By Anikah Burge

sunlight creeps through venetian blinds into a dark room

It started out like any typical day would for me. As Mama made lunch in the next room, I watched the world through the only window I was allowed to look through. I never grew tired of the view. We lived next to and across from many houses – a neighborhood. The house across from ours was painted a beautiful hunter green. I always adored the white shutters on the windows and the white porch wrapped around the front of the house.

The sun was shining, a light breeze rustled the leaves on the trees, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. This was one of the few times a month I was allowed to open the living room window. Just a crack, but enough to smell the different flowers and get some fresh air. I loved the fresh air. Its clean, fragrant smell filled up my lungs, refreshing my entire body, making me feel alive again. The only thing that could possibly make that experience better was being outside. 

I know I shouldn’t have asked, but maybe Mama would let me go out there sometime soon. Even just for a moment. I’ve always wanted to, but every request received the same answer. Still, I held out hope that one time would be different. 


I didn’t look away from the view in the window as she walked into the room. “Yes?” 

Before I lost my courage, I questioned, “When can I go outside?” 

Turning to gauge her reaction, I saw Mama’s body tense and the smile drop from her face. She hated the question, but that didn’t stop me from asking. 

“Must I remind you again?” Mama replied, her voice tight and penetrating as if she were daring me to continue. 

Not losing my courage, I softly stated, “Mama, I’m fifteen. Fifteen years old, and I don’t know what the grass feels like. I’ve never felt the breeze run through my hair. I’ve never felt the warm sun on my skin.”

After a moment, Mama sternly questioned, “Niara, I have told you time and time again why you cannot go out there. Do I need to repeat myself?” 

“No, Mama,” I quietly replied, hanging my head in defeat. I knew it was stupid to ask again.

I understood her reasons. Mama was afraid. I guess she just wanted to keep me safe. 

I remember her telling me what happened like it was yesterday. It was the night I was born. Mama had me, but another couple in the hospital wasn’t so lucky. Because of their grief in losing their newborn child, they tried to steal me from Mama. In the process, I got hurt, resulting in a significant scar on my face. That’s another reason Mama didn’t let me go outside – she didn’t want me to get laughed at. 

I always wondered why Mama was so afraid. That couple tried to take me from her fifteen years ago; they could be long gone by now. Mama always warned me about terrible people in the world, but surely there’s good out there too, right? 

As Mama walked back into the kitchen, I heard laughter coming from outside. Remembering Mama’s rule, I crouched down under the windowsill, making sure I wasn’t seen. I silently watched as a group of friends walked by on the sidewalk. They looked so happy, so content. I always wondered what it was like. Having friends. Mama’s company is great, but it would be so nice to know someone my age. 

That’s when it changed – my desire to leave. I knew I needed to go outside. I needed to experience everything Mama kept me from. Maybe then she would understand. I would finally be free from the four walls that kept me confined all these years. 

I waited until the following morning. Mama was still asleep, and the sun had just risen. I quietly stepped out of my room and into the kitchen. Mama always kept the keys hanging on a nail in the wall by the light switch. I made sure to stay silent, taking the keys into both hands to stop the metal from clanging together. One loud enough sound, and Mama would wake up. I would lose my chance. 

Tiptoeing past Mama’s closed bedroom, I made it to the front door. My heart skipped a beat when I heard the door unlock. 

My breath hitched when I saw the rising sun cast a rosy hue across the morning sky. I heard the faint chirping of birds, the sound of morning traffic a few streets over. I smelled the dozens of wildflowers in front of the house, the crisp scent of newly fallen rain. 

Everything I saw was beautiful. It ranged from the breeze making the leaves dance on the trees to the dewdrops rolling along the blades of grass.

I didn’t bother closing the door behind me. Stepping down from the cool cement in front of the door, I hesitantly walked onto the sun-drenched grass of my front yard. The moist blades poked the bottom of my feet, but I didn’t mind the strange sensation. I closed my eyes, welcoming the feeling the soft, green grass felt in between my toes. 

Freedom. I finally felt the freedom I longed for all these years, and I needed to see more. 

I carefully walked on the damp cement along the road, studying all my surroundings. 

As I strolled along the streets, I noticed more and more buildings, more trees, more parked cars. I suddenly felt the need to see another person. If I met just one, I could go back to Mama and explain that not all people are bad. Not all are out to hurt us like she thought. 

As I reached a street corner, a large piece of paper plastered on the side of a wooden telephone pole caught my attention. Intrigued, I walked up, reading the big black letters on the top of the page. 


I began reading the descriptions of the missing person. Female, blonde hair, fifteen years old. Just like me. 

Continuing to read the rest of the paper, I noticed a baby picture on the bottom of the page. Next to it, something called a progression photo of a girl with a massive scar on her face. 

My heart dropped as I realized the photo was me. 

Category: Featured, Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Student