Joseph Winters never thought that he could ever be a father. His own had been a cruel man with outdated values who would often scold him for seemingly no reason. He couldn’t even get a B in school without feeling his father’s wrath. Joseph had to be perfect in every way. He had to be absolutely brilliant, amazing at sports, social, and most of all he had to be normal. This led to a difficult life all through high school and once he finally went to university with a soccer scholarship his façade of perfection crumbled under the realization that he didn’t like soccer. He switched degrees multiple times before deciding that he wanted to be a writer.
Because of this he honestly believed that he could never be a good father. He didn’t want to pass his trauma on to his children. He feared he would become his own father and so he decided one day years before that he would never have kids.
Of course he was forced to change his plan when he noticed a young girl on the side of the road alone in front of his house. She stared off into the distance, deep into the woods on the other side. She had been there all day and no one spoke to her, no one even grinned awkwardly at her. Most people didn’t even seem to see her as they walked by going about their daily business. It was as though she wasn’t even there.
Joseph first noticed her in the morning. At the time, he thought she was waiting for someone to come pick her up, but once night fell and still showed up and still she stood there staring into the woods he became concerned about her wellbeing, went outside, and knelt before her.
“Hello.” He said softly. “I happened to notice that you’ve been here all day. Is there anyone coming to pick you up?”
She looked up at him. Her eyes reminded him of a blank piece of paper. She clearly thought for a second before answering his question. “No.” she said simply. She sounded almost confused but other than that her voice was devoid of all emotion.
“Then why are you standing here?’
“I don’t know.”
“Is there anyone I can call?” He couldn’t leave such a young girl outside all alone all night, especially not in his neighbourhood.
“I don’t know.”
It was strange. She almost reminded him of character he had created just months before. He knew he had to do something, but he didn’t quite know what that was. He decided to do the last thing he could do.
“Would you like to come into my house? I’ll make you a cup of tea.”
“Yes. I don’t know if you’ll like it, but I know for sure it’s my favourite thing to drink after I’ve had a long day.” He smiled at her.
Surprisingly she smiled back. “Okay.”
Together they walked into Joseph’s house. He led her to his kitchen, cleared off a place for her at the table to sit, and started heating up some water for tea. She watched intently as he dipped a tea bag into the hot water and handed it to her.
“Be careful. It’s hot.” He warned. “And probably also not a good thing to drink on a hot summers night.
“Okay.” She blew over the top of the mug before taking a small sip. She smiled again. “It’s good. Thank you.”
“That’s good to hear. I’m Joseph by the way.”
“I’m….” she stopped moving for a second as she tried to remember. “I’m Rowan.”
“Okay Rowan. I need to go to the other room to do something. Are you alright on your own?”
He walked into the living room where he kept the phone. He had to look through the phone book to find the number for child services. Then he called. A nice lady answered the phone and an hour later someone came to pick Rowan up. He said good bye to the little girl and hoped to never think of her again.
But he found he couldn’t stop thinking about her. He was sincerely worried about Rowan. He called the same number almost weekly until a few months had passed when he called once more to get an update on the girl. He was told that no one ever came to pick her up. He offered to take her in, at least until someone claimed her. He didn’t mind the idea of having a child living with him anymore despite the fact he was once disgusted by the very thought. She came to live with him, no one came to claim her as their child, and he adopted her becoming a single father in the process.
It was hard at first, especially since Rowan apparently had no memories before Joseph found her. She took his last name since she wasn’t in the system and she was estimated to be around 5 years old. She often had to go to therapy which gave him even less time to write after actually preparing all three meals, bathing her, and making sure she went to school, but it was worth it in the end. It somehow didn’t even strain his finances that much.
Now he knew something he didn’t know before. He was nothing like his father and he wouldn’t give up his daughter for anything.
Rowan Winters walked quickly through the city streets. The clouds hung dark and low in the sky. She had a good feeling that it was going to rain soon. Sadly she had forgotten her umbrella in her apartment because of how she stressfully rushed to get out the door. There was yet another job interview that she could not miss.
Two plastic grocery bags dangled from her hands. She bought some groceries and some snacks on her way home. She was sure she would get the job as a high school janitor, and even if she didn’t she would get a job eventually. She fingered the blue stone that hung from her necklace for good luck. She felt memories from past lives making themselves known in her mind. She had been found with the stone and her father made it into a pendent so she could keep it with her always. She smiled as she remembered her father fumbling with the stone, trying to find the best way to do this. The task had taken hours.
She took out her keys as she approached the building where she lived. She let herself in and climbed a flight of stairs before reaching her apartment. She searched the ring for the key to the door when she noticed that it hung slightly ajar.
She swore. She must have left the door unlocked and open. This was one of the many things that scared her. Despite the many times she tried the doorknob to make sure it was locked every time she left she had finally made the mistake.
But when she pushed the door open she saw the splinters of wood from the doorframe as though her door was locked after all. She even checked the doorknob and found that she could not get it to turn at all. Her door had been locked for sure. No mistakes were made, by her at least.
She gasped as she took in the state of her living room. All the drawers had been emptied and now hung open, all her books had been haphazardly tossed on the floor, and there was her umbrella broken in the middle of the floor. The other rooms could not be much better.
She took a step and felt her foot land on something hard. Looking down she froze.
There under her foot was a motionless raven in a puddle of dried blood. Its head sat nearby.
She dropped her bags near the door and rushed to find the phone.
That was when it started pouring.