Into the silence I step. I sense I ‘m not supposed to be here; perhaps the place is forbidden to children. But I have dared to step over the threshold through the rusty iron gate – and I am all alone in this secret place.
There is only the silence and my ears can no longer pick up any sounds for a long moment. My eyes cautiously dart about to recognise and help me find objects to focus on.
It seems like the sun has gone down in here and I feel only my own hammering heartbeat and then my sharp in-drawing breath brings me to numbness. I feel as if I stepped into a black hole where nothing more can reach my senses.
I breathe out and my ears like prised molluscs open to suck in the hushed rush of noises. I hear a fountain trickle somewhere near and find it. It presides in the middle of the courtyard. Onto the marble floor water drops I hear their drip and and spread smugly into their puddle.
Now a tiny sudden tweeting above me, beyond the damp sinister walls around me. My eyes search from where it comes and find it on the flowering limb of a tall shrub outside the walls of the confines of my secret place.
The walls green mossy-damp with dead crisp leaves worshipping at their base in the corners.
I step towards the fountain on the lichen covered stone base and stand on tip toe to peer into the bowl. I want to see clear water and sweet rose petals floating on the pool of it and wish to dip my hands into it, into the crystal liquid to taste on my fingertips and feel the magic of it.
I peer over the rim of the round stone bowl and see a tarnished pipe oozing a feeble flow into an algae puddle clogged with rotting leaves. I take a disgusted sniff and catch the whiff of mould. My nose rumples. Then my eye, caught and entranced by the drowned single wing of a butterfly, floating on the slime makes me wonder why a butterfly would have dropped her wing and was now fluttering on one wing looking for beauty.
I look around the dirty marble floor for something to lift it out with and find a brittle stick as long as a ruler in a heap of perished leaves. Gingerly I fish the soft floppy wing away from its slushy grave and with great care I drape it over my finger. A ball gown for my finger I think. I will let it dry and take it to my room and press it in a book and keep it always to remind me that only I know where I found it.
I am so engrossed in the wing rescue I do not notice the rustle on the other side of the wall. I am startled into standing stock still, straining to recognise the raised sound and its location. Has someone followed me to discover me behind the formidable wall beyond the forbidden rusty gate? Is it time to give up my secret moment? Quick as a flash I feel guilty and step quickly back out into the light to the edge of the green long lawn. Rows of roses like decorated soldiers in twos all the way up to the stepped veranda of the big house. I can hear the lawnmower motor murmuring nearby, hidden by bush and flowering trees. Oh I do want to hold onto my dreamy time and not leave just yet.
So I step rashly back onto the hushed damp square of marble floor surrounded by high green walls guarding a crumbling fountain leaking slow bubbles to dribble on the leaf-litter. The dam of foul leaves looks dull because its jewel is gone…the butterfly wing – beautiful, brown and white and black lacy lines and dots – stuck to my finger beginning to dry.
I blow on my finger ever so gently to hasten drying and look about a last time. The walls are wrapped in the fine veins of old vines, ivy creeps from the ground up towards the sky as giant fans would. All is dead like the forgotten leaves fallen to worship unnoticed on the worn floor.
I wonder who else will come in time to come. Can the sun and moon shine in here? Can the wind play a lazy leaf-game. This place is where I am all alone.
I decide. I will put my dried butterfly wing into my treasure box. I am ready to step from of the silence into the sunlit hum of lawnmower and the voices of the boys kicking the plastic ball. They shout and laugh at each other to “pass it on”.
All I need to do is cross the oceanic lawn with my secret to the veranda unnoticed.