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The Tower and the Door

The Tower and the Door
by Sara Cleto


They lie when they say I was unhappy.

It is true that the tower was narrow, containing only a slim fraction of the world’s possibilities. It is true that those walls bound my world, that I did not go down the spiral stairs and through the door—and, yes, of course there was a door, how could I ever possibly have pulled a hundred pounds of flesh and more with only the aid of my hair?

But they never thought to ask me if I wanted to go.

The tower was no dark prison, as they like to say. The windows spanned from the high ceiling to the floor, and no glass parted me from the songbird-laced air. Pollen and dry leaves drifted inside, tinting my world with golden light, and floated out once more, freely, at the speed that they desired. No faster.

Why should it have been different for me?

I would not have stayed forever. But I was in no hurry to leave. I had my spinning wheel and an endless supply of fibers—I had to use my hair for something, even if it was not for a purpose so titillating as enabling late night trysts with unsuitable men. I had my books, brimming with stories that grew and grew, spilling from one volume to another in an unending torrent of poetry. I had my paints, tinted with the sheens of marigold, rose, and peacock. I had my voice and the wind to carry it away so that I would not tire of it.

I had my mother. My witch. They call her a witch, and, for once, they are right, for she could weave and talk and spin and paint as only one well versed in magic ever could.

She never told me I could not leave the tower, only cautioned me to take my time, like the light and leaves and pollen. She did not tell me that men were monsters, although she warned me that they were human and not to be confused with angels or demons. She taught me to pedal my wheel, to weave the threads, to paint them with vibrant, unlikely colors. She told me to sing as loudly as I cared to, with whatever words I chose, and urged me not to lose the knack when I went down the stairs and out the door.

How do they always forget about the door?

One day, I opened it and went outside. Before I left, I told my mother-witch, and she kissed my cheek and packed a lunch in a wicker basket. In the woods, I met beasts and sisters and brothers and men who were not angels or demons. Most days, I laughed, and sometimes I cried. I wore a cloak that I had spun and sewn myself, and sometimes I pretended that it was magical armor. Maybe it was.

There was not one prince but many, and some, I learned, were not princes at all. There were many sisters, and I slowly learned that they are the angels, even when they have fallen.

But there was only one witch, and, after days or months, minutes or years, I would return to the tower. And we would spin and laugh and cry, and then I would go out into the woods once more.
* * *

Sara Cleto received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania where she majored in English Literature, and she is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Folklore and Literature at George Mason University. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia but has lived in England, Ireland, and Peru in addition to many locations in the US.

Her inspiration for her stories stems largely from her travels, and also from the people that she encounters. "The Tower and the Door" was written for her mother, Cheryl.