I climbed the tower stairs, one hesitant step after another, the passage as cold as the first time. The deepest dark lingered behind me. The dank, surrounding stone released a chilled serpent that slithered my spine. My shaking knees beneath my dress threatened to buckle upon tower stairs wreathing with loneliness.
At the top I hurried to the surrounding enclosure for support. My undignified, gasping breaths hurt beyond what I thought I could endure.
“You made it, Christina.” I closed my eyes and allowed my ears to fully absorb the encouragement in his voice. Water threatened to fill my eyes so I closed them tight.
There was little sense in turning to see him, for always he was just beyond my vision. Once, long ago, he’d sat across from me when we spoke. Those days were gone, but his voice remained when I needed it most.
“Almost I didn’t…”
“But you did.” My eyes still closed, I nodded. There was no arguing with him. “You need to look, Christina.”
“I can’t…” My insistence became exaggerated head shakes.
“I know you can, but what matters is you knowing you can.” Almost I screamed that he was wrong, but deep inside I knew he was right. I opened my eyes and in the instant before my tears ran I saw the walls surrounding the tower, each more distant.
There were so many.
“No…” My lower lip quivered.
“It’s okay, Christina. You’re emotions are okay…accept them. This is about taking steps.”
“I can’t do this…”
“One at a time. You remember what happened when many walls fell at once, don’t you?”
I looked down at the surrounding rubble and remembered the moment. “I, I almost didn’t survive.” Frustrating silence. “I didn’t want to live. It, it was too much…”
“But you did because you’re stronger than you know.”
I wondered how such a gentle voice could push me so effectively. “I know, but…”
“You deserve happiness, Christina…you always have.”
My tears ran harder. “I know…” Shaking, I screamed, “I want to live!” I dropped to the cold stone with my back to the wall and wept. Behind me a wall fell. Atop the tower he was gone, but never really gone because I’d learned.