The Slippery Staircase
The steps are slippery. That’s what she tells me, as she grudgingly brings my breakfast tray – cold ham and potatoes. There’s one step in particular that gives her trouble. It has a large dip in it, worn away by centuries of feet and covered in slippery moss. She falls sometimes, spilling the water or weak wine she brings me. I’m not surprised; she is not footsure and has a penchant for foolishly-constructed footwear – stiletto heels, pointy confections…it’s her one vanity in this cold, austere place. It was no shock when she announced she would no longer be taking the stairs to come and see me.
My vanities? A mirror, a comb, a cat I dangle balls of twine over and whose perfectly- coiffed paws I admire as they bat to and fro. She is black with grey and brown speckles; unusual and beautiful.
Time passes very slowly up here. There’s little to do in a small circular room with an unchanging view. Sometimes she brings me a book of poetry to read; the poems are always dark and unrelenting and provide me little cheer. I look to the contents of my own mind to amuse me.
I think about the little I can remember before she bought me here. Glimpses of my parents’ faces; playing in a sunlit garden; my brother’s cheeky giggle. They are only brief flashes and half the time I don’t know whether they are truly memories or if I dreamt them.
Each day blends slowly into another and I am growing older with every passing hour. There is no clock here, no calendar but she tells me I have turned 18. A woman now, though I may as well be an infant for all the freedom I have in this living tomb.
I can see a little from the tower window. A large green meadow that stretches up to a thick dense forest. I have no idea what lies beyond and she won’t tell me.
Each day is a copy of the one that went before. She will call on me twice; once in the morning, once in the evening. As I eat, she tells me a little of her day and her grim hopes for the evening ahead. She is foul; I hope they burn her.
But today – today, it was different. In the early afternoon I heard unforeseen footsteps on the dirt track under my window and, gloriously, this time it was a man’s voice, a well-bred voice, that called, as clear as a stream, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair.”