This is the visual prompt for Magpie Tales this week.
Here is my story.
Mabel was happiest in attic rooms. She hated to admit it but after her mother died and she went to live with her grandmother, it was the happiest time of her life. The only spare room in Grandma’s house was the attic. It became Mabel’s room. They had moved all of the stuff out of it together. The stuff of memories, her grandmother had said. Baby clothes, school books, coffee percolators that no longer worked. Mabel held onto a genuine wind up clock with golden hands and some fancy silver spoons with palm trees that said Vanuatu. She didn’t know where Vanuatu was but it sounded faraway and dreamy.
She put the clock beside her bed. The gears whirred softly all night like a bird shifting on its perch in dreams.
She polished the spoons up, placing them on the window sill. At night they cupped the moonlight, filling the room with geometry as the wind changed.
Mabel was safe in the attic room. Always. With the sky above her and the warm rhythm of the house below.
At night she examined the knots in the beams that held up the roof – blacks, browns and oranges in tones like winter blankets. She kept the curtains opened wide so she could see the stars plotting their way through the sky; maybe to the very edges of the universe, maybe to heaven itself.
Sometimes in the middle of the night she woke to see a filigree of light on her bed, her hands, her hair strewn like silver thread. It was the stars covering her as she slept. She felt their warmth, their touch as if she was their very own child come to earth. She felt their strength – one star for every space in the sky. And she knew peace.
Ethan came along. He was handsome. Everybody said so. He was full of movement and stillness at the same time. His eyes were curious, reading her thoughts.
Mabel had avoided relationships. The awkwardness of dating didn’t sit well. She floundered, she scampered. She found she had nothing to say for herself.
But Ethan was different. He knew her before he knew her. He said so immediately. She scoffed at his romanticism but knew he was right.
Ethan lived in a huge house he had built himself. It was award winning. He was going to be a famous architect for his cutting-edge, eco-friendly designs. Mabel liked the house – its energy flowed like the wind and rain – but she could not see the stars from the bedroom.
She moved in, nervous, prepared to practice discontent.
Ethan was remarkable. Her misgivings grew unrecognisable. The house embraced her, but at night the sounds were of well-built rooms in alignment with her breathing, not with her heart.
She laughed and smiled but she couldn’t sleep.
I am a silly child, she thought. Clutching at imaginings.
Mabel was awake at two in the morning, drinking hot milk at the kitchen table. Night after night.
She grew wan, listless. She jumped at shadows. She was wistful, diminished.
One day she found the attic room behind a cedar door carved with birds and trees. It was Ethan’s hobby room where he practised his wood carving and mixing of paints. There was an enormous skylight that leant up and out to the sky, connecting like a handshake.
Mabel put down blankets and slept for the first time in months. The stars were so close she could have grasped them if she wanted to.
In the morning Ethan was sad. You don’t like my house, he said. My bedroom that is temperature controlled and modulated for health-giving rest.
It’s not true, Mabel said. I just miss the stars.
That night she showed him the night sky gleaming down. Coins and diamonds and pearls; quavers writing their own music.
He understood straight away as she knew he would, bringing in a bed from the spare room, moving out the paints and tools.
They lay watching the magical lightshow that seemed to be for them alone.
Lustrous, steadfast light embellishing the room.
They slept, curled together, as the stars insistent and invariable fell like white cherry blossoms.