It's during the first snowfall of winter in 1950 that Oliver Thredson decides he wants to be a father. It's a thought he's entertained for years, but it doesn't come to any real fruition until he walks through a park and comes upon a sight that makes a raw burning in his chest start up again that he hasn't felt since his own childhood.
There's a child struggling to get up in a swing, bundled up but alone in the bitter cold that has Oliver's nose stinging and his eyes watering. He crosses the park without a thought and helps the child onto the blue plastic, gray eyes peering up at him above a bright red scarf that looks handmade.
"Thank you," the child says, voice soft and muffled.
"You're very welcome," Oliver replies, reaching out to straighten the knit beanie they're wearing. A little girl, he notes, fragile. He looks around in case he'd just missed an adult, but the benches are empty and the sidewalks are deserted. In a small town like this one, it isn't exactly rare to see children at the park by themselves, but none are this young. "Where are your parents?"
"Do they know where you are?"
"Ma tol' me to go play and leave her 'lone." Oliver nods and considers this for a moment, hands in the pockets of his heavy coat. As he does this, the rusted chains of the swing begin to squeak, the child's legs pumping back and forth as she tries to build momentum. "What's you name?" The broken grammar would normally irritate him, but it's adorable when it comes out of a little girl's mouth that's still missing some teeth if the lisp is anything to go by.
"Oliver Thredson. What's yours?" He fixes his gaze back on her, those serious gray eyes still on him.
"Camille Olivia if I'm in trouble. If I done somethin' really bad, then my ma calls me a little asshole a'fore makin' me go sit on the porch step to think about what I done." She really has the swing going now, the squeaking chains grating on his nerves and little puffs of vapor showing whenever she exhales.
"Is that right? Do you have to sit on that step often?" She nods almost enthusiastically, the apples of her cheeks bright red from the cold. He laughs at her honesty and her eyes crinkle to show she's smiling as well. "You're lucky, I didn't have a mother to sit me on a step for misbehaving."
"How come you don't have a mom?"
"She left me when I was very small. I suppose she didn't want me." The burning in his chest grows worse than ever, spreading up to his temples. Perhaps he needs to get a new girlfriend, one he can snuggle with on cold nights like this one and massage his shoulders. But that won't work, they're never the right one in the end.
"My ma's boyfriend left last year. I don't 'member him much, just that he worked in Bangor." He narrows his eyes at that, thoughts picking up speed as that age old idea becomes clearer than ever. This could be just what he needs, cut out the nagging girlfriend and just have a child instead. Little girls are always more inclined to love their fathers, why should this one be any different?
"How old are you, sweetheart?"
"Three," she says, holding up two small fingers. After a second's hesitation, Oliver scoops the little girl up in his arms and begins to walk again, taking his usual route through the park to his house just two blocks away. He can feel the little girl shivering, though he can't tell if it's from the cold or fear. "Are you going to take care of me?"
"Yes, I'm going to be your father." It shouldn't be this simple, not in a small town like this one, there should have been someone to stop him from taking her away. Instead she just holds tighter to him and allows her eyes to close. "We're going to be fine, Camille, I promise."
And just like that, Oliver Thredson is one step closer to having everything he wants.
It's midnight when Erika's curiosity gets the better of her and she sneaks into her dad's office. He's not in there of course, Aaron's in bed by nine on most nights these days, but she has to be sure. There's no need to get grounded the day before her first date.
She grabs the old photo album off her father's desk and sneaks back to her bedroom, easing the door closed and pulling the knob up at the last minute to avoid the upper hinge squeaking. She stays there for a moment, ear against the warm wood and album clutched against her chest, but there's no noise other than the occasional car passing by outside.
Satisfied, she moves to her bed and flips on the purple fairy lights she's taped to the wall, just enough to see by on nights when the moon is full. The pictures at the front of the book are yellowed by time, the corners attempting to curl away from the glue holding them in place. Names and dates are written in chicken scratch on the bottom of each photo, showing smiling faces.
She brushes a finger over one picture in particular, smoothing down a corner for a moment. It shows a smiling couple with a baby settled between them, a little boy with a toothless grin and dimples that match his father's. The man in the photo is handsome, hair still thick and full, sleek with whatever product had been popular back then.
"Aaron's mom was a Witch, like us," Cordelia had said just last week. She'd been talking about the woman in the photo, the one that used to smile frequently and took special medicine because she'd have the worst nightmares. She never believed she was a Witch, she used to laugh such statements off because how could someone like her, an old woman, be magical? Looking down at her, her gray eyes wide and happy, Erika can believe her Nana was magical.
"I wish you were still here, Nana," Erika says, words barely more than a huff of air. There's no need to wake her father when he gets so little sleep as it is. "Maybe then you could tell me all sorts of things."
Things like why Erika's got magic when her father doesn't, why she got telekinesis when no one else in her family tree has it. Mostly, she just wants to hear her nana singing again, an old song that used to make Papa sway gently with Erika before the arthritis got too bad.
She lays back in her bed, the album cradled against her chest like a teddy bear and just as precious in her mind. She hums that old song from the fifties and remembers her nana telling her all about how her daddy had sung it as a lullaby when she couldn't sleep. Camille used to have nightmares even back then, only three and crying most nights until Oliver came in to check on her.
Earth angel, earth angel, will you be mine? My darling dear, love you all the time….