Behind the Red Door
Pushing open the red door, the familiar scent of baked frozen pizza mixed with sweat and flatulence tickled within my nose. Feelings of grief gave way to nostalgia as the scent of home coaxed me through the door. I could see I was safe inside of my tiny apartment over the shoe store as I shut the red door behind me. I was standing behind my couch at the front door, staring at two little heads in front of me, shouting at their video games and nudging one another. I fell to my knees crying tears of joy and relief. Behind my boys, still unable to quite approach them, I wanted to relish my victory without them seeing my struggle. I managed to reach from behind their sweet little heads and rub them as tears rushed down my cheeks. Gaining my strength again, I steadied myself on the couch to lift myself up and circle around.
“Noah! Jameson!” I shouted.
Oddly, they didn’t respond. They only continued to play their video games, bantering back and forth.
“Noah! Jameson!” I yelled again trying to capture their attention. I stood up, waving my hands in front of their faces, but there was no response. They appeared to be in some sort of trance, unable to sense my presence with them.
“Guys, please answer me!”
Perplexed by their state of unawareness, I paced back and forth behind the couch trying to contemplate what I should do next. Was I dead? Was I a ghost? I was in my apartment, but I was invisible to them. I ran to the red door to see if I could leave the apartment, but as I opened it, I realized that the small room made of stone was still lurking behind it. Astonished at this realization, I slammed the door shut, retreating down to a fetal position.
After all I had been through, the state of relief followed by feelings of horror became a bit more than I could handle. I writhed in the pain of sadness, knowing that I had somehow left my children and they would never be aware of me again. I wanted to physically touch them and have them feel it. I could hear the sounds of their shrieks and in my grief. Oddly enough, it did comfort me. I came to the realization that although my precious boys could not see nor hear me, at least I could see and hear them. Rising from my place on the ground, I seated myself in the chair next to them, watching them with soft eyes as they fussed over the video game. The sweet lullaby of their laughter gave me all the solace I would ever need or hope for.
I wondered why they didn’t miss or ask about me, but perhaps I didn’t really need an answer. The only true answer was that they were content in this small moment of their lives, unaffected by the world around them. I must have been in my apartment, but I couldn’t understand under which circumstances I found myself there. I began to contemplate the things that had transpired over the last few weeks and the struggle I had endured to bring me into this moment. I had found myself ridiculously in love with two men in an effort to find and retrieve my precious children. Had I gone forward or backward? There’s really no way to say for sure. My skin crawled with a nagging intuition that something was still not quite right. Blane had told me that Issiryth took my children and here they were right before my very eyes, sitting on my living room couch. Had Blane been lying to me all along or was he telling the truth? Was the red book conveying the true nature of Issiryth’s character or was Blane’s depiction of her capturing my children a fairer portrayal?
This peculiar place I found myself in was a depiction of a ghost woman watching over her children, but I couldn’t accept that. I had to believe that I was alive, that my heart was beating, and that I would hold these babies in my arms again at their eager reciprocation. That stone room may have been over on the other side of the door, with seemingly no way out, but there had to be a way. I knew I was not dead. I was very much alive and these boys needed their mom more than anything. I had overcome my preoccupation with love by resisting everything I had ever wanted and risked my life to be reunited with them. I must consider and weigh both options carefully, but all I had was time. I wouldn’t leave their sides again even if they couldn’t perceive me in their experience.
“Issiryth,” I whispered from beneath my breath, holding my eyes closed. “I know it’s you.”
From beneath my chin, my hair flew about as if a breeze came along. The lighting in the room turned up as a voice could be heard from around the corner. From out of my kitchen a beautiful blonde woman appeared, with smooth porcelain skin. She wore a long blue dress of silk with grace and beauty. I recognized her as the woman in the parade on my first day at Blane’s island. I remembered how drawn mom and I were to the music that day. Her light and beauty were drawing me in like a magnet. She smiled a dazzling smile at my children as she seated herself with them. She dangled her arms around their shoulders and hugged them in the same manner I always had.
“Who are you?” I asked, but she acted just as the children had. It was as if I were a ghost.
“Who wants ice-cream guys?” she asked with a bright white smile.
“Oh, me, me!” they shouted with excitement, following her into the kitchen. I stood up and walked behind them to observe the behavior that ensued next. The woman pulled the chocolate ice cream out the freezer that I had allowed to melt and refreeze, scooping out a generous helping to each child.
“Which one of you allowed the ice cream melt, then put it back in the freezer?” she asked putting her hands on her hips and looking at them with a motherly suspicion. The boys pointed at each other.
“You guys, don’t make me take away the unicorns.”
“No! Please don’t do that! We promise we’ll be good,” Jameson protested.
“Okay, but this is your last warning,” she said hugging them and sending them back to their places in the living room. They again were oblivious to my being there. She sat back down in between them as they ate the ice cream while simultaneously playing video games.
“Issiryth? Are you Issiryth?” I whispered, her eyes shot up at me, cutting me like a newly sharpened knife. I knew she must have heard me.
“I am,” she stated getting up and approaching me. My heart thudded within my chest at the anticipation.
“Liza, I presume?”
“Yes,” I said. She approached me. I held still, awaiting the fate that she would bestow.
“You’ve endured a great journey to find yourself in my presence,” she said.
“Yes ’mam,” I said with a tiny, crumbling whisper. I felt caught up in awe, unable to withdraw myself from the fear and respect I had to show her my bravery.
“I suppose you’ve found yourself caught up with my son?” she asked.
“Yes ’mam,” I again responded in a small voice.
“Well, what have you to say for yourself?” she asked, pulling my chin up to look at her.
“You have my children,” I mustered in a small, wavering voice.
“Come again?” she asked cocking her head to the side. My heart was beating out of my chest. Sweat was permeating from my pores.
“You have my children,” I announced.
“Oh do I?” She asked, looking at me with a tilt of her head.
“Yes, you do,” I said trembling. “I, I see them. They’re over there. You, you spoke to them. They, they, they love you.”
“Children love so freely don’t they?” she asked. “You know Liza, you broke the law by coming here. Nobody comes over into my island from Blane’s. ”
“I just want my kids back and I’ll be going,” I said.
“Really? Just like that?” she asked snapping her finger in my face. “Do you forget who makes the rules around here? You are in violation of my law as per the curse. I ought to have you killed.”
“You can if that’s what you must do ’mam, but with all due respect, my children need me and I have to live for them. As beautiful as Sedania is, it’s just not the place for us to remain forever,” I responded.
“Hmmm,” she said pressing her finger to her lips in contemplation. “I’ll tell you what Liza. You sit over there in that chair and tell those children that you’re sorry for being so focused on companionship, that you forgot about the importance of raising them. Tell them you’re only going to allow healthy people in who improve the quality your lives. Commit to caring for yourself so that you can take care of others. If you do that, then I’ll help you.”
“Really?” I gasped beginning to cry.
“Really, now go on over there. They’re waiting for their mama,” she said motioning her arm for me to sit in the chair.
“But Issiryth, they don’t see me. They don’t hear me,” I protested.
“Yes, they do. They just don’t know it. Go on Liza, tell them what you need to tell them,” she said looking at me with a softer gleam in her eye and motioning to the chair. I moved across the room seating myself next them. I watched as they played their video games, with their eyes glued to the screen.
“Jameson, Noah,” I started, with tears welling up in my eyes.
“It’s okay Liza, just say what you need to say,” she encouraged.
“Jameson, Noah,” I went on. “I love you guys so much. You mean the whole world to me and my life is empty without you. I can’t tell you in words how much you mean to me, but what I can say is that I would die for you. I would give up invincibility, money, riches, and all my wildest dreams just to be with you. I don’t care if we’re in this rundown apartment, barely making ends meet. I’m not going to look for security in a man’s arms anymore. Our security is right here. I’m sorry I’ve made myself a priority in all this.”
I began to cry, forgetting my lines altogether. It didn’t seem as if they could hear me at all.
“Go on,” Issiryth encouraged.
“This isn’t working. They can’t hear me,” I shook my head.
“Yes, they can. Continue,” she said.
“Guys, I’m sorry that I’ve been so wrapped up in my personal life that I’ve forgotten you guys, letting you fend for yourselves while I shut myself away in my room. It’s not fair and I promise I’ll be a good mom from now on. I’ll play video games with you, be more involved in your homework, take you to sports, and read you bedtime stories. I’m not going to focus on my pain and misery with men anymore. I’m just going to be a mom and love you guys. If a great guy comes along, then that’s great, but I won’t be caught up in it anymore. Not at your expense. I’m sorry I hurt you. I love you so much,” I continued.
“What else Liza?” she asked. “What are you going to do for yourself?”
“For myself?” I questioned. “I always do for myself. I need to do for them.”
“No Liza, you don’t care for yourself. You accept poor treatment in the name of being loved and because you endure that, your children endure your pain also. They endure it with your absence. So, what will you do for yourself?”
“I won’t accept men who use, abuse or mistreat me. I will not succumb to control. I will love those who love me with authenticity and good intentions. I will no longer accept sex as a replacement for love,” I said.
“Yes Liza, that’s better now. Don’t you see?” she asked.
“See? I don’t see anything Issiryth. Nothing’s happened we are just as we were before.”
“No, you’re not. You resisted my son in his attempts to offer you everything you’ve ever wanted all in the name of a maybe. Your love for your children truly overcame everything else. Nobody has ever done that before. Blane’s never had a failure,” she said.
“I’m Blane’s failure?” I asked.
“You’re not his failure. Your escaping him is the failure. That’s never happened to him before. I’ve always let him have whatever he wants. I had hoped the curse would cause him to endure tough love, but so far he’s only really used to it grow his selfishness. Perhaps Blane is my failure,” she said looking up at me.
“No, he’s not. He’s free to make his choices,” I replied.
“Regardless of that, Blane treasured you more than anyone because for once he couldn’t have something that he so desperately wanted. You leaving his island kind of makes you a hero,” she said.
“I’m no hero. I’m just a mom who wants her babies back,” I said.
“Oh, but you are so much more than that precious Liza,” she said putting her hand on my face.
“You’ll soon see that you’re quite extraordinary. Now, as for my end of the bargain. The thing is, it’s always been in your hands.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Coming, going, being or not being; it’s all your choice,” she said. “Blane wanted to make you feel limited, but you never were. It was your perception, just as it is now.”
“What are you saying? I can just click my heels together three times? I didn’t go through all of this just to be told I could have not. So, please don’t insult me like that okay?” I said shaking my head.
Issiryth was quiet, saying nothing else, but smiling at me as if I had not just snapped at her. Her beautiful face faded away into a bright light that was flooding the entire room. I looked down at my body that was disappearing as it got swallowed up in the illumination. I could see my children too were falling victim to it. As we all faded away into the abyss of dreams and memories, I reached for them, pulling their bodies into mine and holding them. In our last moments before being consumed by it, I felt the warmth of their acknowledgment and reciprocation. My heart smiled.