she replied.
He had never been outside. He didn’t even know how people lived. He only had his parents as examples.
“I want to,” he said. “But I’ve never been outside of this house. I don’t even know how to get out without my parents finding out.”
The thought of escaping and running away was always on his mind.
“I could help you,” she said.
Without even fully understanding what love was, he knew he loved her.
“Okay,” he agreed. “When do you want to leave.”
“Tomorrow night,” she started. “I’ll grab a few things and then come over.”
“Okay,” was all he could say.
Suddenly, she kissed the glass window, turned, and quickly walked away.
Michael could only stare until she disappeared.
He couldn’t sleep the entire night. All he could think of was all the emotions that came with leaving with Sally. The joy of being with her. The fear of what he was going to do to survive. The prospect of them having a life together, and the despair that would follow if they were caught.
The following day, when his mother came downstairs, he couldn’t even look at her. He was afraid she would see his intentions in his eyes.
In between meals, he packed all he thought he needed, which wasn’t much.
After dinner, he sat himself by the window and waited for her.
Time seemed to move slowly, the seconds seeming to take minutes to pass.
He heard the last of the rustling from his family upstairs settling in for the night.
His heart raced.
Even though he didn’t sleep the night before, he still didn’t feel the least bit tired.
The moon slowly made his travels through the sky, and Michael started to grow concerned.
‘She should be here by now,’ he thought.
He strained his eyes, looking in the direction she always came from.
As night began to lean towards becoming morning, he slumped down, unable to focus anymore.
He felt angry at himself for believing she really wanted to run away with him.
‘I’m a monster,’ he thought. ‘She was just desperate and needed to hear me say I would leave with her for her to feel better, but then she realized that she had been foolish.’
And then his mind turned to something having happened to her.
‘What if her father caught her packing her things,’ he thought, beginning to panic. ‘What if something happened to her.’
His eyes weld up with tears at the thought of either being true.
He quickly stood up when he heard a rap at his window. It was Sally.
She had a bag with her and pulled out some tools that she used to quietly dissemble the window.
Once the window was out, he was quickly able to climb out with what he had packed.
As they stood facing each other, Sally leaned in and kissed him on the lips. He tensed but didn’t recoil.
He had no idea what he was supposed to do, so he let her lead and he followed.
After a short moment, she released her kiss, and they quickly fixed the window.
Michael knew it would be afternoon before his mom noticed him gone.
She led him by the hand and they half jogged, half walked as far as they could.
The sun was just beginning to peek out when they arrived at a road.
“Which way should we go?” Michael asked.
“Whichever way we want to,” she replied, and kissed him again.
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