Natives of Willow Creek [Prologue]

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“You were such a good baby,” said Mom. “You know you were the most angelic little toddler, right? You never gave me any trouble.”

“Really??” I smiled. I was very proud to hear that.

“Yes. Not like Keegan, right?”

“Nooooo!” I laughed. “Keegan’s so fussy. And annoying.”

I wrote these things down in my little pink notebook for school. We were sharing with the class everybody’s heritage for our History portion of the class. The information didn’t have to include things like this, but I wrote them down anyway. We already went through ancestors and all of that stuff.

Another question I had to answer, “How did you and Dad meet?” I asked.

Mom smiled. “Well…

“I grew up in the north, where there’s cold weather. Your father was the opposite. Like where we live now, he also lived in a sunny, tropical area. And that’s why he always wore the necklace–” she pointed –“the shark tooth around his neck. It’s sort of a part of where he lived and grew up.”

“Did it snow a lot?” I interrupted. “Where you lived. Did it snow a lot?” I had never seen snow in person before.

“Yes,” Mom answered, “yes. It snowed a lot, Anna.

“Anyway I hated it up there. I always wanted to move. I didn’t think I ever actually would, though. I had several boyfriends and dated a lot before I met your father. I was already almost out of college. We met online… we both had a lot in common. We became best friends. Naturally, we eventually fell in love… and well, despite how far away we lived… we made it work. And now we live down here.

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We moved into this tiny little house to prepare for you. We had you pretty early in our lives. Your dad was interning at the Space Center. I was getting started as an artist, doing grunt work for the gallery. Our family started us off with some money so we did fine. It was just me, you, and Daddy — and then Keegan was born.

And then, remember I said Keegan got very sick when he was a baby?”

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“Mhm-hm,” I said.

“He was just an infant still. You were so little, you wouldn’t remember. Yeah, Keegan got very ill. Keegan almost died…

It was very serious. For a while, he was in the hospital for longer than he was at home with us. There’s a photograph we have of you two, actually being together – we don’t have a lot of those. We just wanted to take one or two pictures at least. Because, we really thought he wasn’t going to make it.

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We were grieving for him every night. The babysitter Iliana used to stop by off hours just to give us support, she was such as sweetheart. However, we felt really sorry for you too, Anna…

We looked at the pictures and thought, this poor girl isn’t going to have a brother anymore. She’ll never grow up with that. We weren’t planning to have another child.”

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Daddy walked by us. “So be thankful for him,” he added.

“Don’t interrupt,” said Mom teasingly. “Yes, slowly but surely he finally recovered. He’s about as normal of a kid you can have, now. It’s really lucky that he’s still alive. But, obviously, you’re still going to fight like normal siblings, and that’s fine..”

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“Smile guys! Say cheeeeese!”

“We’ll have the photo printed and write on the back of it,” Mom said, “The last day in our small house!! Goodbye, small house! Right? Yay!”

“Bai bai!” Keegan said.

“I doubt Keegan will remember that little place, but you remember how small it was?” Mom asked. “Not like this. This house is really nice. We even have two bathrooms. I never thought I’d have a house with two bathrooms. Mommy grew up very poor.”

“Okay, another question for you. Mom, how would you describe me?”

“Hmmmmm.” Mom smiled. “How would I describe you? Well, you’re a very nice girl… who loves her brother, even though she bullies him sometimes—”

“He makes me mad!!” I argued. I thought this was a given.

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She laughed. “You have an artistic eye just like me. You’re very good at fashion… you definitely have an eye for that…

And… you’re as carefree and happy as you can possibly be.”

I smiled.

“Now,” she continued. “Stay a little more still for this painting, will you?” I really enjoyed my mom’s work. I liked having her art up around the house. She had slowly made me come to appreciate the work of artists, even if it wasn’t a big deal in my life.

Free as can be, I keep memories of racing through the monkey bars, hanging upside down and experiencing the excitement of learning a new trick to impress with. That was, mostly, my life.

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I’ve lived in Willow Creek my whole entire life. For as long as I can remember. In fact, Willow Creek is fairly new. It is a very small town that just branched off on its own a few decades ago, and became independent from a larger town.

Willow Creek only has a few residential neighborhoods. Ever since I started going to school, I could remember everybody, everyone who moved up a grade with me. Everyone came from different neighborhoods, but we all knew each other. Willow Creek is my home, and I guess you can say I’m a native.

“Very good, Annabelle,” my teacher said during History. “Good job on your presentation. You sure learned a lot about your family.”

I smiled politely as I went to go take my seat.

“That’s a lot of information on your hands,” she added, “Make sure you keep it all recorded, so that it’s passed down to your future generations. All of you do this. Don’t lose knowledge. It’s the worst thing to lose… keep the knowledge you have of your heritage. Okay?”

“Yes” said the class, and “yes”, I promised, seemingly louder than everyone else.

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