The Secret Store on Fern Street

William Montgomery Fiction Scholarship – Fiction

Emma Newman-Bale

Traverse City Central – 12th Grade

Looking out the window of my apartment a shadow lurks over the city. Rain pitter-patters on the glass, not leaving a moment of silence. My tabby cat hides under the couch, meowing after every roaring thunder. However, I am not afraid of the storm like my cat. I embrace it.
Growing up I would run through the streets, forcing my mom to sprint after me. I wouldn’t stop. Closing my umbrella I would open my arms to the rain that fell before me. Everyone always assumes that the sun is the happy weather, but not for me. The storms that have rolled in through the sky have released more dopamine in my little body than anyone could have thought. To this day, I am still entranced by the water that drops from the sky.
It has been years since I last ran through the water released upon the earth by Mother Nature. Not even thinking, my hands reach for the lilac colored raincoat. I look at the umbrella my mother bought me so many years ago, but it’s left behind as I close the door. There is no plan of where to go, but I don’t need one. My feet take me where they feel is right. Walking out the giant glass doors of the apartment complex, instantly a sense of relief comes over me. The rain melts my wavy hair and drips down my back. That doesn’t matter.
A couple of strangers crane their necks, giving questioning looks. The lights of the city reflect on the puddles, forming their own unique rainbow. My feet start to pick up speed. I go from a jog, to a cantor, and then to a gallop. I make various turns and go down different blocks.
Somehow at some point, I went down an unfamiliar street. I look behind me and I no longer see the reflection of streetlights on the ground. Coming to a halt, my eyes glance to the horizon. All I see is a tall brick wall, enclosing me on this strange road. Behind me, the street sign begins to glow and reveal itself.
“Fern Street,” I mumble under my breath. Never have I heard of this street before. The rain starts pummeling down with all its strength. All of a sudden Zeus strikes the ground, causing me to fall back. Sitting on the cold wet cement of the sidewalk, I observe my surroundings. In the distance a street light flickers. The value of the sky gets darker by the second.
Quickly, I try getting up and dash to the only light in the darkening world. I keep stumbling over my feet, nearly tripping with each step. It took a minute to get to the dim streetlight, but looking at what it is illuminating makes my heart skip a beat.
A petite store with a blue and red open sign clearing me for entry. With nowhere else to go, I spring open the door. An older lady, no more than five feet, is behind the counter reading a mystery novel. She takes her reading glasses off and lets them hang by the beaded chain resting on her nape. We make eye contact and she has the prettiest eyes I have ever seen. Hazel, matching the color of sand, with a blue center that replicates the ocean surface. This woman is no ordinary person.
“It’s about time you showed up,” the old lady said, breaking the silence. My eyes darted around trying to figure out what place I just wandered into. No inch of wall could be seen as shelves reached from the ground to the ceiling. The shelving held hundreds of trinkets, leaving no room for anything new. It seemed that it was a weird type of vintage store. There are wooden figures, polished jewelry, old dolls, and some random objects that don’t seem like anything but trash. Zoning out in a state of confusion, the old lady coughed. My head snapped back, facing her once again.

She grabs the side of her desk and slowly slides over to where I am standing. The table directly beside me is filled with art supplies. It would cost me a kidney to buy some of the items on this table.
“Take the paintbrush,” she remarked and pointed towards a basket filled with them. What did she mean by “the paintbrush?” I was too scared of what was happening to disobey her beating eyes. My hand reached into the basket and it moved around trying to find the right one. Out of nowhere, I felt a spark when grazing the tip of my finger along the handle of a brush. My fingers closed around it and ripped the brush out revealing its shiny texture and an engraving on the side. Looking closer, initials were burned into the side of the paintbrush.
“E.H.,” I whispered.
A tear rolled down my cheek, combining with the rainwater dripping down from my hair. I knew whose paintbrush this was and it broke my heart. It was my mom’s, Eden Haueter, before she passed. My family knew how precious her “lucky” paintbrush was, but we were never able to find it. This moment felt like a fever dream.
“The brush was left on the doorstep of my shop one day,” she calmingly stated, resting her hand on my shoulder.
“She used this on her deathbed, how on earth could it have ended up here?”
“All my stuff here is just left on my doorstep,” she insisted, “I believe that everything has a purpose, it just needs to be discovered.” Bringing the brush to my chest, a pounding headache erupts out of nowhere. Tripping over my feet I pass out on the floor.

My eyes flutter open revealing a bright light. Looking to my left I realize that it is the sun beaming through my bedroom window. Jumping straight out of bed and seeing that the

paintbrush is on my nightstand, I begin to question reality. I’m still wearing the same clothes as last night and my hair is damp.
This couldn’t have been a dream, thinking to myself. All day I stay in bed and just stare at the brush that lays before me. Thoughts rush through my head, unable to stay in one place at once. Reflecting on my Mom’s last moments led me into a black hole and I was left engulfed by my own mind.
It wasn’t until the next morning, not sleeping at all, that I was finally reeled back into reality. A knock on my door echoed through the silence of my apartment. My cat runs up to the doors and rubs his chubby body against it. I wish I could be a cat. Life seems so much simpler.
Peering through the little peephole, I see my landlord tapping his feet on the cement ground. I unlock my door just to be handed a yellow envelope labeled “eviction notice.” I fall to my knees and he turns around without saying a word. I was so caught up in the whole paintbrush thing that I forgot to pay rent yesterday. I was already on thin ice and now I’m screwed. A chill runs through my spine and I only have twenty-four hours to get out of my apartment. I don’t know where I’m going to go, but I know what I want to do. I grab the paintbrush off my nightstand, pull out a canvas from the closet, and take out the paints from my bookshelf. I unfold the easel that has been left in the corner of my apartment for the past decade, just collecting dust. I always used to paint with my mom when I was nervous about something.
I don’t think, my hand just drives the wet paint across the canvas. Within minutes an image begins to form. The sky is a beautiful array of colors, and a flower garden with a vine-covered cottage fills the space. It was where my Mom and I always dreamed of living. Escaping the real world and living in peace surrounded by nature. Just us two.

After a couple of hours, without taking any breaks, the painting is complete. As I turn around to pet my cat, a flash happens behind me. Glancing back, the painted image becomes a window. A physical window to be opened. Slowly stepping over to the painting a breeze whisks my hair behind me. Reaching my arms toward the painting, it goes beyond where the canvas was supposed to end. Curiously, I stuck my head into the painting. I look around to see the cottage I painted standing before me. The flowers dance in the wind. The smell that flooded into my face sent me into a trance. I knew this is where I am meant to be. I didn’t have anyone and now I’m losing my home. Sticking my head back into the window, a ladder appears welcoming me into this new world.
I begin to pack my belongings. Unsure of what will happen as soon as my full body enters the dreamland, I end up carefully throwing my stuff through. I decided to leave some things behind that I won’t need anymore. Once everything I wanted was in the realm of my new life, I decided to take one last look at my apartment. It was still very cluttered, but it still felt very empty. I put my cat into a back carrier, grabbed the paintbrush, and made my way down the ladder. My feet met the ground and it sent a tingle through my whole body. It was where I was destined to be.
The paintbrush was a miracle. Never will I understand how I came to find it. All I know is my mom was an angel guiding me to my fate. I unpack my things and make the little cottage into my little cottage. As much as I wish my mom to be here and experience this place together, I was glad to see our dream become a reality. The sky darkened and I began to hear the
pitter-patter of rain. I started thinking about that night when I met that old lady. So many questions and no answers. I can live with that though. I wouldn’t change where I am in the world. The rain starts to pound harder on the roof. I swipe the same lilac colored raincoat and

open the door. My cat meows at me, but I give him a treat and he returns to his bed placed on the windowsill. I close the door behind me and start to run. I’m galloping through the flowers, taking a few rests to admire plants I’ve never seen before. The water splashes off my head, soaking my hair right up. The scent being emitted reminds me of all the moments I spent dashing through the rain with my mom.
I stop running and just look to the sky. My eyes struggle to stay open, but I remain gazing up. The sky is painted in various shades of blue and gray. I think of how I got here. The rain. It all started with the rain. It led the way to the place of my dreams. I hope in every universe I am able to reach this place.
I will always and forever stumble back into the little secret store on Fern Street to reach this paradise destination.