It was a morning that promised spring, despite the tenacious grip of the late winter day, the sunlight misrepresenting the cold as it shone through clear, crisp window panes to dapple the shiny black keys of the typewriter. The warm hues of the antique mahogany desk were set ablaze as the light played atop it, bathing the sole occupant of the penthouse apartment of the Chicago high rise in its glow.
His cheeks were graced by two day stubble; he had little reason to care for his appearance, at least not today. He was still in a t-shirt and his pajama pants. He was not expecting any company, not even the girl who came by regularly to clean up after him. It was Maria's day off.
His long fingers interrupted the steady glow of light, casting longer shadows beneath them as he set warm tips to cool plastic, sending words along the page of blank white with tiny steel clicks as his fingers moved along the keyboard.
The fact that he fancied this old, black electric typewriter, when he could have the finest word processor money had to offer was something most did not understand. Old school above modern technology kept him grounded, the smell of a fresh ream of paper when ripped open something you could not replace with the booting up of a high priced machine. And he could afford it too. Michael Scofield, best selling novelist could afford just about anything. He sighed at this thought, his mind drifting away from the chapter he was attempting to complete. He had been distracted a lot as of late.
Deciding to take a quick break, maybe grab a small snack from the kitchen, he placed his strong hands on the wheels of his chair and backed up from the desk.
Michael had been in a wheelchair since the tragic car accident that had not only taken his parents lives, but also the use of his legs at the tender age of ten. And though he was used to his immobility it was days like today, the sunshine urging the birds to sing; his useless legs to run, that called out to him. Called out to him to leave the secluded life he led, to step, well roll outside and join the real world.
His brother Lincoln was always on him to go for a roll. Often Linc would show up unannounced just to offer a stroll through the park that was so near to the large high rise Michael's penthouse apartment sat atop. Michael would more often then not beg off claiming work, that he just needed to finish up a chapter here, tweak a page there, deadlines you know, and Lincoln would shake his head sadly. He was happily married himself, with two kids, and while very proud of his brother's accomplishments as a writer, Michael knew Lincoln wanted more for him.
But how could half a man have it all? No, he could have this life, living vicariously through the characters he created while awake, and yes, some were even created in sleep. It was sleep that had brought Michael the vision of Sara, auburn haired and coppery eyed beauty of his dreams.
He smiled slightly as he rolled into the wide doorway of his kitchen. The large apartment had been modified upon purchase to suit his needs. He could breeze through all doorways. Each counter and shelf was easily within a sitting man's reach.
Sara was in his head as he prepared his light snack of cheese and crackers. She was going to be the romantic lead in his new novel and he was stuck. He wanted her entrance to be special, but also subdued. Maybe it was the thoughts that had moved with him to the kitchen that inspired him, but it suddenly occurred to Michael, what her grand entrance should be.
Wheeling quickly from the kitchen he sped to the desk. Seconds later his snack was cast off to the side on his mostly clear desk. He would often do this; prepare food only to be stricken with creative genius. He would find these cheese slices, no doubt like the countless others left forgotten, dried out, darker rectangles of orange sitting dejectedly atop their wheat thin cracker death beds hours later. But the stack of inked paper would make the waste of food worth it.
He set his fingers atop the keys and started to type. He was about to pen Sara's grand entrance when the machine froze, the keys seizing up, followed by dead silence as the electric hum that was to Michael as natural as the sound of a lover breathing, failed.
Long fingers moved over the slightly warmer then usual machine seeking. He located the switch on the side of the machine and flipped the button turning it off and back on, hoping to stir it to life, but nothing happened.
"Shit," he muttered the expletive, perhaps the only word spoken in his quiet apartment since his short phone call with his brother the night before and pushed back from the dead machine.
He supposed he could grab a pad of paper and write it out by hand…He was searching through one of the drawers in his desk for a pen when he remembered his recent purchase.
On one of his infrequent trips to the New York publishing company that represented him, Michael had visited a small, obscure antique shop. At first the tiny Asian man, and this was not an embellishment, nor an exaggeration, the man had been maybe 4'10 tops, had been reluctant to sell him the old typewriter. Michael had assured him it was to be a collector's item only, that he had no intention of ever using the frail looking machine.
It was only after an intense studying of the depths of his honest blue eyes that the small man had relented and sold him the old typewriter.
Michael hated to go back on his word now, but he also hated the idea of writing his work out by hand. He would use the machine today and send his typewriter off to be fixed first thing in the morning.
Settled in his decision, Michael made his way to the box sitting as of yet unopened on the table by his sofa and hefted it down onto his lap. The box was not heavy, but he would not have felt the pressure on his legs had it been. He hadn't felt anything from the waist down for almost twenty years.
He pulled the tape off that secured the lid to the box and reached inside. The machine was old indeed and he was careful not to damage it, as with a slight scraping of metal on cardboard, he lifted it free of the box. Nudging the empty box to topple to the floor, Michael then placed the machine on his legs. For a brief moment he thought he detected its weight, but dismissed the idea with a slight shaking of his shorn head. He was imagining things now, great!
Careful not to knock the small machine to the floor, he backed up and wheeled himself to the desk where he placed it beside the dead electric that still held his partially written page of chapter three. Chapter three was Sara's entrance into the story and he now knew just how to handle it.
Using extreme care to not to tear the partially typed page, Michael pulled it from the silent machine and set it aside. It would take him only minutes to unplug and set aside the broken typewriter to make room for the ancient find that had intrigued him enough to offer more then he knew it to be worth.
It was this knowledge that helped ease his guilt as he threaded the paper into the roller and found his place. He knew the font would look different then the more modern machine he was used to but at least it was better then his sloppy, barely legible scrawl.
His eyes scanned the type and then he picked up his train of thought, the words ready to flow from imagination to fingertips as he commanded this one part of his body that he knew would obey.
At the moment his fingers touched the keys, there was an audible pop of static electricity and he pulled back slightly, rubbing his fingers together. Was it possible for both hands to feel such a jolt? He was sure he had felt the static shock in each finger that had touched the keyboard.
Shrugging it off as some kind of freak anomaly, Michael placed the pads of his fingers onto the keys again and began to type. 'The red balloon played tag with the wind as it was forced along with the breeze. Sara, her long auburn tresses blowing out in front of her, giggled as she gave chase. This was perhaps the most carefree moment she had felt in a long while and she was relishing in the freedom of the unseasonably warm afternoon. Her fingertips were mere inches from the bright blue string. If she could only reach it before the wind buoyed it up into the clouds. Sara knew, David, her friend Kathy's son, would be disappointed if it got away. Stretching her slim arm out, she snatched at the string and grabbed on, a squeal of triumph issuing from her smiling lips as she caught hold. Winded from her run, Sara spied the wooden bench and sat down, the air rushing out of her as her fingers twined protectively around the skinny string, the wind fighting her efforts in hopes of possessing the bright red balloon. She would rest up for a bit and then head back to the small pavilion where she would join her friends for the small Birthday party that was already in progress. Sara was a fourth year med student hoping for a residency at Chicago Memorial hospital…'
The doorbell ringing for the second time stilled Michael's fingers.
With a sigh he pushed back from the desk and wheeled himself to the door. It was most likely someone trying to sell something he had no intention of buying but it didn't look like they had any intention of going away either.
Reluctantly he pushed the intercom. "Who is it?"
"Hey, Bro it's me. Open up." Lincoln. Pulling back the dead bolt, Michael opened the door for his brother.
"What's up Mike? And don't say you were working. 'Cause in the words of my favorite author, sorry Bro, it ain't you, All work and no play makes Michael a very dull boy," A smirk hit Lincoln's lips following his quote from Stephen king's classic The Shining and then he was stepping inside the room.
"Very funny, Linc, and yeah, I was working on chapter three." Michael wheeled around his brother to pull the page free of the old typewriter. There was a small sound like a sigh as he eased it out and Michael turned to his brother expecting to see the well known look of exasperation on his face, but Linc was picking at one of the still edible looking cheese slices resting on the forgotten plate.
"You gonna eat this?"
Michael shook his head to clear it and Lincoln, mistaking it as an answer to his question popped a loaded cracker into his mouth. "Hey listen, Veronica and the kids are downstairs waiting for us. I told her you would probably make five or six excuses why you couldn't come but she insisted I come up here to invite you anyways." Lincoln talked around the food in his mouth, "So what do you say to a picnic in the park?"
Michael looked at him for a moment before speaking, his tone holding more then a hint of the incredulity reflected in his eyes when his voice finally piped out, "A picnic? Linc, it's only nine thirty, ten o'clock tops. Not to mention it's damn near freezing today."
Michael had watched the morning weather report earlier and it had called for unseasonably cold weather in the low thirties throughout the day. Lincoln was eying him oddly, a hand coming up to scratch at his equally shorn head as if puzzled, "Mike, what have you been smoking? It's past one and in the mid sixties today. Spring has sprung little brother, well at least today it has and I don't wanna be the one to have to tell Vee that you can't come because you're too stoned from sniffing stale typewriter ink. By the way, where did you get this relic?"
Michael was confused and it shone in his pale blue eyes as he turned to see Lincoln fiddling with the old typewriter perched on the desk. "Um, an antique shop in New York. I bought it the last time I was there."
Lincoln ran a finger over the sleek black machine. "Pretty cool for a typewriter." This was said with a smile that tipped into a frown as Lincoln turned to eye his brother's pajama pants. "So you gonna change or what?" He popped another loaded cracker into his mouth and began to chew.
Michael, thinking maybe some fresh air was just what he needed, nodded his head and then wheeled his way into his bedroom to throw on some clothes.
Michael spent the trip to the park in silent puzzlement. He could hear the excited voices of his niece and nephew as they moved along behind him on the sidewalk, but he wasn't really listening. How had he lost so much time? The clock in his bedroom had confirmed Lincoln's statement; it had shown the time to be 1:14pm in red LED. And he could not deny the steady wind that blew warmly against his still unshaven face. It was indeed a spring like day in Chicago.
Confusion muddled his thoughts as the park came into view. Michael could hear the twin's voices growing louder in their excitement. Five year old Emmy and Eric were the spitting image of their parents. Emmy with her dark hair and green eyes shot ahead of his chair, with Eric who held more of Lincoln in him following her lead, the dark blue of his eyes highlighted by lighter brown hair that wanted to curl but fell just short.
"Don't step in front of your Uncle's chair kids!" Veronica's worried voice shot out.
"It's okay Vee," Michael was quick to reassure her. "I'm watching out for them."
The worry eased from her forehead and Veronica smiled down at him, "I'm so glad you could come with us today Michael. The kids miss their uncle, you know?"
He nodded. He did know. The huge smiles and tight hugs that had greeted him had provided more then enough proof to convince him of this. Michael felt guilt assault him as he calculated the days since his last visit with Emmy and Eric. It had been well over a month.
"Mom, Dad, look a Birthday party! Can we go?" Michael's head jerked up, his eyes hitting the sun as he attempted to follow Emmy's line of vision.
A Birthday party…Who in their right mind would plan a Birthday party in the park this time of year? The weather in Illinois was just too unpredictable. They could easily be sitting beneath a foot of snow even this late into winter.
Maybe it was a spontaneous event, but if the parents were anything like his brother and his wife, Michael doubted it. Emmy and Eric's Birthdays were like a grand event. Veronica would plan everything down to the smallest detail.
Previous Birthdays had been known to include clowns, ponies, balloons…His eyes shot back to the pavilion in the distance, the sun moving as if on cue to allow the bouquet of balloons to come into view but for a brief moment before being hidden away beneath the bright glare that brought water to his widening blue eyes. Balloons…
Michael felt a shiver pass through him that had little to do with the spring like breeze that suddenly gusted up, opening his jacket to invade the warmth of his skin. Goose pimples he could not feel moved over his legs as he realized he had fallen behind. He could hear Veronica up ahead explaining to the twins that they couldn't go to the Birthday party, because they hadn't been invited.
Pumping his arms on the wheels, Michael caught up quickly and fell in behind his family.
Michael leaned back in his chair and patted his stomach. The picnic basket was now lying empty on the checked blanket, the remains of their meal spread out littering the red and white squares like some strange game of food chess.
Emmy and Eric were running around the large picnic area playing Frisbee, while Lincoln lay relaxed, his head resting in Veronica's lap.
Michael loved spending time with his brother and his family, but sometimes, at times like this he could not help but feel like the third wheel that he was.
"I think I'm going to take a roll." When Lincoln started to rise, Michael lifted a hand and pushed at the air above his legs. "Stay there. You look comfortable and besides the two of you look like you want to be alone for a while."
Michael saw the look that flitted across Veronica's face and quickly spoke to reassure her. "I don't mind, really. In fact I think working off some of this delicious meal would be a good thing. He patted his thin mid section and Veronica laughed.
"Yeah, you look like you could stand to lose a few pounds…Not!"
Laughter surrounded them and then Michael was pushing off, his back now to the couple that lay cozily on the blanket.
While it was true, every word he had spoken, his observations spot on, Michael had another reason for wanting to take a roll around the park.
His eyes scanned the area as he moved along the bicycle path, seeking the rainbow of brightly lit balloons. Was he too late? Was the party already over? He lifted a hand, placing the side of his hand visor like against his forehead to block out the glare of the sun as he rolled. Luckily he was on a slight decline and this movement did not hinder his steady progress along the trail.
The sun dipped behind a cloud then and the balloons leapt out at him, the bright blue, green, purple, orange and yes, there it was, the red one, blowing in the wind as it whipped at them, pushing them low as the wind blew its angry gust.
Michael watched from a distance as the balloons were pummeled. He had yet to see any of the guests attending the party, but he assumed they were under the pavilion.
As he watched, the balloons, he saw it in his minds eye, the wind pushing at the bouquet, tearing it free of its moorings. And then it was happening, much the way he had seen it, the bright blue strings letting go with an almost audible snap.
Most of the balloons were gone, shooting to the sky as if called by the clouds, but the red one was hit by a directional change as the wind pummeled it downwards to the ground. Another shiver, this one of an unimaginable intensity hit Michael as he watched the auburn haired woman rush out from under the pavilion, her white dress adhering to the backs of her thighs, the wind pushing at her thin frame as she began to give chase.
His still arms locked in mid air anchoring his chair to the spot, his fingers whitening around the wheels of his chair. Sara, this was all he could think to call her, and Michael was willing to bet at that moment, that would indeed be her name, sped along the trail.
He watched the scene play out just as he had written it, the chase ending as her fingers grabbed the bright blue string, her bottom landing on the bench as she collapsed giggling, the prize standing out in bright relief against the backdrop of light blue sky that tugged at it.
Michael jumped in his chair and then glanced up at Emmy. "You see her too?" he could hear the awe in his voice, barely audible under the wind.
"Uh huh, I wonder if she has any more balloons."
Michael didn't answer his Niece; his eyes were still drawn tight to the auburn haired woman. He was willing to bet her eyes were a fiery copper in the sunlight.
He shook his head in an attempt to clear it. This was crazy! How could he think this was anything other then what it had to be, what rational thought insisted it must be? This coincidence was disturbingly in sync with what he had written, yes, but it was just that, a coincidence.
"Come on Emmy," Michael moved his hands in a backward motion to back up his chair as he turned it. "We should get back to the others. I bet your brother is wondering where you got off to. You know that Frisbee isn't much fun to throw if there is no one there to catch it."
"Uncle Michael? Did you ever get to play Frisbee?" Emmy said this quietly and Michael knew this was probably something forbidden for her, this question.
He was suspicious that Veronica had instructed the twins to not ask him things of this nature. Not that he minded answering such questions. "Yeah, I used to play Frisbee with your Dad all the time…Kicked his butt."
Emmy laughed beside him and he glanced over at her smiling. Michael loved her soft giggles. "Race you!" He said suddenly, his strong arms beginning to pump faster.
Soon Emmy was shooting out in front of him, her long dark hair blowing freely as she chanced a glance back at him. Michael would let her win, just like he always did.
Moments later the winded, but laughing duo was back at the blanket, joining up with the rest of the Burrows family who was busy packing up the picnic things.