It was a strange morning, but that is not too unusual. There was a deal with the garden fairies before sleep and then a dream of a curious beetle before waking. The dream so vivid and Alice and Wonderland-like I knew it could not be ignored. I told myself, as I made breakfast, that if Sue posted a photo that somehow related to the dream, it would be another sign I needed to write its story. The room was indeed painted red and so was the beetle…
Once upon a time, there was a girl named Lenora who lived inside a house with many rooms. Lenora was very spoiled. In her bedroom, Lenora had not one bed, but two, both doubled in size. One for her and one for whomever she chose to be her best friend, which changed often for Lenora was fickle.
Lenora’s bedroom was very large, and its walls were covered in wood like a cabin. It made Lenora feel cozy and secure. Attached to her bedroom, was Lenora’s own private bathroom so that she need not walk far to wash her beautiful hair and paint her nails and eyelids her favorite color of the day.
Inside Lenora’s room there was a staircase, but Lenora had long ago grown tired of climbing it to explore the magical room of her loft. Instead, she gave it over to her younger sister, Sarabell. Sarabell loved the Lenora’s loft where she spent many happy hours playing with all of its wondrous treasures in the companionship of her magical friends. Most of the time, Lenora didn’t even know she was there.
Lenora, you see, was too busy with growing up. She loved telling her maids what to cook her for lunch and what clothes to set out for her days. She loved pretending that she was a grand lady that everyone must obey. No demand was ever too large for Lenora. If she wanted something, she must have it.
One late summer morning, Lenora awoke in her big fluffy bed feeling horrible. Her body didn’t feel ill, but Lenora’s mind was filled with grumpy thoughts. To make it worse, Lenora couldn’t figure out why she was so unhappy. She searched back through her memories and found nothing that could have brought on her sudden gloom, so Lenora rolled herself out of bed and shouted at her maids to leave her be.
Lenora went into her bathroom, and pushed around her lovely powders and brushes, but their lifeless forms on her counter just annoyed her.
“I’ll go for a walk!” Lenora declared as she bounded out of her room.
Still in her nightgown, with feet bare like the day she was born, Lenora walked down the many stairs of her house and out the back door and into the woods.
Lenora walked and walked. As she walked, Lenora didn’t think about where she was going, or notice that her tender feet were stumbling over rocks and tree roots, stubbing her pink toes and chipping the purple polish off her manicured nails. Deeper and deeper into the forest walked Lenora as morning turned to afternoon and dusk began to take over the light of day.
Lenora stopped. She shook her head clear of thoughts. She looked around her, searching for the source of the voice that had ceased her footsteps. Her breath caught in her throat until it gasped for release. Surrounding her was a scene more beautiful than any painting that hung inside of her room. But there was something wrong with the painting, something horribly wrong. It was as though someone had taken a knife and stabbed the very center of it. At least that’s what it felt like to Lenora, who stood holding her hands against her heart as she began to sob.
At her feet, stretching like a bridge across the forest, was the trunk of a tree. Its width held the secrets of its long life, cut to a sudden end by the blade of a saw. Lenora could see, far far down the tree’s length, the full spread of its green leaves newly woven into the forest’s tapestry. Her feet stood at its base above roots that spread deep into the ground where Lenora’s eyes could not see.
Upon its stump was a beetle as red as blood. It was the size of perhaps two quarters, stacked side by side, not small, and longer than it was wide. The back of the beetle glistened in the sunlight, and as Lenora peered at its magnificence she saw that its armor-like back was not simply red, but inside the red were all colors, shimmering in the sun’s light. Never before had Lenora seen a creature more beautiful. And, as looked at it, the beetle seemed to stare back at her.
“You have lost your home, haven’t you,” Lenora sighed as her tears darkened the rings of the stump upon which it rested. “I will make you a new home.”
Once again, Lenora looked around her. She began to study the ground in a way she had never studied her books for school. She surveyed the trees that still stood and the one now fallen. Nearby, she noticed the brown husk of a seed pod, broken open into halves. Beside it, a seedling had rooted into the soil, its etiolated leaflets just beginning to open into a pale green.
Lenora took the beetle into her hands and cradled it in her palms as a mother would a newborn child. The heat of life spread its river through her veins and once again Lenora’s breath caught momentarily inside of her throat.
She didn’t know how she knew the way back, but as Lenora walked, cradling the red beetle in the open husk of the seedpod in one hand, and the tenderly released seedling in the other, Lenore began to find her way home. When she arrived at the door to her house, Lenora smiled at the maid that opened it, brushing aside her puzzled look as she made her way up the stairs and into her room.
“How long have I been gone?” Lenora exclaimed as she peered through the doorway into a room vastly different from the one she had left. The wooden walls suntanned yellow were now a deep crimson. She stepped inside and felt her feet sink into moss instead of carpet. Her double beds still stood, side-by-side, waiting for slumbering occupants, but their covers had faded into the tones of earth.
“It’s perfect, isn’t it?” Lenora sighed with joy as she lowered the beetle inside of its brown boat onto the moss. Digging into the pliable floor, Lenora planted the seedling beside the beetle and sat down beside it.
“I’ll never leave you,” Lenora whispered to the beetle as it turned on its back and crossed two of its legs over its abdomen and two behind its head. Beside it, the seedling grew and grew and Lenora closed her eyes in contentment.
For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt #painted.