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“Life isn’t like it is in your books.” “Come to reality—you can’t live in the world of your characters.” “Come on, Elise. Wake up.” I shake my head, but cannot speak. These words sting with truth.
Elise raised her eyes to the window, an incorrigibly bored expression upon her face. What beauty could there possibly be in this black and white world? Why, everything was black and white. She winced. Monotony overran each passing day, each passing hour and moment. What more could happen than that which occurred in the pages of her books? Her family couldn’t have said it more clearly. “Life isn’t like it is in your books.” She propped her chin on her cold palms and continued to stare at the wind-blown trees scarcely visible through the rectangular window frame. On the floor her books had slid into a haphazard pile, an abandoned quantity of insipidity. Elise opined, with a quick glance at her arm resting on the desk before her, that God really ought to have something crucial somewhere out in her future, lest she be smothered by words. Words? Out of the tail of her eye she swept a lethargic gaze across the wall nearby. There—words. A whole bookcase of them!
She shook her head, thus trying to shake herself from this plaintive thought. But another question darted across her mind—why can’t I live in the world of those immortal characters? Why can’t I? It echoed blaringly, and didn’t die out into any spacious void that she could blot from her memory. The spacious void vanished, leaving her to deal with mental images of faces . . . so many faces. They called and beckoned to her. Join them. Join them! she savagely commanded herself Why am I stuck here?
Her imagination did not fly. It would not lift from the hazy ground.
Her eye wandered to her pen, lying across her desk, heart tangled and breath slow, heavy. She shut her eyes. And vision came. The land of her dreams appeared, stretched out in all its golden, vivid beauty, peopled by those darling folk created by her own heart, whose souls came from the depths of her own—the depths of her own soul created by its own Creator. She grasped for a hold on it, and found the firm vine which stopped her in this rushing flight, and she swayed there, on the border of her secret realm. No one could find her but the scintillating light that flushed this valley, crept upon every tree and face. Elise clung to the vine, which bound her to this land, and above its majesty she hovered, gladdened that she had found her way back. Nobody could give her a homily on real life now. This was her life. Life bloomed with story and the thousand colors of a rich imagination. Her pen should not waste and rust and wear away into dust, she would not lay it down in the shadow of discouragement and flee. No!
To Elise’s ears came the sound of a calling voice. “Elise!”
She opened her eyes, and in a moment her mind streamed back to the gray-painted room with its cold colors, divested of everything and yet at the same time filled with objects—things . . . things that Elise didn’t care about.
Her sister peered in, caught sight of Elise at her desk with a rapture illuminating her every feature, such a contrast to the nondescript room in which she sat.
Elise, jarred, returned the gaze blankly. “What?” she said in a flat tone.
“Come out, won’t you?”
Elise’s eyebrows drew together in a quizzical frown. The warmth and luminance of that place still coursed through her being in a river-like force and constancy. How could she leave it behind? But they wanted her. They called to her. She found herself back again, among those who she had grown with, even if she took those stunning flights into the dimension of her cherished fantasy, where her heart had grown entangled and overrun with the sweetness of it—her vivid mind which would never be old and gray like this room . . . it had captured those moments. She would age with her self-formed fancies.
But her sister’s face held questioning, eagerness, life. The voices floating to this room from downstairs . . . they were real.
Elise breathed out. It flooded back to her in a defiant wave, defiant of all the loveliness previously conjured. The loveliness vanished, replaced by truth.
Her sister’s cheeks glistened. “Please, Elise. Julia is asking for you.”
The scintillating light of the valley flickered one last time and then died. Elise rose with a spark of resolve in her dark eyes. “I’m coming,” she murmured, determinedly. The visages of those people, whose names she had crafted and written of so effusively, whose features she had molded with words, had faded as had the light. Julia’s face appeared in place of them. Her large, liquid eyes, reddened by tears . . . mien wrought by pain—excruciating pain . . . anguish twisting the once-smiling lips . . . Julia, who had always been strong and comforting, as every older sister ought to be . . . Life had broken Julia. Gnarled, hateful life stared Elise in the face every time she met Julia’s hollow eyes. She cringed, wanting to recoil from the door which Melissa held open, her voice imploring.
“Come downstairs, Elise. Please.”
“Mel . . .” Elise shuffled her feet, lingering in the doorway. She glanced fleetingly over her shoulder, her heart like an iron weight in her that sunk down hard.
A tremor of reluctance shook her. The books faced her blankly, silently. They said nothing, did nothing. The folks of her fancy were loftily mute. They taunted her with that silence. Elise tasted the bitter tang of betrayal in that agonizing moment, and then turned. She abandoned the room, and followed Melissa numbly down the stairs. Standing in the living room her vision encompassed every individual, every expression, every tear and tremble of mouth . . . the withering loneliness enhanced by those haughtily silent books pricking her. The stark, walled-in house threatened to close in and smother her. She almost retreated.
Julia’s cracked, trembling voice shook this room and gripped Elise’s heart—that stone-cold heart struck by a terrible pang. She could not move; thus, retreat became impossible.
The magic carpet of her mind did not appear.
Gentle hands touched her; quiet, soothing voices caressed her ears. Faintly did she recall the secret place she claimed to be her own. It became lost in a heartbeat—lost to this. Tears, smiles, hope, family, bittersweet joy and comfort . . . she could not flee from it. She had come home to it.
Julia regained her strength and wrapped her arms around Elise, and Elise melted into the old sisterly embrace. There was Julia’s voice, whispering, “I’m so glad I have you and everyone else here with me. I love you.”
It burst into a thousand, radiant sparkling colors, the aura spreading across the room, vanquishing the shadowy grayness. Elise felt it cradle her, and let the tears stain her own face. She forgot the taunting words. She only heard ringing in these voices, and felt through Julia’s warm hug . . . Love. It colored Life. It poured it with fragrance. The scintillating light frayed the darkness. Real Light had come.