Ella doesn’t live here

Cinderella by Franz von Stuck (1899)

“Ella doesn’t live here anymore.” The old lady said. It’s not like I expected to see her. But the moment I knocked on that door, I felt a lump of stone in my chest. I asked anyway. Old habits were hard to break. Even after 10 years.

I’m sorry, I said. I asked if she left anything. Then I mumbled about time and lost objects. In hindsight, I was asking to be shooed away like a stray cat. Unbidden visitors are strange, yet there I was.

Of course I knew. Everyone in town knew. She went missing one day. Last they heard, she went for a run around the boulevard. Police never found her. Her family and friends searched for months. No crime scene, no body. Nothing. In my mind she left to travel forever. That’s what I’d rather believe.

“She left many things. I’ve put them away,” the old lady said. But from a narrow gap, she opened the door wider. She gestured for me to enter. It took me a while to gather myself.

And there she was. Her portrait on the white wall. My gift to Ella was my last memory of her. How images persist while people fade.

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