Monday Sidetrack: 13

(This story begins with Monday Sidetrack: 6. Start there to get caught up and see the photos or go to https://www.lavendersidetrack.com/story-catchup to read all the previous posts as one long post. Then subscribe to find out what happens next!)

 

My first step onto the stone path was solid, in spite of the stone's rather uneven surface. Ahead of me, there were about thirty more like it, all spaced the exact the distance for my stride. It was easy and clear what I should do. Each one had the usual color variations of any field stone and all the edges seemed to be in the process of disappearing into the sandy soil along with the sparse beach grass. Back in Pennsylvania, we'd chat about this terrain in the context of "going to the shore." Everyone had their favorite and mine was all the way south off the Atlantic coast of Georgia - Tybee Island. It was close to Savannah and my family always went there when I was a kid, even when we lived in Wisconsin. Tybee had a lighthouse too, but the similarities with this one ended at the category level. 

As I drew closer to that red door, slight whiffs of the building itself floated by and caught my attention. They were familiar, like the back of the barn where my grandpa did most of the mechanical work. It was a combination of the dirt, damp concrete walls, and motor grease. I have vivid memories of visiting him there as a little kid and asking every question I could think of. "Why do you do that?" "Will I grow up and work on the lawn mower too?" "What is that thing?" "What's your middle name?" and my perennial favorite - "Can I help?"

The door wasn't painted red like Grandpa's barn. It was stained red. I could finally see that when I was close enough to touch it. The black hinges and latch looked brand new. Being that close to the water, they probably had to be replaced often. Salt and humidity do a real number on metal. 

I lifted the latch, pushed the door inward and followed, losing the light of the beacon. The only light I had came from outside, but the door wouldn't stay open. I stretched and searched as far as I could until I could flip something that felt like it could be a light switch.

I was stunned.

The light filled the internal cavity of that incredible building and pulled my gaze ever upward along a spiral staircase that started to my right and disappeared into the eventual darkness of the tippy, tippy top. The wooden ribs of the building glowed a golden rust of graceful aging and diligent care. Before I knew it, I was walking up the stairs, running my hand along their railing, all of it seeming to have been carved out of a single piece. The higher I went, the more enthralled I became. The stairs were not only a beautiful color, they were also spotless. This was a place that someone cared for very much and I wondered when or if I might meet this person.

"Hello?" I called upward, tried again to find someone, anyone, in this place. Just as before, there was no response. Below me, I could see the red door and the wrapped stairs I had already climbed.

The wall was, of course, windowless, but nonetheless warmly bright as if it had been soaking up sunlight for years, never knowing a colder season. As I got lost in imagining how that was possible, or achieved, something else was happening above me. I didn't notice it at first. Then I heard footsteps on the other side of the ceiling. First, I stopped and listened, staying as still as I could to make room for any other clues I might hear.

Click, click, click across the wood, left to right. There was also a murmuring that could have been a hum, a song, or a melodic monologue. It was too faint for me to recognize.

I skipped one step and eased my way up two steps closer. Then two more and two more. By then, I could see that the stairs disappeared into the ceiling and that, unless I turned back, I would have no choice but to discover the wearer of those heels that clicked. There was no way in the world I would miss out on a chance to talk to a real person in that place, no matter how confused or anxious I might have been.

Two quiet steps at a time shortened my wait, intensified my anticipation.

Click, click, click and a clear voice.

"Blue skies, smiling--"

I know that song.

I sing that song.

I sang a little to myself in a whisper, choosing Willie Nelson's version, because he reminded me of my dad, if my dad could/would sing. Also, I never felt quite right scatting along with Ella Fitzgerald even though I knew all of her syllables. The woman above me had no such insecurity and flung those dwee's and doo's around the room. That was the instrumental part of Willie's song and I sat down to listen to her. I hummed along and felt heard her voice harmonize with mine as if she knew I'd take the lead or I knew she wouldn't.

The opening at the top of the stairs was quite visible by then and I could watch her shadow pass by as she turned around to head left again.

I know this voice.

My caution took over and I stood with my back to the inside curl of the stairs to obscure her view of me. Long side strides brought be closer and closer until I had to turn around and squat to fit under the ceiling, below the surface of the floor. She was on her way to the other side and I thought she'd have her back to me. I needed to move like I wasn't afraid. I needed to see her before she reached the other side and turned back toward me.

I summoned my inner mountain lion and moved.

She wore a short-sleeved, yellow dress with large, dark purple pansies around the full and wide bottom hem. Those matching purple heels weren't any old heels. They were the kind women bought to dance in. Her brown hair was pulled up into a French twist with a purple silk flower tucked into its seam.

I watched her until the very last second, the second when she'd turn around. It happened with a whirl of her skirt and a slender arm that lead back toward me. Her profile followed and that was all I got before my nerves slid me back under her floor.

I know her.

 

 

(This story begins with Monday Sidetrack: 6. Start there to get caught up and see the photos or go to https://www.lavendersidetrack.com/story-catchup to read all the previous posts as one long post. Then subscribe to find out what happens next!)