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The door at the top of the staircase was open

The door at the top of the staircase was open. It was never closed. A shard of light lit the staircase. It was the longest that she had climbed in her life; the only staircase that she had climbed for the past year. Her legs felt strangely lighter. The pain that racked her knees and her swollen ankles had miraculously abated. It was almost as if she had lost a friend however unwelcome it had been. She looked down at her feet as she climbed one stair after another, counting, counting all the time. Cold to the touch, uneven and cracked in places, the ancient stone walls that engulfed her were oddly reassuring. Other than her breathing, the silence was absolute. Nothing about the staircase frightened her – not the height that she had yet to climb nor the abyss behind her. She had long since decided that once she had taken the first step then she would not look back.

She had waited for this day, for this opportunity, for the past year. Thought about it constantly all day long and dreamed about it throughout the night. It was stepping into the unknown. It could not be planned. Some said she was not ready and had tried to hold her back. Some willed her on and told her to reach out for her dream. Some respected that she would make her own decision when the time was right.

She smiled as she felt a warm, gentle breeze sweep down over her body. The diaphanous, silk gown trimmed with lace that she had chosen caressed her legs and wafted out behind her. A voice had come to her in her sleep and whispered that it did not matter what she wore; there would be attire waiting for her when she arrived. But it was important to her.

In the near distance, she felt rather than heard a familiar voice, beckoning, encouraging. Her breathing quickened, her eyes widened, her mind raced. The moment was nearly upon her.

Fleetingly she hesitated and wondered if she was caught in the grips of a dream or indeed it was reality.

The light almost blinded her as she reached the top of the staircase and held out her hand. A familiar hand. Long slim fingers entwined with her own marking the beginning of the end of her journey.

There he was. As beautiful and as handsome as he had been the very first time that she had set eyes on him. Glancing down at herself, she relaxed her hand in his grip and felt it slipping away.

“Connie. As beautiful as ever. Welcome to my world,” he said.

Hesitantly she stepped through the door and stood before him. “Not beautiful anymore, my darling,” she said. “The years have not always been kind.”

“If I had a mirror here, I would show you just how beautiful you are,” he said, wrapping her safely in his arms.