The crowd jostled him, as he made his way down the narrow alley, crushed against the walls. A burst of sunlight, and Tomas found himself in a tiny market square. He let himself be buffeted, carried by the crowd towards the dark opening that was his destination. He eased down the alley, empty and uninviting. A movement caught his eye, and he spun around, but the alley was empty. And yet, not. Had that face in the brickwork always been there?
He moved away, glancing back, but nothing changed. The bell above the door rang out loudly as Tomas entered the store, and the man behind the desk lifted his head, his annoyance at being disturbed turning to evil glee.
“Back so soon, Tomas? And yet I seem to recall you saying just last week, you were done, swearing you’d never set foot here again. I knew you couldn’t resist.”
Tomas turned, fleeing the store, but as he raced up the alley, he stopped, staring at the face in the wall. Had it been smiling before? Tomas moved closer. “You know, don’t you?” he whispered, feeling like it could read his heart.
The promise and hope he’d held for so long. The yearning, the desperation. Tomas took a deep breath, pushed the door opened again, and pulled out a small pouch. Silently, the store keeper counted Tomas’s silver, then nodded toward the curtain where the witch waited.
“The usual, Tomas?” she croaked, as she conjured the wispy image so dear to his heart. The dancers lined up, Rosetta twirled towards him, laughing, so close he felt as though he could touch her, but even as he reached out, he knew he would touch only empty air. He would come back again and again, give all the silver he had, but it seemed increasingly hopeless. 30 years he’d been coming, and still no closer to holding his lost Rosetta in his arms.
“You doubt me, Tomas?” the witch’s accusation voiced his darkest fears. “We both know you need this more than you need her. Do you really think you can live without even the memories I pull from you?”
She couldn’t bring Rosetta back, and it broke his heart as if his grief were not three decades old. But he also knew she was right. If he couldn’t have her, at least he could watch her as she used to be.
I first found Anna’s blog through Sif, and the Faerytaleish flash fiction contest. My piece was too late for the linky, but it got me hooked on writing again, and so I couldn’t resist the Behind The Curtain contest. This little piece is an expansion on one of my Visual Dares, I hope you liked the rest of Tomas’s story. My inspiration for the follow on came from this image, via the contest pinterest board. However, I couldn’t establish if it was a public domain image, and I struggled to find a stock/creative commons image to use, so this post will have to go photo-less!