It is the first thing I hear as I step into the cavernous hall, but it is enough to transport me back to that day: the echo of my own footfall on the floor.
We could always hear our footsteps there, no matter how many of us filled the space.
Suddenly the paint is no longer peeling, the gilt against Wedgwood blue no longer faded, and I remember when we stood at the balcony rails leaning down to watch as the great hall received its finishing touches, massive arrangements of flowers and that final swipe with a dust cloth before the guests arrived.
I left this place a lifetime ago, and I return mismatched to the lifestyle I was born to, unsure if I am comfortable here; unsure if I ever could be again. Everything changed when the letter arrived, something I had worked for and hoped for, but never truly expected to achieve. I didn't watch the activities in the great hall that evening, instead reading again the missive I had received that morning, trying to figure out how I would break the news to Mother and Father, how I would persuade them to agree, and, most of all, how I would bear to leave you all, just for a short time, of course, but leave nonetheless. I told the two of you first, the younger girls too preoccupied with the preparations to notice the page in my hand, so excited to attend the party for the very first time that year.
It was just a week later that I left, and I didn't know it then, but two decades would pass before I returned. They had always called me a spirited girl, but suddenly in the big wide world on my own, I could be an adventurer, no one to answer to and nothing I didn't dare try. On the day I was supposed to return, I went to the station, but I couldn't bring myself to board the train, though tears streamed down my cheeks. It was as if I had discovered I had wings and couldn't help but fly. I think I became the person I was supposed to become, that I was always on this path, even before the day the letter arrived.
As I stand here, I can feel the paper in my hand, remember what it said, word for word, and just then, footsteps interrupt my thoughts: you are here too. And even before I see you, I know this is home now, just as it was then: what made it so has just arrived.
Media: Acrylic and mixed media
Surface: Daler-Rowney 100% acid-free cotton stretched canvas
Size: 23.62" x 31.5" x 0.59" [depth]; 60cm x 80cm x 1.5cm [depth]
Copyright © 2009-2021 Diana Naomi April Shaul and Jacquie Samantha Shaul. All rights reserved.