Chapter 1

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"I wish that I were dead," he said, eyes alight with the fervor of his feelings. "I wish that I had never signed up for the war, I wish that I had never—"

Timothy closed the book and looked out the window. Drip, drip, drip. The rain pattered on the shingles, rolled from the eaves and splattered on the garden path. He peered out at the grey world, washed of all color, and wondered if the sun would part the clouds soon. It had been raining for such a long time.

The daffodils in the flowerbed by the window bowed, overladen with heavy water droplets. The lawn was sodden, the rickety wooden shed filled with garden tools nothing more than a brown smear in the shapeless curtain of rain.

Timothy rested his elbow on the cool of the windowsill, breath fogging the glass just as his wheelchair creaked. How was it that a cripple of fifteen years could echo the sentiments of a war-hardened soldier in a book? He certainly didn't know what it was to ride into battle, blood roaring in his ears. He didn't know what it was to taste the sting of gunpowder on his throat. He didn't know what it was to lie bleeding on the battlefield. But Timothy did know what it was to wake up and feel—believe in—a leg that was no longer there.

Absently, his hand moved to massage his right knee, the little that was left to him after the foolish accident that had robbed him of a future. He turned his gaze to the room.

A mahogany clock wreathed in gilding ticked on the mantelpiece, contrasting not unpleasantly with the fine airy white of the lace curtains. Velvet-covered furniture occupied the rest of the sitting room, except for one large glass-paned bookcase taking up most of one wall.

Timothy dropped his gaze back to the worn red cover of the novel he'd been reading. That bookcase wasn't where this one had come from. His prison walls would have seemed much closer if this one bookcase was the only one the Wrights owned.

Raised voices caught his attention, and drew his gaze to the window. What he saw made him fumble for the latch keeping the window closed, but the frames were old, stiff, and swollen with humidity, and it was several moments before he could force the pane open. When he did, a draft of cool air hit him full in the face, bringing with it the shrill voice of Mrs. Bradley, the Wrights' cook. Furthermore, she was pursuing the young maid with a rolling pin held threateningly aloft.

"You dirty, thieving little—if I catch you—"

"Mrs. Bradley, what is the meaning of this?" Timothy demanded, wishing his voice didn't rasp from so long a silence.

Mrs. Bradley stopped mid-grab, and left off trying to catch the maid's wrist long enough to beam a breathless smile. "Good morning, master Timothy. I just caught this wretch trying to make off with your mother's best silver." As she said this, Mrs. Bradley inched her fingers towards the pockets of the maid's apron.

The maid—Timothy never could remember her name—snatched her apron out of reach with angry disdain. "The idea!"

"It's true, I tell you!" Mrs. Bradley protested, great round face glistening with rain and righteous indignation.

"Come in, both of you," Timothy sighed, and turned his wheelchair about to face the center of the room. His parents were out visiting, so it fell to him to settle the quarrel.

In they came; the maid prodded ahead of Mrs. Bradley as if the latter fancied herself a prison-keeper, and the former smoothing her drenched locks with wounded dignity.

Timothy surveyed them in silence for a moment, watching as the same rain that had wept from the sky dripped onto mother's favorite carpet, and then he looked to the maid. "Empty your pockets."

She lifted her chin with an injured sniff—but after hesitating a moment, plunged her hands in and came out bearing an assortment of items, none of which were spoons.

Timothy shifted, and his chair creaked. "Inside out. Come on."

Mrs. Bradley looked victorious just as the maid's blustering shell crumbled. "Please, master—"

"Give Mrs. Bradley the silver, leave this instant, and I will answer that you ran away. No one will be the wiser." Certainly, she could be sent to prison for this act of thievery, but Timothy didn't have the stomach to see another free young creature caged. Being dismissed so suddenly was punishment enough.

The maid took a step forward as if in anger, then her face twisted, she turned away, gave the stolen silverware to Mrs. Bradley, and left the room. Timothy turned his attention back to Mrs. Bradley as the maid's hurried footsteps receded down the hallway.

"Another one gone," she sighed, contemplating the silver in sober silence. "The third in as many months. Mrs. Wright will not be pleased, young master Timothy. She will not be pleased."

"No," Timothy agreed, turning back to the falling rain, "She will not be pleased."

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I hope you enjoyed this, the first chapter of What Is and Could Be! This story is one that I've been excited to bring to you for a while now. Happy reading!

Curious about how I came to write this story?
https://tinyurl.com/y2xsabsm

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