Middle Child

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Photo: Keith Kreates

 

Her rooms were in the middle of the castle, hovering above the center of the river, sandwiched between two layers of guard rooms, bordered on both sides with sentinel halls.

Her residence, her very life, was perched between the woods on one bank and the manicured gardens on the other, split between one land and another, between a grand promenade entrance on one side and an into-the-wild entrance on the other, belonging to both and owned by neither. It was so by design.

Oh, she was no prisoner. She had the freedom of the castle and the pleasures of the adjacent lands. She could go riding or strolling, hunting or frolicking, visiting or picnicking. As long as she made sure to spend the exact time on either side of the river, as long as she took heed to show no favor, no preference, no prediliction.

Three of her attendants were timekeepers. One from each side of the river. One from a foreign country altogether. All three carried hourglasses and were charged with maintaining synchronicity. Disputes were rare, for they would mean a cease of all outdoor activities till the disagreement resolved, cause a strain on her well-being, tarnish their families, and lead to possible replacement. The timekeepers kept discrepancies to a minimum.

The comparable reality extended to everything: An exactly equal number of ladies in waiting from each side of the river, exactly the same number of servants, workers, soldiers, guards, and tradesmen who were allowed to live and work in, or gain access to the castle. The same number of her dresses had been made on each side of the river. Half the furniture, too.

The constant balancing act was tedious. It was also necessary.

“You are the bridge,” her governess had explained to her when — still a child — she was fed up with being shuttled across the castle mid-activity, so equal play time on the other side can be maintained. She did not want to have two of everything and be required to play with each equally. “You were born to end five hundred years of bloodshed.”

Her parents had defied odds and had sought alliance instead of massacres. They’d built a bridge over the fear and hate that endless war had fed. They’d began construction on the castle. They’d birthed her.

The people had watched and waited.

She was barely toddling when her parents’ carriage had gotten ambushed by some who’d believed that ending the alliance would enliven the centuries-old feuds. The warmongers were wrong. They’d killed her parents, but not the want for peace. People on both sides of the river came for the murderers. People on both sides worked to complete the castle-bridge and ensured the princess could be raised in its center.

It was on that day, cocooned in her governess’s lap, in the room above the river that had for generations divided her people, that she truly understood: After so much distrust, an exacting fairness had to be the glue that would hold peace till lasting trust could grow.

No betters. No less-thans. Not even the appearance of favorites.

The efforts to keep it so were sometimes so precise as to be ridiculous, but she preferred to err on the side of the absurd, rather than risk her people any harm.

She was the princess on the bridge.

Her rooms were in the middle of the castle, hovering above the center of the river, sandwiched between two layers of guard rooms, bordered on both sides with sentinel halls.

Her residence, her very life, was perched between the woods on one bank and the manicured gardens on the other, split between one land and another, belonging to both and owned by neither. It was so by design.

 

 

For Kreative Kue 238

No Prayer Crossing

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Photo: Faris Mohammed via Unsplash; Punakha, Bhutan

 

I glanced across the chasm. For someone born and raised in the Alps amidst sharp elevations, I was woefully unequipped. Sometimes I wondered what Karma I’d accumulated to explain it.

“You are protected, Dania.”

I looked up desperately at my mother, who wore an encouraging smile and already had one foot on the swaying bridge and a hand held out to assist me. Even as a baby I’d been known to tremble at the sight of any height, yet Mother’s optimism never wavered that one day her offspring would overcome what to her was an incomprehensible fear. She adored climbing.

Why she took me to Bhutan.

“This bridge is blessed,” my mother tried. “You’ll come to no harm.”

“I cannot,” I whispered, my legs shaking. Each prayer flag a flutter to match mine, the river vertiginous miles below. “No prayer will suffice. My very soul knows it’ll die.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Bhutan

 

Blessings and a Whisper

Photo: Sue Vincent

 

Lush grass now grew over the span of stones, though none had grown there in the many years when the passage of feet had mowed and flattened any seedling that had found a crack in which to nestle.

The water gurgled as it had, though, flowing like a ribbon of careless abandon underneath. Incoming. Through. Not one look back. Away.

She wondered if the fish silvering in the stream were the descendants of the ones who’d flapped among the rocks and dove out of the reach of all manner of two-legged hunters. Their instincts certainly remained the same.

Like hers.

Honed by years of flight, and generations of bare escape from calamity and disaster and all manner of two-legged hunters’ spread of misery.

For centuries the stones of the old bridge had been the thoroughfare of goods and news — both good and not — from isolated farms to the town’s market and from the town into the farms, and in that order. It had withstood war and fights and blight and playful dares and cruel shove-overs. It streamed with rain and baked with sun and creaked with ice and endured more than one direct hit of lightning. It had heard the laughter of small children and the cries of same, sometimes not much later after. Where rugged wheels and heavy hooves had carved ruts of rattling passage, now weeds took hold to cover any sign of man.

It stood deserted, and perhaps relieved, since the new and wider bridge was built a bit further downstream. The modern pathway accommodated simultaneous travel in both directions as it carried the weight of the machines that belched dark stains onto its tar.

She’d been warned against attempting to put any weight on the old bridge. They all were. “It’s held by no more than blessings and a whisper,” her grandmother had cautioned. “One step onto the wrong stone and it could collapse.”

And yet, it had outlasted both Grandmother’s life and Mother’s and seemed poised to outlast hers, as well. Perhaps blessings and a whisper were better mortar than the speeding up of time.

“And you don’t have much long to wait to outlast me,” she murmured as she walked to the water and bent to dip her palm. Cold.

As she would be, sans blessings or a whisper, before much more water churned indifferently along, passed under the bridge, and was gone.

 

 

 

For Sue Vincent’s WritePhoto Challenge

 

Life Abridged

willie-fineberg-unsplash 10th st bridge Pittsburgh PA

Photo: Willie Fineberg via Upsplash, 10th St. Bridge, Pittsburgh, PA

 

She waited.

One more step and she’d have gone more than half-way across, but she found herself unable to move further. She sat on the asphalt, frozen by cemented legs.

So she waited. It was early, but sooner or later something will come by and she’d find out the price of her betrayal.

All her life she’s been bordered by this bridge, the yellow metal rising like a sun in her horizon: untouchable, unapproachable, dangerous.

They were raised to never cross it.

“Evil lives beyond this bridge,” her father had preached in daily sermons in their basement, the family huddled on aching knees and wreathed by incense, fear, and smoking wicks. “Leave here and your soul will be eternally forsaken. Abandon my teachings and you will not be saved.”

Well, she’d had enough. She could tolerate no more of his invasive ‘instruction.’

And she was ready.

To not be saved.

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Pittsburgh, PA

 

Courageous Connections

PNG cross OfirAsif

Photo: Ofir Asif

 

Like a rickety bridge

Over fast,

Troubled water,

Calm your heart

As you cross

To what awaits

Being told.

 

Trust connections

You fear but

Cannot test or

Strengthen,

With no promise

They won’t pull away,

Break,

Or fold.

 

Like a rickety bridge

Over fast,

Troubled water,

Take a chance,

Make a step,

And weave new paths

To your old.

 

 

 

For the Tuesday Photo Challenge: Connections

 

Bridged Time

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Photo: Smadar Halperin-Epshtein

 

Little feet

Crossing stones

Little hand

Holding phone.

Do his toes

Marching on

Note how time

Isn’t gone?

Does his heart

Understand

How the stream

Breathes calm

Underneath

His young mind,

Singing songs

Burbling home?

 

 

For Nancy Merrill’s Photo a Week Challenge: Bridges

 

Bayou Bridged

City Park (New Orleans) - Wikipedia
City Park, New Orleans (Photo: en.wikipedia.org)

 

They always met in the park. There were spirits there, too, of course: The drowned. The lost. The desperate. The abandoned young. However, these tended to be the milder spirits, mellowed by moss and rain and the freedom to roam on whispery winds. House spirits were harsher, meaner, and angrier. They carried histories of rape and whippings and the smaller everyday murders that chip at a soul until there is nothing left but agony and bitterness.

It was better to meet in the park, on a bridge between this world and the other, chiseled by masons, anchored by time.

She lowered herself onto the top stair and waited. She’d hear him come, but she would not turn. He did not bear to be looked upon.

“I will take him across,” he’d said when they last met. And he had. It was a gentle death.

Now it was her mother’s time.

 

 

For What Pegman Saw

Blue Lass

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Photo: Smadar Halperin-Epshtein

 

Does she yet

In the tower

Await

For the draw

Of a knight

In the simmering

Light,

Or do blue

Evenings

Now pass

Inked by

No pining

Lass?

 

 

For the Lens-Artists photo challenge: Blue

 

Musical Muse

saxophone bridge SmadarHalperinEpshtein

Photo: Smadar Halperin-Epshtein

 

They emerge deep at night

To play tunes out of sight

Giants, trolls, hoards of sprites

To the bridge they alight

Where they’ll sing till first light.

If you listen, you might

Catch a tune fleeting bright

Ode to sax stuck upright.

 

 

For the A Photo A Week Challenge: Music