Friday, 11 January 2008

Itchy feet

Rebecca stood waiting at the door. She'd knocked once, twice, three times. Biting her lip, she started turning away before the lock clicked and the door creaked open.

"I ..." she began.

"You are expected," answered a wizened old hag. That didn't properly describe her, she must have been beautiful once. She moved with a grace that belied her years, and she still had her figure.

"I was told ..." Rebecca started again, following her through the dusty narrow passage. The medium had told her to come, no reason, but the cards told the place and the time, and that it was both urgent and important.

"Just come on in and see what you find, dear," the hag replied, with a gentle, almost motherly smirk. "You will find it, what you are looking for."

"What am I looking for?" Rebecca asked. Besides a man, she thought, and she was unlikely to find one here.

"Your heart knows," she answered, leading Rebecca around a corner. That's where the bare bulbs stopped. The corridor widened and was lit by candles, evenly spaced at intervals of 10 feet.

Rebecca felt odd, that she'd already walked further than the length of the building, yet the corridor stretched as far as she could see. It had only been a small hovel at the end of an alley, deep in the heart of the City of London. If her bearings were right, she should have been standing in the middle of The Embankment, dodging cars as they sped past. Another 20 paces, and she would be swimming in the Thames, yet the passage continued.

As the hag led on, Rebecca was astounded by her strength. Someone of her advanced age should have struggled. Rebecca was still comparitively young, in her forties, long divorced, but kept herself in shape hoping that Mr Right would find her eventually. She would never give up hope; she was sure he would come eventually. As they continued, it became warmer, too warm for the coat that had protected her from London's cold, wet winter outside. She took it off, glad that she'd left her laptop at the office. That would have been too much to carry easily.

"You may leave it here darling," the hag said, pointing to a row of hooks on the wall. Likewise, she put her own gray shawl there. Rebecca was surprized at how thin she was, thin and upright, and she hadn't noticed before how tall she was, nearly as tall as Rebecca. "You have lovely hair, dear," she said, reaching up to clear a loose lock that fell before Rebecca's eyes on a regular basis.

That her hair had remained a deep red in her mid-forties was unusual in her family. By 40, her mother's hair was completely white, and her father's was almost gone by then, but it, too, was white along with his beard. They appeared as though they had been frightened to an inch of their lives when they were young, but never breathed a word of it to their only daughter. Rebecca couldn't remember when her mother's hair was completely red. Even at 5, she remembered a streak of white. That she would think of it then boggled her, as they pressed forward. She wished they were with her now.

She stopped. Something about the hag was familiar, as though she had seen her before, and suddenly she seemed even less old when she looked around.

"Come dear. Must hurry," she said. Her voice was familiar, too, as if she had always known it.

Embarrassed, she strode ahead.

"Relax," the woman said, she couldn't be described as a hag anymore. "You are safe here, more safe than you could imagine." She couldn't have been over 60, but Rebecca would have sworn that the hag who opened the door was at least in her nineties.

The passage had continued to get warmer as they progressed, and Rebecca found the heat stifling. If she wasn't sure that they had been traveling at the same level, she would have thought she was decending into hell.

"I think we are both overdressed," the old woman said, stopping, and beginning to remove the smock that hid what had become a beautiful figure, and now she was as tall as Rebecca and her hair was turning red. She couldn't have been older than 50, and her hair was darkening to a deep red much like Rebecca, and the air of familiarity was uncanny. "Here, put this on," she said, handing Rebecca a short cotton dress, plain white. The woman put a similar one on herself. The woman's build was much like Rebecca's.

Once Rebecca had changed, leaving her blouse and skirt on another series of hooks next to the smock, the woman turned abruptly and pushed forward. "Come now, we are almost there," she said over her shoulder.

Rebecca found herself much more comfortable, dressed the same as the woman. "What am I looking for?" she asked herself. Whatever it was would be behind the large mahogany door that they were fast approaching. She thought suddenly about her ex-husband, who was a mistake from the start. It didn't last long, not even close to the point of bearing children. Now it was too late. Still, she knew there was a man out there for her, one that had her name stamped on his soul, as his was stamped on hers. She wished she could read that name; it would make life so much easier.

The passage widened to a large antechamber, lit by six torches. The door towered before them. Rebecca wondered ironically that this might be the gate to hell, and Cerberus would be waiting for them on the other side. Would it allow her to pass, or would she be its dinner. The woman had said she was safe, but Rebecca had no reason to trust her, until she looked at her.

Speechless, she thought she was looking in a mirror, but the woman just smiled back at her. It was a smile she knew well. It was her own. "You will understand shortly,"

"What?..." Rebecca choked on her question. She didn't even know what she was going to ask.

"Would you do anything for him?" the woman asked, as if she knew the answer.

"Who?"

"The man whose name is etched on your soul."

"How did you know?" Rebecca asked.

The woman didn't flinch. "Would you?"

"Yes," Rebecca answered without thinking. "Yes, I would do anything for him, and I know he would do anything for me."

"You are right," the woman said, stepping forward and embracing her. "He has." She kissed Rebecca tenderly on the lips, and vanished.

Left on her own, Rebecca knew she had to open the door and face whatever was there. The return was easy, a long corridor and turn left, but she hadn't come all this way just to return without at least seeing what was at the end. She pulled on the large gold ring that she found at eye level. The door creaked open to an angelic chorus of horns and harps. It was filled with people, at least she thought they were people, then she thought they were angels, as some could fly or float, but none had wings. Souls?

At the sight of her, the hoard gave way to an aisle strewn with red rose petals. Stepping forward, she was surrounded by hundreds, perhaps thousands of angels; that's what she had finally decided upon. The aisle seemed to stretch forward endlessly, and she suddenly felt like Dorothy entering the Emerald City, but this city was diamond and gold with heavenly music.

The woman that brought her there had been one of those souls, she thought, striding forward more purposely. Was it her own immortal soul, come to retrieve her for this man for whom she yearned, who yearned equally for her? When she could see the end, she found an empty throne, mahagony again, like the door far behind her. She pressed forward, almost to a run.

Stopping before it, she realized that the throne was meant to seat two. Nearly out of breath, she waited, turning around to survey the crowd that watched expectantly. She suddenly felt conspicuous as the only person wearing any clothes.

"Have a seat," said a man's voice behind her. She knew that voice, instinctively. It was him, leaning, one elbow on the arm of the throne. There was a playfulness in his deep baritone.

Rebecca felt a lump in her throat as she looked at him, transfixed.

"What's another minute when I've waited an eternity for you?" he joked.

"Where am I?" she asked, stepping up to throne.

"Home, dearest," he said. "You have come home at last," he repeated, as though he couldn't believe it himself.

"Come sit with me for eternity," he said as they sat on throne arm in arm, "or at least until your feet start itching again."

2 comments:

Athena said...

Hi! I'm glad you ventured over to my blog. I hadn't read "Itchy Feet" yet at WC. It's beautiful and magical. And what a great ending. :-)
Have a great day. Talk to you soon.
~Athena

Atlanta Carter said...

I've been wondering if anyone has been reading these posts. Thanks for leaving a comment. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I know poetry is more your thing. I post that mostly on the WC and elsewhere.