~The Image on the Stairs~

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"What am I doing," Cally said as she drove through the town she once called home. "I don’t belong here. I feel like a stranger."

Flashbacks of her youth kept twirling in her mind. The awful life she had to endure caused her to leave home right after high school to make it on her own. It had been 15 years since she last saw her mother and now she was back to attend her funeral at the urging of her Uncle Saul. Cally adored Uncle Saul and her coming back was only to make him happy. He was a kind man with a heart of gold, who always knew the right words to say.

"Cally, your mother loved you no matter what you may think. She had many problems, both physically and mentally. You must find it in your heart to forgive her."

"How can I Uncle Saul. I was never good enough for her. No matter what I did, she always seemed to hate me. And once father died it got even worse."

Uncle Saul’s voice on the phone was soft and reassuring. "I know child, I know, but someday with God’s help you will be able to forgive her." Cally was skeptical, but she packed her clothes in a small suitcase and drove the 400 miles to the home she once despised.

Silver Acres was a small town of 2,500 residents, more or less. The kind of town where everyone knew what you were doing the moment you stepped out of your house. In the winter, trees glistened on every block as frost clung to their branches. Summer brought the promise of new life as birds could be heard singing their songs in the early morning hours. Festivals and carnivals began springing up all over Riverport County. This was Cally’s favorite time of year.

She made the left turn into the driveway of her childhood home and slowly emerged from her car. As she walked up the steps to the front door, her legs felt like lead. She took each step as if she was going to meet her doom. The door opened and a saddened housemaid greeted her. "Oh Miss Cally, you are home!" Tears filled her eyes as she put her strong arms around Cally’s slender waist and gave her a welcoming hug. "Hello Serena, how are you doing?" Serena, a small Hispanic woman had been the Turner’s housemaid for as long as Cally could remember.

"Not well, Miss Cally. Not well at all," she replied. "Your mother suffered long. It is good that she has gone to be with The Father. She will feel no more pain."

Cally’s reactions were few as she looked around the house she once knew. To the left of her was the sitting room where she was not allowed, except on special occasions. To the right, the family room; ahead of her, the tall staircase leading to her bedroom. The house had not changed much in fifteen years. It was like regressing to her.

"I fixed your room, Miss Cally. You must be tired from your long trip. May I make you something to eat?" Serena was her only friend and always looked out for her when she was younger.

"No thank you. I think I will go upstairs, take a shower and retire."

"Ok then, I will go home and return at first light." With that Serena grabbed her coat and bag and left her alone. Cally stood in the same position transfixed for the longest time, just surveying her surrounding before climbing the stairs to her room. Serena was right. Nothing had changed. Everything had its place and it never changed in all those years.

Once she was showered and relaxed Cally decided to go downstairs and get a glass of milk before retiring. She needed to feel refreshed in the morning before meeting with friends and relatives. She also had to make sure the funeral arrangements were finalized.

Walking back toward the stairs, glass of milk to her lips, she stopped short at the bottom of the stairs. Looking up, she noticed a movement at the top of the staircase. No, it couldn’t be, she thought to herself. It must just be a reflection from the mirror, which had been hit by light. But wait! A pale image was coming toward her down the stairs. It was floating and very elegant in movement. Slowly it came toward her causing Cally to jump back spilling half her glass of milk on the brocade carpet. Suddenly, it stopped half way down, lingered, and disappeared into the stair.

"Sure Cally," she thought with a grin. "You really ARE tired, aren’t you?" With that she shook her head, sopped up the spilled milk, and headed up the stairs to her room. Once her glass was empty she set it on the nightstand next to her bed. With a sigh, she pulled back the coverlet and slid between the sheets of the four poster bed. Her eyes were heavy from her long trip and she soon drifted into a deep sleep.

CA-thump! Cally’s eyes came wide open."What the…….?" She sat up in bed and looked around. Her heart was pounding and beating very fast. She noticed a book on the floor by the chest of drawers and figured it must have somehow fallen. As she began to lay back on the bed, she noticed a flickering light in the hallway. "I know I shut off all the lights," she said as she crawled out of the bed to investigate. She stopped short in the doorway of her room. "What is going on here? What is happening?" The image she saw earlier was looming just outside her room.

Cally jumped back with a start when the image began to move slowly toward the stairway. She was confused, but for reasons she could not understand, was not frightened anymore. She followed close behind as the image moved down the stairs and again disappeared halfway down. What could this mean, she thought. And why was this happening now? She was dumfounded. She walked down the steps, slowly, to where the …..whatever it was…..disappeared. She felt warmth beneath her feet as she looked around hoping to see or hear something that would explain these strange occurrences. Nothing made sense.

She shrugged her shoulders and started back to her room. Her mind was swimming. This was too strange.

"Maybe I should call Uncle Saul," Cally said out loud. "No, if I do that he will just think I am crazy for waking him up with this nonsense."

Once back in her warm bed she lay staring at the ceiling trying to rationalize what was going on. "This has to mean something," she thought. "But what? Why am I not frightened?" Her thoughts continued until finally sleep took over.

"Miss Cally? Miss Cally?" Her eyes slowly opened to see Serena standing over her bed trying to awaken her. Her smiling face was a familiar site and she returned the greeting. "Did you sleep well Miss Cally?" Serena asked as she went to draw the bedroom curtains letting in the morning sunshine.

"Well, not at first " she said. "Something very strange happened here last night and I have no explanation for it." Serena’s eyes got wide, "Oh no Miss Cally, what happened?"

Cally proceeded to tell her friend about the night before hoping that Serena would be able to shed some light. Serena shuddered, "I..I..don’t know nothing Miss Cally" and with that rushed from the room and closed the door behind her.

"That was strange," Cally thought. "I obviously struck a cord with her or why would she rush from here like she did?" Quickly Cally got off the bed and threw her pink satin night robe on and rushed from the room.

"Serena," she called. "Serena, I need to talk to you." But she was no where to be found. Cally searched the house but there was no sign of the maid anywhere. "All right! Now I am getting upset. There is something going on that I am not aware of. Apparently I am not supposed to know."

She stared at the staircase wondering what that image was trying to tell her. Slowly, she ascended to where the images kept disappearing. Stepping down two stairs, she placed her hands on the step above her. The warmth she felt the night before was still there. Rubbing her hands across the thin carpet, she noticed it separated at the step crease. Fingering the carpet, it easily pulled back. A small indentation in the wood indicated a rather crude handle. She pulled on the handle and was startled when the step moved. Tucked underneath in a small crevice was a thin notebook.

"What the…….,"Cally said in astonishment. "What is this?" She pulled the notebook from its hiding place and sat on the step to begin her discovery. Opening the notebook, she began to read:

 

My Dearest Cally,

By the time you read this I will be long gone.

"Oh my God," Cally cried out. "This is my mother’s writing." She continued reading.

No one knows what paths our lives will lead. Sometimes things go well, sometimes things go bad. Well, my dearest second born, mine has not gone well.

"Second born? What the hell is she talking about? I never knew mother had another child. What is this?" She didn’t want to go on, but knew she had to.

 

You are only two weeks old now and will not be reading this until you are a beautiful grown woman and maybe then you will be able to forgive me for not telling you this. Your father and I were very much in love when we married. I was not ready for children right away, but he was. He wanted our love to grow and his heritage to continue. I tried to make him wait until I was ready, but he insisted. I became pregnant three months after we married and was forced to quit school because of it. My nursing career would have to wait. I was bitter and elated at the same time. I hope you can understand this.

I kept getting bigger and bigger. I hated being pregnant and my back was constantly in pain. I didn’t want a baby in the first place and all this pain just affirmed that. My whole pregnancy was total misery. I blamed your father constantly for the pain I was experiencing and he started to hate me for my bitchiness. Fortunately for me he wasn’t home when you were born.

The labor was fast and I couldn’t make it to the hospital so Serena offered to help me deliver. She did a wonderful job and knew just what to do. She wanted to call the doctor ,but I talked her out of it I told her we would call him after the baby was born.

Cally got up from the step and walked downstairs to get a cup of coffee. Tears were welling up in her eyes, as she read not knowing what would come next. Sitting at the kitchen table she continued.

 

Your sister Sally was born. She had a full head of dark hair and a bluish tint to her skin. After cutting the cord that attached her to me, Serena put a warm blanket around her and set her by my side. My stomach was still in pain and Serena went around to see what was wrong.

"Oh My God Missy!" Serena said. "There is another one in there"

My dear Cally, you were born 5 minutes after Sally and screaming your head off when you emerged to greet the world. You had been living for the past 9 months under my rib cage, which explained why I was having such constant back pains and why your heartbeat never showed up at my monthly checkups. TWINS! How was I going to handle TWINS? And moreover, how was I going to tell your father.

Even though I wasn’t ready for motherhood, seeing my two beautiful little babies changed all that. But something was wrong. Sally wasn’t breathing normally. I screamed at Serena to do something but she was occupied with you at the time and became quite nervous. She set you down quickly and grabbed your sister to try to get her breathing. She spanked her, shook her, but nothing worked. Sally didn’t make it. Serena was hysterical and was going to call the hospital, but I stopped her.

I told her we would bury the baby right away and no one would ever know. I convinced her that she would be blamed for the baby’s death and I didn’t want to loose her as my housekeeper. I told her she would never see her family again. That was all it took to convince poor little Serena to help me bury the evidence. She was so nave. I had you Cally. I didn’t need anyone else to care for. She would have to keep the secret between us for a lifetime.

By the time we called the hospital and the ambulance arrived, there was just you and me. I never had the heart to tell your father. Heck, no one knew I was carrying twins. Not even the doctors so why worry about it?

I know I will live to regret this decision, but I did what I felt I had to do. I can’t care for one baby much less two. It was God’s will that Sally be taken from me. I am sorry that you are just finding out about this as an adult, but I must keep this from you until you are ready to hear about it. I love you my precious baby Cally and I hope we have had a beautiful future together.

Your Mother

Cally was in total shock. She had a sister and never knew about it. Her mother kept it a secret up until her death. Things started to become clear in her mind now. She felt she knew why her mother treated her the way she did all those years. The fights her mother and father had over her made more sense. She didn’t want her in the first place and she had a terrible secret to hide.

And Serena, how she must have suffered all those years. She had to keep this terrible secret as well. Poor, naive Serena. Cally wasn’t sure she could forgive her mother for what she had done. She got up from the table and headed toward the stairs. Looking up she saw a clear image of her mother holding a baby. The baby was smiling but her mother was not.

"I don’t understand what you did or how you could do it but," she let out a long sigh, "I forgive you mother. This journal will be burned so you may rest in peace. Now maybe you can care for Sally." Tears were streaming down her face. Her mother smiled and waved as the image of her and her baby sister Sally slowly disappeared. Cally turned and walked out the front door. "Uncle Saul is waiting for me. We have a funeral to arrange."

July 1999 KLJ

 

 

                   

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