There was a knock, knock, knock on the bedroom door. A muffled voice came from the other side.
Abigail Morgan opened her chocolate brown eyes and looked around. The bed next to her own was empty. Her older sister was out of town and this made her frown.
“Breakfast is ready, Dabs.”
“I’m not hungry.”
The squeaky door opened. Concerned and loving eyes came toward her.
Abigail closed her own for a moment as a cool hand rested on her forehead.
“What’s the matter, honey? Are you feeling sick?”
“No, mommy. It’s just that my belly is already filled with sadness this morning.”
“You are an eloquent child, aren’t you? That’s what your father always said.”
“What does eloquent mean?”
Mrs. Brownlee brushed a strand of hair from her youngest daughter’s face. “It means that you say things in such a pleasing way that it paints a picture for the eyes and sings a song to the ears.”
“When you were very young, you enjoyed sitting on your father’s lap while he sipped his morning coffee out on the front porch.”
“I remember that!”
“Well, one clear blue morning, you looked up and happened to notice for the first time the white trails of exhaust left behind a plane flying overhead. And do you know what you said?”
“I don’t remember.”
“You were only four or five years old, but you said, ‘Daddy, that plane is scratching the sky.’”
Abby smiled at the freshened memory.
“That’s when your father first took note of your natural eloquence. He said that it was a gift from God.” Mrs. Brownlee hugged her daughter. “Come on. Your food is getting cold.”
Abigail slipped into her sister Adelaide’s warm robe and followed her mother down to the dining room, comforted by her presence.
Two overly-excited dogs with silly grins greeted them at the foot of the stairs, wagging not just their tails but also their heinies, thumping and bumping against the rickety legs of the kitchen table, circling like sharks beneath a heavenly combination of salty bacon, sweet pancakes, and tangy orange juice. One of the pups pushed Addie’s vacant chair and it moved as if by her ghost.
Abigail felt like crying again. She missed her sister and best friend. How will she ever survive a whole week without her?
“She’ll be back before you know it, sweetheart. I know how hard it is to miss someone.”
. . .
Another knock, knock, knock, followed by a ding-dong, came at the end of breakfast. The dogs went bonkers again. They rushed down the hall and rounded the corner like a furry flashflood, ramming violently against the front door of the house.
Wiping her hands and backing away from the table, Mrs. Brownlee stood and wondered out loud, “Now who could that be? It’s much too early for the mail.”
Abby shrugged. All she knew for certain is that it was still raining outside for the third day in a row and just as cold, gray, and lonely on the inside of her heart.
A minute later, her mother returned.
“Hmm. The strangest thing. Someone left a package on the front porch but there’s not a soul in sight.”
A rectangular parcel. Wrapped in brown paper somehow miraculously dry in the heavy downpour. Adorned with a red bow. Signed in elegant calligraphy that hadn’t bled: to Ms. Abigail Morgan Brownlee. There was no return address. The sender remained a mystery.
“Open it up! It’s something for you, Dabs!”
Characteristically gentle and true to her nature, Abby untied the bow with careful fingers and thoughtfully set the silky ribbon aside as if it might be used again someday. She did the same with the wrapping paper. A sentimental reverence that is uncommon for a child of nine.
Revealing a single volume, bound with an earthy, leather cover. It was smooth to the touch like Addie’s saddle and scented like her father’s winter jacket.
A book without a title. A book with no words.
Abigail didn’t know what to make of it.
“Whatever you want to make of it,” her mother said. She handed her a box of sharpened pencils and a pair of purple reading glasses. “You need to wear these.”
. . .
Page one. What should she write? Maybe she should introduce herself.
Hi! My name is Abigail Morgan and my favorite number is two. Here’s why. You ready? Pay attention! Okay, okay, deep breath!
I’m the second child, born on the second of March, which is the second day of spring, which is technically the second season in the year (because winter crosses the first of January first). I was two weeks late and arrived “not a second too soon!” according to my mother. Our family has two dogs and the second dog loves me the most. I also have a second set of eyes—a pair of purple glasses that once helped me find a lucky clover—and two times two equals a four leaf. I could go on and on. For instance, there are two testaments in the Bible and the second is the best. Things like that.
Abby read what she had written so far and groaned. She ripped the page from the book, wobbled it up, and tossed the crumpled ball of paper over her shoulder like her father used to do. He would litter the whole floor of a room whenever he wrote. In the end, he’d burn every sheet in the firepit with a scary smile glowing on his face.
“I must disappear,” Abby whispered.
She relocated to another room and perched herself on a cushioned bench seat in a big bay window, staring out at things yet unseen. Daydreaming. Entranced. She gradually became invisible until nothing remained but her five senses.
An unspoken thought, a sweet face—Addie’s face—was the first single ray of sunshine breaking through clouds of sorrow, creating a double rainbow of happiness. She could hear her sister’s fairy laughter and followed the musical sound through a forest of ideas and into a secret clearing. Write it down! Write it down!
The words came. The sentences flowed. The pages turned.
Abigail closed the book at lunch. Adelaide disappeared.
Abigail opened the book after lunch. Adelaide reappeared.
Her heart skipped with excitement. Another sharpened pencil dulled quickly and was immediately replaced with another and another and another.
There she goes! Cantering alongside the wooden fence that borders the yard. Her sister’s brown hair, poker straight, gleaming in the sun, feminine ribbons and reins. With great skill, Addie directs her speckled horse, Perky, toward the window with a cluck, cluck of the tongue and waves to Abigail. “Come on!”
Without ever leaving the cushioned bench, Abby races out the backdoor under a cloudless sky and mounts the strong shoulders of her father. He gallops behind Perky, breathing hard. He’s an old, wheezy gray horse named Pickle.
Line after written line, they all play together. In sunnier weather.
Until it was time to do some chores. Mrs. Brownlee needed to go to the post office. The moment the magic book was closed, the lights of Tryon International Equestrian Center turned off. The horses fell silent. Addie and daddy were gone again.
On the way to the post office, she allowed herself one more entry.
“In the real world, it is still raining. The wipers of mommy’s car scratch across the windshield with a pleasant rhythm, making things less blurry, making it possible to see the long road ahead—much like a pencil on paper.”
Lightening streaked across the sky and flashed within her eyes like powerful, electrifying sentences. Abigail felt warm and tingly all over. She, Addie, and daddy will go exploring tomorrow. They will fight off Indians. Discover hidden treasure. Swim in a swamp of alligators without getting consumed. Fly without falling. Play hide and seek in every room of the Biltmore House. Sit around a campfire. Collect seashells and pine cones. Maybe walk a snowy path through a winter wonderland without ever getting cold. Or sit in a chair and rock on the front porch with daddy again, watch another thunderstorm roll in. Her pencil, her paper, her mind—all combined—could make anything possible.
She will fill the empty pages of the magic book and give it a name.