Jennifer stood at the base of the staircase, one foot on the first stair. She had stood this way for a quarter of an hour now, eyes fixed straight ahead.
The staircase was beautiful. Purple flowers grew amidst the cracked stones, and wild trees stretched at an angle, creating a cool green tunnel. It was tranquil and lovely.
And Jennifer was terrified.
At long, long last she convinced herself to move forward. Her heart was pounding, but her feet kept moving. She climbed and she climbed – and the staircase seemed to stretch on forever, though this may have had something to do with how slowly she was moving.
The sun was beginning its westward descent when Jennifer reached the top of the stairs. A great, wooden gate, made from intertwining branches, blocked her movement forward. No one was there to greet her.
Staring at the gate, Jennifer tried to convince herself to open it, but felt too afraid. She had to know, but she didn’t want to. As she stood, hesitating, she was reminded of the first time she stood before this gate. How different things had been!
Jennifer ran up the staircase, hardly noticing the beauty of the trees and flowers around her. This spot in the forest was the loveliest, greenest, most stunning in all the woods – possibly in all the world. Jennifer didn’t care. She was too excited. When she reached the gate at the top, she was out of breath. The guard grinned at her.
“Big day for you,” he said. Jennifer noticed how grand he looked, in his smart brown uniform, his green hair hardly showing beneath an acorn cap. Jennifer tugged at her own hair, trying to get it to lay flat. She smoothed her rose-petal gown.
“It is a big day,” she said, “The biggest. I’m so excited!”
“I will announce you,” said the guard, and he slipped in through the gate.
Fiddling with her skirt, Jennifer looked around. The flowers up here were huge and magnificent. Their heady aroma filled her senses, calming her – if only a little.
After what felt to Jennifer like an hour, the guard returned.
“The queen will see you now.”
Jennifer took a deep breath, and stepped through the gate.
How easy that step through the gate had seemed! Jennifer thought as she stood at the same gate so many months later. When she had gone through the first time, she had been nervous, yes, but she had felt more excitement than fear, knowing of the queen’s goodness and kindness.
Now… now she was afraid to see the queen. Not because of what she might do, but because of what she might be. Jennifer was so afraid that she would be left alone, with no one to blame but herself.
Those same flowers scented the entryway, and again the aroma soothed Jennifer. Breathing it in, she felt her head clear a little -- and this gave her the courage to do what she needed to do.
Jennifer pushed the gate open, and stepped into the court.
Today's Novel Idea Prompted by: Picture above, courtesy of Pinterest.com.