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The Children Next Door

By: Emma Callahan

Do you ever picture a home in your head— one from your past that you desperately try to remember? For me, this is a daily thing. I try hard to imagine a crib where the office is now and toys where there is undoubtedly storage now. The home I try to imagine was never ours; it was theirs. The house still stands right next to mine, with the once white door now painted dark. There is no longer a little girl waving to me through the window, scooters, or chalk laid out in the driveway. My first broken heart was at the age of 13, when the children I'd grown up to love left me.


When I was eight, a young couple moved next door. They started a family the following year, having their oldest child, Penny, in September. She was a feisty little girl with hair the color of lemons. Ever since she could walk, she was at my door, begging for me to come out and play. I played with Penny night and day, dawn to dusk, until I could play no more. One day I was laying with her on the silky grass and thought to myself, "Wow, I can never lose this girl". It was almost as if I could feel my heart grow, and at that moment, Penny was everything to me. I didn't realize it then, but what I felt was love.


Next came Riley, Penny’s younger brother. Riley was a little boy with a heart of gold. The funny thing about Riley was that you could never understand what he was saying. He was the kind of kid who never aged, frozen in pure innocence. Riley made me feel incredibly important and loved. I'll never forget the way he used to hold onto my leg whenever he was nervous. Once Riley came along, my heart was full, or so I thought.


The last baby to be born was Oakley. She was an energetic little baby who never seemed to sit down. She lived in her own little world. I like to think that her world was a better place than our own. Oakley was a precious little baby, whom I never got to see grow old. Soon after her 1st birthday, the family next door moved away.


To me, they are dead. Completely gone. They do not age in my mind or have lives other than the ones they had next door. I haven’t spoken to them in three years. My heart has healed, but it will never be cured. It is missing three pieces that once belonged to the children next door.

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