Happy holidays all! This year, I’m participating in Rhonda Parrish’s wonderful initiative, Giftmas 2018! What is this, you ask?
Giftmas 2018 is an advent themed fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank. Every day in December, someone has donated a wonderful little piece of writing to help raise funds. Before I get to my story, I have another story to share. Last year, I volunteered for just a day at the food bank. It was the middle of the summer, so it was a slower time, but the group of us were responsible for sorting the food. Canned meats went here, pasta there, peanut butter in this box, that sort of thing. It was a really interesting experience and I learned a lot about all the different ways food gets donated to the food bank, whether from every day citizens, groceries, or other partners in the community.
Things have been tough for a lot of people, so this seemed like another way to help out. So please, I encourage you to look at the different stories, to read and enjoy them, and to consider donating to the Edmonton Food Bank.
To donate through our Canada Helps page, where every bit goes to help the Edmonton Food Bank, click here. For every dollar raised, that’s three meals. Our initial goal was $750 would translate into 2,250 meals. We’re so close to $1000, I hope you’ll consider a donation. For our Canadian friends, you can receive a tax receipt for your donation, and for our American counterparts, the exchange rate means your donation goes further.
The food bank is in great need for donations. As of December 17th, they were only at 50% of their goal for the holidays. If you can’t donate, please boost #Giftmas2018 using the hashtag on social media. Share your favourite story. Share all the stories! Before I get to mine, you can find Lizz Donnelly’s story here. Tomorrow, you can find Kevin Cockle’s story hosted on Rhonda’s blog over here.
Now that you’ve sat through all that preamble, please enjoy my story, Never Too Late.
The ruins of an old building rose behind a tall, metal fence in the middle of a bustling city. Among the ruined walls that reached up towards the sky like jagged teeth, the pigtailed girl caught the faintest glimpse of a door.
She ducked down the side of the neighbouring building, looking for an opening in the fence. A small gap formed where two sections were supposed to meet. One part leaned to the side and she pushed it far enough to make her way through. The metal rattled and echoed through the area.
Inexplicably draw to the door, she picked her way through the rubble, her shoes kicking up small stones and crunching on the debris. She wove around the large piles of stones and metal rebar that jutted out at dangerous angles, toward the door which stood out like a beacon amidst the slabs of concrete, catching the light as the sun shone down on it. With slow, reverent steps she approached it. Whereas the building had crumbled around it and everything was worn down by time and weather, the door was immaculate. It was stained a deep, chestnut colour and there was no hint of fading, no scratches marring the surface, no dulling of the shine. Carvings were painstakingly etched into the door and the frame. Flowering vines and leaves flowed over its surface with small animals hiding within, waiting to be discovered. Brass hinges affixed the door to its frame on one side; a brass handle protruded from the other, curving elegantly and topped with a lever.
She traced the carvings, the wood warm beneath her fingers, looking for the hidden animals among the leaves and vines that seemed to move. After a thorough examination of the door and the carvings, she placed her hand on the handle. She thought of the tales she’d heard, of magic and far-off places, missing princesses and mystical creatures, and most of all, of portals of all sorts. Grasping the handle, she pressed down on the lever, and tugged, hoping that something miraculous would happen.
The door didn’t move.
She tried again, pulling with all of her might, wishing with all of her heart.
Still, the door did not open.
Time passed and the girl returned to the abandoned lot in the middle of the city. She wore a covering of makeup, applied with a novice hand, a mask to prove that she was grown up. Behind the mask, she remained a child, with all the hopes and dreams of the future, clinging to naive notions. She used the mask to hide her insecurities, her fears for the future and a world of unknowns. She was afraid of what was expected of her, of letting others down, of letting herself down. Her stomach alternated between butterflies and twisting in knots when she thought of what was to come, but she still longed for adventure, like what she imagined she might find on the other side of the door.
So she pushed her way through the gates and entered the lot. The debris hadn’t changed and she moved around it with the awkward grace of someone still getting used to their body. When she arrived at the door, she barely paused to look it over, ignoring the carvings that had entranced her on her previous visit. Instead, she hurried on, reaching for the handle.
As before, she placed her hand on the handle, pressing down the lever. As before, the door didn’t budge.
The girl shrugged and walked away. There would be no magical worlds for her.
When she next returned to the door, her heart was broken. She struggled not to cry, clenching her teeth to hold in the sobs. It felt as though her world was crashing down upon her. The future was dark and a weight had settled itself on her chest, an unwelcome visitor that refused to leave.
Rain poured from the sky, keeping most people inside. Only those who needed to be out braved the weather, heads down, focused only on their destination. She slipped unnoticed through the gap in the fence.
As she got within sight of the door, she threw the umbrella she carried with her to the ground and rushed over. Tears started to fall and she frantically grabbed for the handle. Despite the cool temperature, the handle felt warm to the touch. Her heart blossomed with hope and she tugged at the door.
It remained closed.
With a wordless cry of anguish, she tried again, and again. She must open the door. Escape the pain. Banging her fists, she begged the door to let her in, to take her away. Still, it refused.
With her energy spent, she stepped back from the door. Part of her wanted to hate it for not taking her, but she couldn’t bring herself to do so.
She grabbed her umbrella as she left and raised it above her to keep off the rain.
A light fog clung to the buildings, burning off as the sun rose. The girl was now a woman, her childish features replaced by faint laugh lines touching around her eyes. This time, she was not alone as she approached the lot. A small child walked alongside her, hand in hand. They made their way through the same opening she had discovered many years ago. The gap had grown as time wore down the ground around it. The woman picked a path through the debris, careful to keep her child away from any danger while she talked to the little one, telling the story of the magic door. She watched as the child explored the door, looking all around it, trying to see behind it. Eventually, she came up beside the child and together they spent some time pointing out the hidden animals, touching the warm, smooth wood.
Finally, as the woman had done in her youth, the child grabbed the handle with their small hands and struggled to open the door. She waited, watching with baited breath. When it didn’t budge, the woman took hold of the handle herself. After a moment’s hesitation, she released the handle once more without pushing down the latch and trying to open it.
Hand in hand, the child and the woman left the lot, talking of magic worlds.
When the woman returned, the creases in her face were deeper than before, sorrow and happiness etched there in equal measure. There was a small hunch to her shoulders, a stiffness to her movements, a pain that persisted more often than not. She lived a full life, had both loved and been loved. The losses accrued over time, but she wore them as a mantle across her shoulders. Despite everything, she smiled.
She struggled through the same gap that she had used time and again, she wasn’t as spry as she had been. Once she was through the fence, she made her slow, plodding way over to the door.
She decided that this would be the last time she would make the journey. Finally, she had come to a place of peace. She was content. Regardless of what happened, this would be her last time.
She had changed, yet the door remained the same as the day she first came across it.
One last time, she touched the carvings, but this time she paused, looking over the carvings in a way she hadn’t since she was a much younger woman. Now she saw her life played out in them. Whereas the door had appeared alive and full of movement the first time she saw it, now she saw other details she’d missed, or perhaps it hadn’t been the right time before. This spot here, a dead flower was carved. Around it was full of new growth, as though life had never fully ended. The closer she looked, the more she could see where the losses in her life were. Yet there were areas of new growth, of small baby animals alongside their older counterparts. Examining the door, she smiled.
Finally, summoning all the strength she could, she placed her hand on the handle, her thumb on the lever. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes.
The opened easily, and a light spilled forth from it, washing over her. She opened her eyes, looking into the brightness and trying to see past it. As her eyes adjusted, she saw a stone path leading away from the door appeared on the other side. A stone arch stood just beyond the door, opening to a vast field of rolling hills. In the distance, she could see a small town, smoke rising from chimneys.
“Are you ready for your adventure?” a voice asked and the woman stepped through the door and onto the path.
Thank you for stopping by my blog and I hope you enjoyed the story. Please remember to donate if you can (here’s the link again).
As another special reward, there’s a rafflecopter that you can enter. You don’t have to donate to win, there are other ways to help out, like sharing and boosting the signal, or leaving comments. Enter here!