I stood and observed the paint-chipped, ruby red door, confined by the cottage’s fatigued stone brickwork. The sun’s rays bore down furiously, augmenting the shine of the gilded lion’s head, which exhibited its teeth in a permanent display as if to ward off any potential wanderer that chose to disturb the cottage’s content bubble of isolation. Ivy that blanketed the door’s frame threatened to creep onwards but had been denied access by homeowner’s occasional escapades. I fiddled with the yellow file I had been carrying, its curling corners exposing the papers beneath. From afar, this cottage appeared neglected, but I could now observe the healthy bed of flowers skirting the house; someone had to have been tending to them. I had a decision to make.

A sharp inhale of crisp autumn air raced through my airways, flooding my lungs before solidifying like concrete – grounding me to the spot. I let the breath stew within me, mingling with all the turbulent emotions and hate and longing I bore through my formative years – the notion I’d been abandoned; the discovery of a letter on my 18th birthday; the immediate elation and subsequent hollowness those words spawned within me. I could stretch them across the expanse of my being, or squash them into the darkest pit of my mind, but I will never be free of their power over me.

I felt as though I’d diluted that breath with years of my being – in reality, it had only been half a minute. I let it go, as one releases a hawk to soar unburdened – those emotions releasing with it; hoping they will not return so quickly as that loyal hawk to ground me once again. Once the breath left my body, I felt light and free, as if I myself had been sent soaring through the clouds. I clutched that manilla folder as if it were the only tether I had to this house and its residents – as if it might suddenly disappear and with it, my claim to any sort of familial tie. With new-found courage, I chose to close the gap.

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