The day was a stormy mess. Thunder boomed, and lightning flashed. It was raining cats and dogs outside of the Willow’s household.
Lila Willow sat at the edge of her bed, restless. Her older brother, Adam was still downstairs eating dinner. It was spring break, and the air was still chilly, almost freezing. Warm air started to blow through the vent on her wall, and Lila walked over, relieved. Her dad didn’t like to turn up the heat high. It wastes too much money, Lila.
Whatever. Amber thought to herself. As night fell, Lila flopped onto her cozy bed, and drifted into sleep.
That same night, Lila had an odd, peculiar dream. A dream of her grandmother, who had mysteriously vanished one day 3 years after she gave birth to Lila’s mom, Annabelle Nickerson, (who dearly missed her mom that she never really knew). In her dream, Lila’s grandmother, a lovely women named Liane Nickerson, had woken up to the sound of a eerie, loud noise that went Woooooosh, Woooooosh, almost like a ghost.
Liane, still young and beautiful, tiptoed out of her bed, careful not to awaken her beloved husband, son, and her darling little girl, Annabelle, who, unlike her, were sleeping. Liane followed the sound to the edge of the creaky stairs, leading up to the creepy and dusty attic. Despite the scaredy-cat she was, Liane was determined to figure out the noise. As she reached stepped closer to the top of the staircase, the loud sound increased. Curious, Liane forced open the red oak door with difficulty, which was aged with rust.
To Lila, who was watching, this room seemed bizarlly familiar. The first thing both Liane and Amber turned to was the glass window in the far corner wide open, calling whoosh whoosh over and over again.
Liane gulped a breath of relief, her heart stopped pounding so hard. Then, she noticed a beautiful painting, framed with gold. It sat in the center of the room, lit in the dim light of the rising moon. Liane started toward the gorgeous work of art, gently placing her hand on the piece to get a better look at it. She yelped in surprise as her hand melted into it. She became curious, and she pressed her leg into it. Little did she know, there was a steep hill on the other side, and she toppled into the painting with a surprised shriek.
As Amber “stood” in the now empty room, it hit her. This was her attic, her home. Before Amber had time to process it, Amber woke up with a start.
She rubbed her eyes as light streamed in through the two large windows beside her bed. She was breathing heavily.
Maybe… maybe it was a clue, a clue to finding out where her missing grandmother was. The part that bothered her was that she always at the these vision-like dreams that took place in her house with her own family members, so she couldn’t be sure it was real, plus,What kind of people had visions anyway? Everyone would probably think I’m absolutely insane!
As she ate her breakfast, parts of the dream fluttered through her mind anyway, so clear she could remember every detail, as if a permanent mind-movie of the dream was imprinted in the brain.
“Sweetheart,” Lila’s mother piped up suddenly, breaking her thoughts. “ Are you alright?’ Her bright blue eyes were full of concern. “ You haven’t spoken all morning, as if something's bothering you. Do you have something you want to tell me?”
“I, uh.” Amber stammered. “ I’m just... tired this morning, I had a weir- I mean frightening dream last night.”
Her brother, Adam looked at her as if he knew something was up.
Lila scowled at him, and he quickly turned away, poking at the food on his porcelain platter. The family sat in silence, except for an occasional crunch from their mother’s crispy bacon.
“Well, Adam, Lila,” Her father finally spoke, breaking the silence. “Your mother and I are leaving for a few days to unite with a couple of college friends. I trust you two can stay home alone without causing any trouble, correct?”
“Yes, Dad,” Adam muttered. “We are quite old enough to be on our own now. Well… I am, I’m not sure about her.” He glanced over at his sister.
“Hey!” Lila glared, “I’m only one year younger than you, so stop treating me like I’m a baby!” Lila shoved her last piece of her crisp bacon into her mouth and slammed her fork down. She stormed upstairs, which was followed by a very loud door slam. “BAM!”
Lila flopped onto her bed, closing her eyes so that tears wouldn’t be spilling out at any second. She took a deep breath. Calm down, She willed herself, Stop overreacting! Lila had to control her feelings. Besides, she might need her brother’s help finding the painting, and what about when she was inside the painting? Who knows what was and is in there.
Lila sighed. She hated admitting she needed help. To herself, to everyone! Lila hugged her fluffy pillow, wondering how she got herself into this.
“But then again,” Lila said to herself, I’m not doing this for myself, for attention, I’m doing this for my mom!” Then, she fell asleep, thoroughly exhausted after last night’s dream.
When Lila woke up again, her parents were gone, and Adam was downstairs, watching TV. “Adam!” Lila hollered down the stairs, “I’m going to the attic, can you open the door?” Lila needed his help, because over the years, the door had gotten almost impossible to open.
After a minute, the TV clicked off, and a moment later, he appeared. Looking up at her, Adam asked, “Why?”
“It’s nothing, I-I just wanted to explore.” Amber said.
“No,” He frowned, advancing up the stairs. “You’re hiding something.” Lila sighed. Adam would never give in. With a profound breath, she told him everything.
When she was done, Adam spluttered. “No! No way, you’re making it up!” Lila scoffed. He didn’t believe her, although his intrigued tone said otherwise.
Lila rolled her eyes. “So, are you gonna open the door or not?” She grumbled, folding her arms across her chest.
“Only if you let me in on the action.” He smiled, his stupid big brother smile, all teeth showing,
Why would he want to help? Lila thought. On the other hand, why was I doing this? For you mom, duh. “Fine, whatever. Hurry up!” She tapped her foot impatiently as Adam began to pull on the door,
At last, the door opened with a rusty creak. Adam and Lila separated, brushing away cobwebs in search of the painting.
Finally, Lila dug out the gorgeous painting, caked with dust, in a worn-out, leather chest. “Found it,” she called out, careful not to make contact with the it. Adam scrambled over. He leaned in, blowing the years of dust off. He coughed, getting dust in his throat and Lila giggled.
“Ready?” Adam addressed her when he finished wheezing.
“Ready,” she answered, confidently. The painting was quite big, and she could fall from a high place, like her grandmother had, so Lila decided to go feet first.
“Here goes nothing!” Lila shrieked, jumping in. She was right, as she tumbled down a steep hill, her auburn locks trailing after her. Lila was glad she wore her fluffy black hoodie. It was a bit chilly, and shorts and a T-shirt wouldn’t do much good.
After a moment, Adam appeared out of thin air, falling on his rear end, and began to tumble down, just as she had.
Lila, who had gotten to her feet already, quickly jumped out of the way to avoid being crushed by the weight of her older brother. Lila climbed up a little higher to get a better view.
“Wow,” Amber breathed.
The sky above was a gorgeous violet, like it was in the painting, the moon a creamy color. All the houses looked the same, a milky white structure with a steel gray roof. It seemed to be night, and not a single sound could be heard. “Adam, maybe we can explore around while no one’s outside?” Lila wondered
But Adam wasn’t paying any attention to her. He was too busy gazing up at the sky. “How do we get out of here later?” Adam asked, his eyes full of worry.
“We just-” she stopped. “Oh. Oh. I don’t know,” Lila groaned.
“Guess we’ll worry about it later,” Adam muttered, shrugging. They climbed down the hill and began to snoop around the neighborhood.
After what seemed like an hour, Lila gasped. “Adam, Look!”
Adam scrambled over, and asked, “What, WHAT?” She pointed at a turquoise mailbox, with the name Liane Nickerson imprinted on both sides in gold. “That’s grandma’s name,” Adam exclaimed, shocked. “She lives here?”
Suddenly, Adam pushed Lila behind a bush, and dove over himself.
“Wha-” Lila began. Adam clamped a hand over her mouth.
She understood immediately, as a pale figure, a person, headed towards their grandmother's house. He was holding a package in his hands. He rang the doorbell and Liane Nickerson appeared at the doorway.
Lila and Adam gasped. As soon as the delivery guy left, they popped up and walked towards Liane’s house. The doorbell rang with a loud “Ding Dong”.
Liane opened the door, and smiled. “Why, hello children, are you lost?”
“Do you have a daughter named Annabelle?” Lila blurted out, unable to contain her excitement.
“Well,” Liane said sadly, “I do, but she never visits me. Why, she doesn’t even know her poor mother’s here. And... well, now that I think of it, you darlings look quite familiar.”
“We’re your grandchildren. I’m Adam and she’s Lila,” Adam said.
“Oh yes, why you two look quite like my darling Annabelle when she was a little girl.” She replied “How is she, happy, beautiful, kind?”
“All of the above” Lila informed her.
“Wonderful! But come in children, it’s cold outside.” Liane ushered them in. Her living room was colored a cozy grey with frilly pink pillows on the white couches. Adam and Amber sat down and their grandmother went to pour a cup of milk and grab a plate of cookies. She set them down, and sat.
“You know, you should come back to the “real world”.” Lila blurted.
“I… I would, but I can’t get out, and once I leave, I will age the years that I missed.” Liane murmured.
“Oh no, the painting!” Adam gulped.
“Wait…” Liane questioned, “What does it look like?”
“It’s beautiful, really. The sky is a magnificent purple, the grass is a lovely green, and the houses all white with a grey roof.” Lila supplied.
And Liane told them a secret. Across the street, was a lady named Elliot Hargrove. Apparently, she too, came from the other world. They’re multiple of the painting because the artist was aiming for there
to be a magnificent world in it and many ways to get inside and out of the painting. Elliot Hargrove owns one of the paintings that is a exact replica of the others.
“So… you want us to steal it?” Adam asked, astounded that lady like her would want them to break into someone’s house.
“Yes,” their grandmother said.
The next day, the children waited for Elliot to leave the house. They snuck through the back with a key they found beneath the doormat. They quickly separated and began to search around.
After 10 minutes, Adam uncovered the painting in Elliot’s bedroom. “Found it!” He called, “Help me carry it out!”
Lila ran over, Adam could hear her footsteps, quiet but fast.
Together, they managed to haul the large and heavy painting out of the house. Their grandmother opened the front door, and helped them settle the painting on the rug of her living room.
“I… was thinking,” She said slowly, “I might go back. It’s time I’ve left this peaceful sanctuary. And I should go see my family, wherever they are.”
“Really?” Adam and Lila smiled happily.
Their grandmother silently said her goodbyes to the place that had been her home for the past 31 years. She fingered the carpets and her bed. Watered her plants for the very last time.
Then, together, they stepped through the painting.
As soon as they reached the other side of the painting, their home, Liane began to change. Her gorgeous auburn hair faded to a reddish grey, wrinkles appeared on her flawless face, and she seemed to shrink down an inch or two. A beautiful young woman, now their 66 year old grandmother. Their grandmother looked at her hands sadly,
“This day had to come, one way or another.” She shrugged.
The day her parents arrived back home, they let Liane open the door.
Their mother was awestruck. She leaned into her mother, crying.
“Oh, Annabelle,” Liane had said, hugging her daughter, “I love you so, so much.”
“Me too, Mom. Me too.”