Unusual Red

She nudged the open door where it secretly wanted to go. A stained-glass window stared at her from across the dusty, dark room. She danced and twirled towards it “spotting” the kaleidoscope light for balance. The Rembrandts waved as she passed by. With a sudden stop, she opened the colorful aperture to welcome the wind.

Outside, flowers stretched their petals in coffee-ground beds. Both pure pleasure and decadent delight caught a glimpse of her in the Rococo-style mirror. Her wrinkles defied gravity and her smile lied about her age.

The gilded décor was a trivial affair, as far as she was concerned. This venerable ballet dancer applauded whatever brought out the best in her bound feet. The custom woodwork all around acknowledged years of dedication and sacrifice bowing to proud calluses.

Everything inside her confirmed this is where she needed to be. Free from the judgments of this world, she tilted her head back to admire the vaulted ceiling. She felt silly and free like she did as a child. And like a child she exploded with laughter. Sound waves of buoyant bliss carried to adjacent rooms opening bolted doors and dusting off cobwebs from Baroque-style chandeliers.

She spun and spilt her strong, yet light frame out of the room into the hallway. Her diaphragm expanded as her thirsty nostrils drank in the trapped scent of African blackwood and mahogany. She tip-toed (literally with the tips of her bubbly big toes) up a long flight of creaky stairs.

Curiosity stopped to finger holes into the walls. Compassion smiled and said, “I know what to do.” Feeling light and free, the ballerina ran the rest of the way to the summit of the mahogany staircase.

Her heart pounded. She perspired. Heat and humidity held hands. Her yellow sundress gladly stuck to childbearing hips. But something was amiss.

There was a strange familiarity about the place: the golden fleur-de-lis print on prune-colored wallpaper seemed sad and distant from the forgotten photos that hung on them. They had accumulated years of dust that insulated priceless memories. Suddenly, her feet could no longer move or turn or pivot. Her ankles locked. Her legs cramped. She knew this was a test of grace.

In the moment, she had to relearn to walk placing one foot in front of the other like a clumsy child. The numb, yet tingling sensation was new to her. But her intrepid spirit pushed her forward and through the helpless hallway. Time stood still as dust slept undisturbed in apathy.

In front of the last locked door, she read the tearful inscription: “Love lived here a long long time ago.” For the first time in her life she experienced sorrow greater than her own. Her eyes watered. She knelt down in front of the red rectangle and prayed. The door listened to every word slipping out of its painful wedge at the sound of her voice. As she stepped inside the desolate room, her eyes fixed on a yellow fleur-de-lis painted in the center of the African Blackwood floor.

Outside the window, a bluebird with a bright orange vest called her by name. His beak rapped on the glass, going tap-tap-tap, chirping to be let in. She lifted up the pained-glass to set him free. Then something unexpected occurred.

A throng of exotic birds and butterflies flew inside like miniature acrobats from the surrounding countryside. They settled on the ballerina bar next to an ole piano. The brave bluebird was the first to leave his brothers to play a musical tune as he bounced from ebony to ivory. Beaks of all shapes and sizes chimed along.

The dancer began to twirl on the French lily flower to Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plumb Fairy.” In concentric circles, they spun. She twirled and twirled in the center always spinning to the right. Then, to the left, flew two Gold and Blue Macaws with three Rainbow Lorikeets. The third circle included three Sun Conures with four Golden Pheasants and one Quetzal spinning clockwise. The outer circle, which also spun clockwise, contained a beautiful array of butterflies, too many to count: Blue Morphos, Leopard Lacewings, Purple Spotted Swallowtails, and Australian Painted Ladies. From God’s-eye-view, the house swirled like the Milky Way Galaxy in a glorious collection of heavenly hues.

And then in the blink of an eye, it all changed. The spell was broken: a sparkle from the mixture of light and dust grew enchanted by her intrepid spirit. The holes in the faded walls were supernaturally restored. Clocks resumed ticking. And all moving creatures settled their harmonious flight to watch the grand finale. Her eyes shut tight for her last pirouette.

But when she opened her almond-shaped dark chocolate eyes, they were gone. Not a quill or feather in sight. But on her back and down her arms they were enfleshed with “immortality.” On no other were they born to follow.

This dancing fleur-de-lis was the beating heart of the dilapidated house. She cared for the lost and lonely more than she cared for herself. That is not to say she found true love; rather, true love found her. Irony knocked with bold precision the instant she brought beauty and virtue to an ole abandoned heart. As when she let her guard down with a smile, heaven kissed her cheek and painted her soul an unusual red. 

Chester Delagneau


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