Leonard Wolf had only needed to take a single look at Dahlia Gillespie through his sitting room window to know that there was something wrong.
Although her daughter Alessa, who was all of six years old (seven in another month) held her hand and maintained a gentle, sweet smile, Dahlia had a solemn, even apprehensive expression on her steadily aging face.
She still looked young for her age of thirty-two, granted, and Leonard envied her that (not aloud, for that was one of the sins that God's Seven Guides warned against). He was going on forty-five now himself, and already had a receding hairline.
She was also carrying a small suitcase in her other hand, which she usually only did when she was leaving for a mission trip; there wouldn't be one for another two weeks.
Despite knowing that Dahlia was obviously there for a serious reason, Leonard decided it was best to act as if nothing was wrong. So he called for his daughter Claudia and then walked to his front door.
"Good evening, Dahlia!" He greeted her with a pleasant smile. She returned his smile, but it was forced.
"Good evening, Leonard. May we come in?" She requested quietly.
"Of course, of course." He stood aside to let them in just as Claudia came out of her room and smiled joyfully at Alessa. "Claudia, why don't you play with Alessa in your room while Miss Gillespie and I speak?"
"Yes, Father!" She grabbed Alessa's hand and pulled her giggling best friend into her room, shutting the door quietly. Leonard and Dahlia were both silent for a few moments. He turned to her. "Would you like to sit down?"
"No thank you." She responded, speaking almost silently. "I'll be taking my leave shortly." She was holding the suitcase so tightly that her knuckles were white. "Leonard, I am with child."
The implications of that set in immediately. Dahlia was not married; her husband had died shortly after Alessa turned one. Silent Hill, for all of it's steady decline in popularity, was still a resort town; they often had many visitors year round.
"Do you know who the father is?" The question was out of his mouth before he could think about it, and the harsh look he received nearly caused him to recoil.
"You'd best pray that I forget you asked me that, Leonard Wolf." She warned.
"Yes ma'am," he responded, "I apologize." She nodded curtly.
"Good. To answer your question: yes, I know the father's identity." She had began to speak louder, but returned to a more hushed tone as she glanced at Claudia's bedroom door. "His name is Harry Mason."
"A tourist, Dahlia?" He did know a Harry Mason, but only because he visited Silent Hill every year with his wife before she suddenly died years ago; he still made his annual visit, but only as a memorial to her.
"Yes, a tourist." Dahlia hissed contemptuously. It was easy to forget that she had a temper when her character and morals were called into question. "I didn't just walk up to him and request we sleep together like some whore!"
"I hadn't suggested that." Leonard replied calmly. "Please, tell me what happened."
"I can't go into detail, I am ashamed as it is. I attempted to comfort him about his wife's passing, and invited him to our church. He denied, but wanted some company. So I stayed with him at his hotel room, and then before I knew it we were..." She sighed, her free hand now clutching her knee length mauve dress. "I never intended for it to happen."
"I believe you, Dahlia." Leonard said gently, with an assuring smile. Her hand relaxed, though it shook, and nodded.
"I have made correspondence with Harry Mason, and he has agreed to help me with birthing the child when the time comes, and to...to raise him or her on his own." At Leonard's stunned expression, she rushed to clarify. "Of course I will stay for the initial few weeks of caring for the newborn, but I must return here, and nobody must know."
"I..." Leonard sighed. "Of course, Dahlia. But what shall I tell the church?"
"That I've gone on a religious journey, to make peace with God before I pass on to Paradise."
'Before I pass'? Why, Dahlia wasn't even forty yet! Unless...
"Dahlia, is there something else that I should know?" She looked puzzled, and then seemed to realize what she had said.
"No, no. As of now, it is unimportant. Will you care for Alessa while I am gone?"
"Of course." He agreed without hesitation. Dahlia nodded, and suddenly Leonard saw that she may have been thirty-two, but mentally she was far older.
She may not have as long of a life as I thought.
"And you understand who she is meant to become?"
"Good. Tell her goodbye for me, won't you? And Leonard...keep everything we've just discussed to yourself. Especially from the children."
"Of course," he agreed, "I'll do my best." Dahlia nodded, put down the suitcase (full of Alessa's belongings), and left the house. Leonard sat down onto his sofa and released a drawn out sigh. This wasn't going to be easy...
Dahlia prayed quietly to herself as she walked towards the edge of town, where Harry was waiting in his car.
"Lord," she began, "I know that I have committed a horrible sin. And I will henceforth commit an act even more horrible by abandoning my own child. But I beseech you...I beg you...to protect the lives of Harry Mason and my unborn child. Keep the two of them happy, and safe from harm.
"Please, also protect my beloved daughter, Alessa. She is to become a truly pure woman, who will carry on your work that you began so long ago. Protect her friend, Claudia, and Claudia's father, Leonard. Keep them all safe. Do not punish them for my sins, for they are mine alone to repent from." She could soon see the red taillights of Harry's car, and just for a moment they seemed to be demon's eyes through the mist; a demon sent to drag her to Hell for all that she had done, and would soon do.
She wouldn't return to Silent Hill until a year later.
Alessa and Claudia were playing Go Fish in Claudia's room at the same time that Dahlia and Harry left town.
"Where is your Mother going?" Claudia asked. "Do you have any 7s?"
"She told me she's going in a trip for God," Alessa replied, "but she wouldn't tell me where she was going on the trip. Go fish."
"Do you think she might be gone for awhile?"
"Yeah. She made me pack my clothes." Claudia looked at her friend with poorly hidden excitement. It was a somewhat rare treat for Alessa to stay overnight, but for longer than that? It had only happened once before, when Dahlia had been on a particularly long mission trip to Haiti.
Personally, Claudia had wanted to tag along. But that wasn't possible, given her age. Her sixth birthday, however, was just around the corner.
To her, the hardest part about wanting to help people was when you weren't able to do anything about that want, that crave, that need to do so.
To Alessa, tthe hardest part about wanting to help people was knowing that every once in a while...some people were beyond your capacity to help.
To Leonard, the hardest part was knowing that people couldn't be helped if they didn't want it.
And to Dahlia? It was knowing that there were times when you would have to choose yourself over others, no matter the consequences.