• Chapter One;
    We were Strangers

    February 13th, 2068

    The wind caressed the old mans exposed skin as he approached the all to familiar house that sent sad feelings through to his very core.
    It had been a several years since he had last come to this house. He wanted to come back, he really did. But, every time he got up the courage to pack his bags, and walk down memory lane he would sit down and cry. Yes, a grown man would sit down and cry.
    But, he knew now it was something he had to do, something that his late wife had requested of him before she has slipped through his fingers forever.
    He walked up the weathered steps of the beach house and smiled at every step as memories of her ran through his mind. Like the first night that they had stayed in the house.
    She was so happy that they had won the auction that she stayed out on the porch with her hand over her belly singing her favorite song to the glowing sunset.
    Or, the time that she found out that she was going to have twins and she cried on the front steps, telling her self over and over that she wouldn't be a good mother.
    The old man reached out to the vivid memory and pursed his lips together when it all started to fade.
    “Father?” A young female voice echoed over lapping his memories.
    The older man turned around and smiled at the young brunette. “Oh, Aaliyah I‘m so glad you came.”
    Aaliyah smiled and walked up to the older man. Kissing his cheek softly. “Honestly, I’m really surprised that you're here.” She stated truthfully. “I thought you vowed to your self that you would never step foot through these doors again.“ She stated as she wrapped her arms around the frail man.
    The older man wrapped his free arm around the young woman and gripped his cane tightly with the other. “Your mother told me that she had left something for me.” He finally stated.
    “That’s just like mother, being romantic right up until the end.” She whispered as she held out her arm to her father so he could hold onto her for support.
    “That was only one of the many reasons that I fell for her.” The older man said in agreement. He paused for a moment before he reached into his pocket for the old skeleton key that belonged to the house. When he pulled out the antique he just stared at it vacantly.
    “Your stalling.” She whispered.
    Perhaps he was stalling, perhaps he didn't want to walk down memory lane for fear that it would cause his already cracked heart to finally break.
    “Why is your brother not here?” He wondered as he looked up at Aaliyah.
    She stared at her father for a long moment before giving up and exhaling her breath that she had been holding. “He’s probably still on the road, he hates to leave his music.”
    “So the band is doing well?” He asked.
    “I guess so, though I only talk to him every once in a blue moon.” She said with a chuckle. “He was always the kind of guy who loved the lime light.”
    “How’s the office?” The old man asked.
    “It’s good.” She said with an even bigger smile then she had before. “I’m glad that I was introduced to this type of work early! Not only do I like my work, but I think I found the love of my life.”
    “Well I am glad that the both of you are following in the family’s footsteps.”
    Aaliyah rolled her eyes.
    The old man finally stuck the key into the key hole and turned it, then pushed open the door.
    He walked into the old house and looked around. It was untouched, clean, and felt like he just walked out of the house five minutes ago. In fact he was sure that if he walked into the kitchen he would be greeted with her kiss and dinner.
    He remembered it so clearly. The house was warm, a fire was burning in the living room.
    “I’m home,” He would say as he hung up his coat.
    She would be flitting around the kitchen in a cute dress that showed off her little belly that was beginning to form, her beautiful red and black hair would be pulled back in a loose pony tail. She would stop and look up at him, a flush filling her cheeks. “Oh hello honey,” She would reply as if she was surprised to see that he was home.
    He would then walk up to her and take her into his arms and lay one of the most unforgettable kisses upon her lips and just hold her.
    But, then she would pull away because something on the stove was starting to burn.

    “You had it cleaned?” Aaliyah asked as followed her father in, interrupting his memory.
    He didn't answer, just nodded as the memory faded in front of his eyes.
    Just in front of the old man stood the grand staircase. One of the reason’s that his wife had been so admin about getting the place. The staircase split off into different wings of the house, one side had the kid’s rooms, and the other side had the master bedroom.
    Just then another memory filled his mind.
    She was on the stair case, standing in nothing but a towel. He remembered this night was the first night that they were together legally.
    She was pale all her life but tonight she was filled with a glow, one that not even the prettiest woman could ever over shadow.
    He smiled painfully as she held out her little hand to him, mouthing the words; 'I love you'.
    The old man shook his head and inhaled trying to keep the tears that he wanted to shed back. He then started to head for the staircase when his daughter grabbed his arm lightly.
    “You shouldn't be going up there Dad.” She whispered with worry in her voice.
    He turned around and looked at his daughter. She looked so much like her mother that it made him smile. “I have to,” He started. “Your mother left me something in her hope chest.” He answered as he grabbed onto the railing.
    “I can go grab it for you.” Aaliyah offered.
    The old my shook his head. “No, I need to go up there myself.” He said with a chuckle.
    “What did she leave you?” She wondered.
    The old man just shrugged. “She didn't tell me, all she said was that what it was would make me smile on even the saddest of days.”
    Aaliyah raised an eyebrow. “Wait a minute, you’re talking about the old chest that was at the end of your bed right? The one that mom would never let us kids touch.”
    The old man nodded. “Yeah, she kept all her treasures in there.” He answered as they reached the top of the stairs and turned right to head for the master bedroom.
    “Why do I feel that you’re not giving me the whole story?” Aaliyah asked as she helped him to the room.
    He didn't answer but instead hobbled quickly over to the chest and popped open the lock.
    “Grab me a chair Aaliyah.” He commanded.
    Aaliyah didn't have to be asked twice, she grabbed the closest chair and dragged it over to him.
    Once he was sitting down he opened the lid to the chest to reveal an item that made his face sadden.
    “What?” Aaliyah asked as she walked up behind her father and peered inside the chest.
    There was a leather bound book wrapped up in a antique looking lace, on top of the book laid a white envelope with something that was unreadable scribbled on the front.
    “What is it?” Aaliyah asked as she watched her father pick up the small book.
    “Remember when your mother gave you that journal on your fourteenth birthday?”
    Aaliyah nodded. “She told me to write in it every day to document everything that happened to me.” She paused. “She said that one day it will come in handy.”
    “I know for a fact that this one did.” He whispered. “In fact if this didn't exist I don’t think that your mother and I would have gotten married.”
    “So that’s mom’s journal?”
    “Yes, she was quite avid about writing in it." He smiled. “I thought it was silly then, and I even made fun of her a little.”
    Aaliyah smiled. “I didn't think that you ever picked on mom.”
    “Well you’ll probably hear it a lot in here.” He whispered. “Probably things that I don’t want you to hear.” He said while squinting his eyes.
    Everything went quiet for a moment before the old man finally opened the white envelope.
    A small photo fell out of the letter and floated to the ground. Aaliyah's father was to preoccupied with the letter that he was unfolding to notice.
    She bent over and scooped it up before her father noticed. She stared at the aged photograph and smiled.
    “Is that you?” She asked as she held the picture in front of her father.
    The old man grew a smile across his weathered lips. “Would you look at that?” He stared at the photo for a moment then his face saddened quickly as he counted the people in the photo. "That's your mother," He stated as he pointed to the young girl with bright red hair. “You see, both your uncle and I were in love with her, we fought for years over her.” He looked up at Aaliyah and smiled.
    “How did you two handle it?” Aaliyah wondered.
    “Well obviously the best man won.” He said with a smile. “May I be your real father or not.” He whispered.
    Aaliyah looked at her father for a long moment. “You mean, Aaroke and I might not even be your real children?”
    The old man shrugged. “Both I and your uncle had a relationship with her.” He said as if it didn't bother him.
    “Why didn't one of you give up?”
    “One of us finally did.” He said with a chuckle.
    Aaliyah flipped the picture over and read the small print. ‘Rena and the neighbor boys Haven and Leon. 2006’
    The old man opened the folded piece of paper that seemed to be ripped at the bottom. But, it didn't stop him from reading it. “To my loving husband,” He started.

    When I was younger my mother told me, I was going to find the one man that would make me feel like I was a princess, he would make me feel that I could do anything. But like every child’s dream, my prince charming scenario came crashing down when I was told by the doctors diagnosed me with an incurable illness that they hadn't even found a name for. So they didn't have a cure.
    I lived my life day by day, not making any life changing decisions knowing that I would only be disappointing myself.
    Then I met you, or should I say that I bumped into you. You saved me without even knowing that you had.
    You pulled me from my dark reality and made me feel like I was someone who was worth loving, that I was someone special. You fought for me, told me that you loved me, made sure that I was safe and secure.
    So please accept this as a token from my undying love, and affection.
    In your hand you hold my whole life story. I had stopped writing it when I turned fourteen. But when we met I found the spark that made me want to write. With the help of your family, and all of our friends I was able to fill the grey areas that I could never remember. Such as our first kiss, our first fight, our first night that we spent together.

    He paused and then continued.

    “You will notice that I had stopped writing when the twins turned seven.. But as I started to get worse I started to lose my mind again. Not remembering even the little things such as the fact that we even had children.

    It was then that the letter was ripped.
    “What else does it say?” Aaliyah asked as she pulled up a chair. She had remembered when her father finally placed her mother in a home. She was so young when she passed that she was afraid that whatever she had left for her father was going to tear him apart.
    “I wouldn't know,” Her father whispered. “It’s ripped.” He stated as he held up the piece of paper.
    “Your mother used to leave me notes all over the place, ripping them up so I would have to find them, or that if someone else found them that we wouldn't be caught. It was what we had to do at first, but then it became one of her favorite games.” He said with a soft chuckle.
    “She was definitely different, if I tried that with Jeremy he would break up with me.” She said half serious half joking. “I’m sure he wouldn't of even second guessed it.” She scratched the back of her head.
    “None of us wanted to lose her, but I knew from the very beginning that I was going to be with her, no matter who else tried to take her away.” He said with a smile.
    “You’re quite sure of yourself.” Aaliyah stated.
    “Of course I was.” He whispered.
    “So are you going to play her game?” She wondered.
    “Of course,” He stated as he opened the book and looked at the first entry. "I did back then, and I will do it till the day I die."