Descending The Stairway

Tossing and turning the woman spun around in bed wrapping the sheets tightly around her body.  The strength of her loneliness exposing itself in the fetal position her body took as tears welled up in closed eyes.
That day the sun was shining through the stained glass windows, reflecting off the porticos and arches of the church. Mom helping me dress, hair and makeup.  I remember her hands shaking slightly as she looped each tiny satin button into the corresponding loop, tying me into my lace and satin gown.  The sun gathered around my hanging locks, framing my face like a halo. My lips glistening red as my mom touched them up. “You’re magnificent” she said.  The shoes strapped snugly at my ankles, deep red toenails delicately expressing my feet as a thin gold anklet glistened around the edge of my strap.
The woman staring at me in the mirror was radiant. Her life a pinnacle of beauty intertwined in love and expectation. Today she was going to marry her one and only Brian. The struggles, the love they have shared. It seemed so short a time they stood near here watching her mom weep as her father was buried right here, this church. They had decided to hold off the wedding while everyone mourned. He had work so hard to fill that hole left by her father. Her mom, just now able to enjoy life. Today was their day to rejoice! She moved her hand to her chest lightly as a small skipped beat escaped her heart. The woman in the mirror slowly let a smile spread on her face.
The windows in the bedroom already dark with evening, began to stain with droplets of rain, cascading one drop growing in length and strength as more overtook the window. The mild weather of late fall was trying to fight the impending cold of Winter. Transparency reduced to dark translucent curls and waves of water. The red moon lit up the reflection as red drops trickled down the glossy pane.
“I think you’re ready honey” Bethany’s mom said, she motioned and exclaimed to her sister in the room. Betsy looked up and her breath was caught up “Oh Bethany!” she said “The sun on your face, you’re radiant.” She felt a lump form in her throat at that moment “Am I?” she quietly asked catching herself short and choking up a bit. “Oh no honey” mom quickly jumped in “Don’t cry! Your makeup, you look absolutely gorgeous. “I’m trying mom” a tear slipped past her eye, and gathered steam while it made its way down her cheek. “It’s just that I’ve waited so long for today. I so wish Dad could be here.” No one answered or said much after. Her mom looked down, and they both noticed her cheeks reddened.  “He, he would have loved nothing more than to see is eldest daughter marry the love of her life.” She barely finished, and her voice cracked and faded off into silence.
The woman turned back the other way, a peal of lightning lit up the room.  Her eyes didn’t open, but her body literally jumped. Unknown to her some of that light appeared to fill the room. It moved slowly lightly moving about the bed, almost holding on to the person fitfully sleeping in it. After a time it metastasized around the feeble figure, wrapping her in the small wooden bed.
He stood at the bottom of the stairs, looking out into the immaculate gardens of the church.  His baby blue tuxedo, perfectly pressed, cumberbund attached at his back, jacket hiding the slight sweat beginning to over come the small of his back. These last few months had been brutal on both his emotions and his health. Bethany hadn’t suspected such, but the stress of being the paternal leader had wreaked havoc on him. He noticed the fire of the sun had mixed with heavy dark clouds turning the sky into a surreal orange and amber likely to overtake the white light encompassing the beautiful white porticos of his beloved Cathedral.
He noticed that though the suit was tailored to him that he seemed uncomfortable, that familiar knot was forming in his neck. It encompassed his body almost as if a rope was binding him and something, or someone was pulling it tighter around him. Not that the suit was tight, but that he was tightening in it. As the windows dimmed, the white light slowly merged to a glow of amber and fire, he stared out the window trying to will the pain away.
The wind was howling outside, starting to overtake the confines of nature and its binding to the earth.  Leaves once attached were losing connection to their branches, gravel stones were spinning in small rotating fashion flying like saucers and throwing debris beyond their original plot of land.
Betsy moved to the edge of the room and with a light flourish opened one of the double doors, holding it with the base of her elbow, she stood stolid against the door, heaving a bit to leave a enough room for the fading light to shine in. Her mom moved behind to help with Bethany’s dress. She grabbed and bustled the train in her arms to help the glowing bride enter the cliff of the stair case.
Bethany took the first step toward the door being held open by Betsy, her mom followed behind as she constantly fought with the lace and statin from escaping her manicured fingers. The dress fought her, it tried to take hold of every perceived hook or knob on the way out of the room. She stepped gingerly at first, making sure her mom was ready behind her, and slowly gained confidence on the white and black shoes, the chunky heel provided some stability as each foot placed itself in front of the other, slowing taking her toward the steps, below which stood her love.
The wind roared and spun around the old home which held a barely sleeping occupant.  The old oak had fared for nearly a hundred years of storms, rain, floods, and sordid cold. Nothing had moved the mighty layers of wood which bore its age in rings wrapped by thick spindly bark. The exterior now curled and gnarled around the ancient tree seemed like a thin layer exposing a skin too fair for the storm. The weather began to turn to a bitter chill where a sudden front transformed the rain into liquid glass. A thin layer forming on all parts of the land, a liquid that grabbed hold of its charge and held tight while layering acute drops into a thickening bond.
Betsy waited about 30 seconds at the door, she was able to see both Brian at the bottom of the stairs while watching Bethany make her way to the landing.  Brian turned when he heard the light click of each heel connecting with the ancient oak floor.  Betsy watched expectantly as his face lit in expectation of seeing his bride walk down those glorious stairs. He smiled wide, seemed to grimace for the smallest second, and then in a large breath his eyes widened and he gleamed directly at Bethany the second she caught his eye.
She made her way to the edge of the landing and stopped to catch her breath. Before descending she need to stabilize all of herself from her shoes to her now shaky hands. She willed herself not to cry as she lifted her foot and moved it down toward the first step.  His stance exuded confidence and longing as he stared first toward Bethany and slightly unexpectedly moved to stare back out the window, the action though subtle was meant to be what appeared to Bethany as the last time she would stare at the back of the man. She happily imagined the symbolic gesture, her new husband would spin around and their eyes would meet once and forever.
She lit up in anticipation of her groom waiting anxiously for his bride to meet him at their stairway.
Betsy noticed it first, the quick way he turned away, something wasn’t right. She wanted to yell to him and Bethany, ‘wait!’ ’Something is wrong!’ But how could it be?  How could this day be tainted with sorrow? How could these stairs represent grief? They were here to change the perspective of their lives. This wedding was the family reuniting in front of God and His church, believing that the happiness of their love for each other would surpass the bonds of death and light the family’s way forward. “Brian”, she whispered to herself, “please don’t leave us.” She looked again, and saw his shoulders stoop in pain. Something was wrong. “Something is wrong!” She tried to scream to Bethany, her mom suddenly crying behind her, sobs shuddering her entire body. No sound escaped her lungs, she stood paralyzed, waiting for her sister to find out that today was not their day.
Bethany took another step down the stairs.
‘Click!’ He heard her step. ‘Click’ another, ‘she’s so close’ he thought. ‘I’ve never wanted anything more in my life!’ ‘Click’ ‘Click’ the steps were gaining in speed as she anticipated coming closer to him, but his mind was barely able to contain the explosion of pain he felt in his heart. He crossed his arms tight across his chest, begging the pain to stop, “hold off today please” he begged internally. Closing his eyes, they filled with the emotional pain he was trying to stave off. “Please Lord” he almost spoke it audibly “It’s our turn!”
The time seemed to pass slowly for the land, home, and gravel street.  The wind had slowed down, but with the cold replacing the rain, there was now the building of a layer of cold ice sheets on the limbs, branches, shingles, and driveway.  The ice gathered strength in each droplet of rain. From a far the picture looked serene, even beautiful, but upclose the danger increased, and no one watching this scene knew how the heavily weighted tree would survive the onslaught against its tired root system. The oak was nearing the end, everything and everyone in its path were now hanging in the balance.
She descended into the same floor where he was. The sky outside was churning, as though hell was trying to force it’s way into the gleaming white building. She  thought there was a problem when she saw him fold his arms, a lack of control, or possibly that his timing was off? Was his leg shaking? “Brian” she said as she stepped on off the stairs and could almost reach out and touch his form. “Brian!” she called louder.
He turned back to her, finally showing her a face wincing in severe pain, desperately trying to hold form for the one person he couldn’t live without.  “Bethany” he said in a slightly weezy breath, “Bethany I love you, the pain, my chest, I’m so sorry.” “Brian!” She shrieked and almost leapt the last step as his balance started to waver.”
The branch had shaded this house for 45 years, silently protecting it while slowly building up a small sore of dry rot, nothing dangerous at first, but mixed with wind, and ice turns deadly to a tree that can’t feed its limbs. The silent ice fell and built up while causing the weekest member to droop ever so silently toward the room on the second floor.
It was Betsy that watched in speechless horror as Brian collapsed into Bethany’s arms.  His breath coming in slow rasps, eyes tearing up in pain as his heart struggled to pump blood through a strangled artery.
 “Bethany”, he grasped at each word “I so wanted to marry you today” he choked a bit as her perfect face melted in an avalanche of tears. “The stress of these last 2 years, helping your mom, I” he hesitated, “I wanted to live with you forever.” “No,” she said, “No, you’ll be fine. Everything will be fine! Someone call 911 she bawled, Brian! Stay with me! Help help, OH GOD WHY!” “I desperately wanted to tell you I do” he said. “That night your dad died ripped us apart, it took me too, but don’t let it take you.” He sighed quietly at that, his eyes tilted up and away from her.  She screamed then, a cold chilling “Noooooo,” that turned to sobs as she kissed and held the lifeless form of her near husband on the floor. The very floor of the church where her mom buried her father 2 years before.
The sleeping woman suddenly woke, “Brian” she screamed, weakly, but audibly into the churning night. The form around her wasn’t Brian, but she felt the warmth of it. Her entire body lost its rigidity and a slow smile crept over her weekend face. It was at that point her eyes widened and softened as she silently said “after all these years.”
The sound of the cracking limb was audible to the home occupant, but silent all around.  The weight of the tree crushed the room and house like a knife cutting wet paper. The shear weight and force of the mass took out everything yet the light grew around the teeny form, the ice, melted, the tree shorn off as if white lighting struck a form slightly larger than the wooden bed where she slept those 70 years. The light was blinding to her, she found her strength awakening, while the blinding gave way to a gilded passageway adorning a set of very familiar double doors.
The rain and ice continued unabated for hours after, filling in the cracks and new voids now open due to the destruction of the home.
Bethany stood on her own two feet then, the sounds of wind and rain fading. The doors, so familiar yet so far. She started walking. The floor took on a grainy hue, and unbeknownst to her the ancient night clothes started to mold her body as her skin tightened around a once withered frame. Her hands plumped with youngness and moisture. Her feet once withered and racked with pain, grew stronger with each step. Her back, bent from years of sitting, straightened. She kept walking. The nightclothes now started spinning openings and designs, once fluid began to web themselves into satin and lace. Her withered breasts plumped and took the form once familiar those so many years ago. The train behind her grew, the flawless floor worked with her steps and she walked toward the doors.
Betsy struggled to walk through the old house, following the police officer to what was left of the old bedroom.  Her gnarled hands grasped the railing leading upstairs as her unstable steps were even more challenging due to the melting ice everywhere.  The police had been there for a while, and had hesitated to call her once they entered the bedroom.  “The most curious thing ma’am” the officer said.  “The tree burst through your sisters’ room at a high rate of speed, easy to see by the shape of this house. The ice must have been falling for hours.”
Betsy finally made it to the landing after struggling up the steps.  The floor was mostly caved in. All the earthly possessions of Bethany appeared to be destroyed.  The walls were bare, or were populated with stalactites of ice built up on hanging frames.  The old dresser, was a floor below smashed to total bits.  The entire room was demolished, But, she let out a gasp of shock when she finally made her way into what was left of the doorway.
Looking down at her feet she saw she was standing again at the edge of the same staircase. Her hands foreign to her, luscious and young. Once again beautiful and perfect. Skin once again tight and beautiful around her wrist. She looked over at herself, the picture of radiant beauty the feelings of excitement all coming back from those many many years ago.  The air was wispy and light, and her breath felt strong in her chest as she took a look down the ancient steps and gasped at who was waiting for her at the bottom of the stairway.
The bed was encased in ice, the sheets and blankets left in perfect form below the thin veneer, the pillows left shaped as though a single head was lying on them.  The four posts of the bed colored dark oak magestically showed their beauty though they too were encased under multiple inches of ice. Upon the bed laid a figure, not human, but details beyond perfect. The shape, the hands, and even the hair was indisputably those of Bethany, as if she laid down to sleep while allowing a master artisan to cut a form equal to her own. None of these details mattered to Betsy, because the form in the bed was an ice sculpture, clearly built from the body of her sister, but her sister was not apart of the crystallized form.  Bethany was gone.
“Have you ever seen anything like this before? The officer asked, “we have people already scouring the neighborhood to find your sister, though it’s a bit slow going due to all the ice.” Bethany took a while to answer, but slowly started to tell the officer that the search wouldn’t be needed.
There he was, standing there in his baby blue tux, all the youth and expectation of all those many years ago. She saw him turn toward her after she caught her breath at seeing him. “There you are.” He said, “I’ve been waiting for this day all my life, and it’s finally here.” “Brian, she said, as she ran down the stairs. Brian!” Although it felt like they were floating, she grabbed hold of him and they hugged and kissed for what felt like an eternity.
“You came back for me” she said as he let go of her lips for a moment. “I wanted to live with you forever”, he said “I just had to wait for you to come back to me.” They embraced and kissed again as the immaculate beauty of the place they stood made itself aware to both of them.
He looked at her after pulling away from her lengthy embrace, and pulled away for the smallest second, her lips still tasted like him and her eyes widened in panic for the slightest second. “Wait” he said, and his hand went into his breast pocket and pulled out their wedding bands. He took her hand, and slid the band over her glistening pearl nails onto her small waiting finger. After adding his band to his hand he looked back up to her with a laughing, healthy smile, and in pure joy he leaned over into her ear and said “I do.”

 

Photo Credit: lundress.com

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2 thoughts on “Descending The Stairway

  1. Beautifully written, and it demonstrated the impact of an everlasting love which was not cut short, but instead, took a slight detour. Keep up the good work on your craft 🙂

    1. Thank you so so much for your kind comment! When I originally started on the story I didn’t see it going the direction it ended up. Once you understand the characters, sometimes the story takes you in the direction of the correct ending.

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