THis is a story about a women remmebering the good and bad times while starting over from scratch.
Sunlight pours through an open window into a dark and barren hallway of the fourth floor. Cathy stands by the door of an old apartment. Her golden hair, laced with white traces and neatly styled, is held back with a sheer handkerchief. With some hesitation, she unlocks the door. Cathy opens the door with a loud creak of unused hinges, and she leans against the frame of the old door. She sighs quietly. She seems at ease in her surroundings, and smiles as some ghost of a memory enters her vision. She turns suddenly, as if instantly aware of another presence in the old hallway. She realizes there is no one but her memories to keep her company. After a quick glance around the hallway, she enters the apartment and closes the door softly.
In the first room, the walls are coffee-stained and the original color is dull from years of neglect. A beige Berber carpet is ripped up and the bare sub-floor is exposed. Only warped doorjambs remain, where the doors once hung. As Cathy stands looking around the room, the devastation transforms into a living room with bright colors and children laughing on the couch. The sun is streaming in through a newly installed bay window on the north side of the apartments. Erica is only five-years-old and lying on the couch reading aloud. Her brother William, eight-years-old, is lying on the floor watching TV. Her sister Crystal, seven-years-old is laying next to William.
“Twinkle, twinkle, little star. How I wonder what you are?” Cathy looks up and sees a younger reflection of herself walk by as Erica asks. “Mommy, what is a star?”
Cathy’s ghost answers Erica, “They are precious specks of dust, that were placed in the sky for all of us to see. They shine above us when the sun goes to sleep.”
“But why haven’t I seen ‘em, Mommy?” Erica looks at her.
William, Cathy’s son, says, “because there are no stars in the city. It’s too bright and they run away.”
“I wasn’t talkin’ to you!” Erica says and throws her book at William as she runs towards the hallway.
“Kids!” Crystal says in her best ‘Mom’ voice.
Cathy laughs as the ghosts of her children run through the doors, and the room is restored to its previous appearance. Cathy continues through the apartment. Through the opening on the right, she can see the small bathroom that her small family had shared. The tub is cracked and yellow, and the sink is rusted with age. The walls spout the faded flowered design of years ago, and she hears the sound of a young girl crying. When she turns to look for the source, she sees the faded flowers blossom into a rainbow of beauty as Cathy sees Crystal sitting on the edge of the tub. Crystal is sixteen and she has lost her innocence. Again, Cathy’s younger ghost floats by her to comfort her child.
“Crystal, Calm down. I thought you where going out tonight.”
“Mom, it’s horrible. I can’t go out again! He left me!” Crystal sobs again.
“Calm down, honey. Talk to me. I know you and Stephan were serious but there will be other men. You’re still a young girl.” Cathy’s younger self spoke.
“But you don’t understand. I thought he was the one. We were going to be together forever. He promised to be there for us!” Crystal’s face was tear-streaked and flushed.
“Honey, what do you mean ‘us?’”
Crystal’s face goes blank and she lowers her eyes, “I’m pregnant.”
Crystal’s image flees into the small bedroom just beyond the small bathroom and fades away. Cathy enters the bedroom and sees the burgundy wallpaper falling off in whole strips. There is evidence of the previous layers of wallpaper that no one has removed. As she looks at the multi-layered walls, she thinks she sees a hint of the rose wallpaper that covered the walls when her first grandchild was born.
A twisted metal bed frame on the floor becomes Crystal’s big canopy bed. Crystal holds Cathy’s grandson her arms. There are tears of happiness streaming down Cathy’s face as she sees her ghost walk towards Crystal. The ghost sits on the edge of the bed staring at Crystal.
“Mom, I don’t think I can do this alone,” Crystal said.
Cathy’s ghost puts her hand on Crystal’s arm but before she can speak, another voice comes from the doorway; “You’re not alone.” William says, as confident as any eighteen-year-old can be, “I’ll help.”
“Me, too.” A fifteen-year-old Erica steps out from behind her brother.
Cathy and her ghostly self speak at the same time, “You are never alone, as long as you have someone who loves you.”
The baby cries and the scene fades back to the twisted metal bed frame. There is an old dresser next to the doorway that leads out into the hallway. Cathy crosses the hallway into a smaller room where you can still see the imprints of a football on the floor. The windows are broken and a single bulb hangs from the ceiling. Staring at the broken window, a basketball spins by and lands in a net that doesn’t exist. William stands six-foot tall and in a brand new jersey for the opening game. He looks at himself in the mirror and messes with his hair. After a few moments, he walks away from his mirror and looks out the window.
“You know what they say about vanity, don’t you?” Crystal says from the doorway.
William turns to look at her. She is holding Richard in her arms. Richard is trying to squirm away from Crystal. William races to her and hugs her as he takes Richard.
“It’s a deadly sin,” Crystal smiles as William bounces Richard on his arm.
“I guess I’m safe then.” Richard laughs and William says, “You know he is the best good luck charm a guy could ask for. Maybe I should ask Erica to get pregnant, too?”
Cathy’s ghost yells down the hall, “I heard that! Don’t even think about it!”
As the children turn laughing, the ghosts fade away. Cathy turns to the end of the hallway where another room waits and she slowly walks to the room. Inside the room, there is a broken mirror that extends from floor to ceiling on the far wall. The reflection of a young woman in dancing shoes floats past her vision. She is a vision of beauty in her costume for the recital. Her hair flows down her back as she turns. She stops when she catches a glance of the mended seam on her shoes. Cathy’s ghost leans against the door looking at Erica.
Past and present Cathy whispered, “You are so beautiful! I can’t wait for tonight. You are going to be perfect.”
“Thanks, Mom. I’m so nervous. I am actually a major part. I’ll be watching for you,” Erica is breathless.
“Your brother and sister will be there later. Let’s hurry!”
They race out the door and Cathy looks back at the broken mirror. She sees only her shattered reflection. She walks back down the hallway through the living room and sees the kitchen. It now seems bigger than it did with three kids running around. Their echoes of Ring around the Rosy transform into Christmas songs around the dining room table. Cathy sees the lights of a Christmas tree sitting on the kitchen windowsill. The scent of freshly baked cookies laces the air. Suddenly a young man runs by Cathy’s leg.
“What’s wrong, Richie! You sound scared.”
“Mommy says that I’m not gonna be the baby anymore. Mommy says she has a new baby in her belly.” He stops and looks at Cathy. “Is that true ? I’m not the baby anymore?”
Crystal stands in the doorway and watches Cathy’s reaction. “Mom, are you okay?”
“Yes, of course.” Tears stream down her face. “This is a wonderful thing. Young man you are going to be a big brother! Doesn’t that make you happy?”
“Does that mean I can pick on the baby like Lenny does to his baby sister?”
They laugh as Cathy hands Richard a cookie and he runs away.
Down the hall another sound interferes with Cathy’s memories. She walks from the decrepit kitchen towards a room at the opposite side of the apartment. The wind blows through the broken balcony window and the leaves of many past Falls reside on the floor. Cathy slowly walks to the window and look out on the city below. Through all the development and years of neglect, the view is untouched. She looks down upon a view of the park, and it makes her forget for a moment that she’s in the city.
Her eyes begin to tear as she hears church bells ringing. She remembers the wedding that took place in this very room. So many decades ago, it seems, but yet it is like yesterday. William stands, proud and proper, before her with his sisters holding his hands. And Cathy stands there, in a dress of white, getting married to a man she loved. After twenty-five years of being single, she is remarried with her children’s blessings.
“Do you take this woman to be your wife?” the preacher asks.
“I do!” He says so firmly.
“Do you take this man to be your husband?” the preacher asks.
“I do!” Cathy said.
Cathy closes her eyes to the memory and turns away. The tears that wash her face are full of painful memories. He had lived with her in this apartment only a short time before they moved away, and found a new home. And in that new home they had lived happily for almost ten years. And then he was gone. Just like the memories that floated through her mind.
Cathy turns at the sound of a mortal voice, “Mom, are you in here?” Crystal calls.
“I’m in the bedroom, dear.” Cathy quickly wipes away the tears.
Crystal walks into the room, followed by William and Erica. Each has a dreamy look of remembrance as if they each have their own memories race to them.
“It is going to take quite a bit of work to get this place back together.
Are you sure you want to do this?” William asks tentatively.
“Yes. The memories are alive here.” Cathy replies.
“I know. I can almost see the apartment as it looked the day we moved out.” Erica says.
“It will look like home, again. Just give me some time.”
“No, Mom,” Cathy looks surprised until Crystal continued. “Give us, time. Remember, ‘you are never alone as long as someone loves you.’”
They laugh as they exit the apartment. A neighbor looks out from his door as they walk away.
“Finally,” he thought. He smiles as he gently closes the door. “Decent neighbors.”
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