written for Sue Vincent’s Writephoto challenge.
Sandra had always wondered what lay behind the permanently locked door on the top floor of her grandmother’s Victorian house.
As far as she knew, no-one had ever been allowed access, not her mother or her aunt.
Now, the decorative key lay in her palm, which was clammy with anticipation and perhaps a little fear.
The key turned without issue or undue pressure, and the door opened on silent hinges to reveal the most wondrous sight.
The child’s nursery was spotlessly clean and tidy.
The blinds were modern and a contrast to the robin’s egg blue walls, but the carpet was threadbare where the rocking horse had been ridden over countless years.
The pull-along cart horse stood obediently by its side, no longer attached to its tasselled tartan rope.
The hand painted china faces of two dolls smiled through rosebud lips from the crib in the corner, completely separated from the Tudor design dolls house beneath a familiar picture.
Sandra recognised it from the black and white photograph on the parlour mantle, but this was in full colour, depicting her mother as a child.
She turned to see her framed in the doorway.
She was weeping quietly.
‘We were never allowed to play here,’ she said. ‘Father wouldn’t allow it, and if Mother went against his wishes, he’d beat her.’
Fondly she went over to the crib.
‘These dolls represent myself and your aunt. Towards the end of her life, your Grandmother would come here and talk to them, apologising for those terrible years and begging our forgiveness. She would sit on the rocking horse and tell them bedtime stories, going back in time to when we were babies and her dreams of us playing in this nursery.
Father sacked the Nanny and confiscated the key. By the time he died, we were grown with babes of our own, and Mother retreated into her dream world, playing by herself in this room. She found peace here, so we never intruded, never let on that we knew where she went in the middle of the night.’
She touched the rocking horse gently. It moved without a sound.
‘Even the horse kept her secret,’ she smiled.