The Room At
The End Of The
My story begins in August 1997. Sitting in a blissful suburb of London on a crisp autumn day. There was a sense of romance in the air, mixed with tobacco, thanks to the man to my right at the bus stop. Next to me my battered suitcase lay, an old piece of polka dot ribbon tied around it, distinguishing it from others. I didn’t know where I was going. From there I was to embark on my dangerous and long awaited journey. The duration, I had yet to decide. I told the others I would see them soon, but they knew I wasn’t coming back. They knew I had been restless for months in this town.
Everybody knew everybody and I knew every passer-by at the bus stop. Typical. I was desperate to find something.
The bus rolled around and I traipsed in. “Where are we off to?” the driver asked. “The farthest you can go” I replied, handing him some change. I scanned the bus for a seat, ignoring the driver’s confusion. I sat down by a window, hoping to catch a final glimpse of what I call home. The doors of the bus screeched and slid closed. I looked to my left. The motes of dust in the windows light danced and I found myself joining them. My hand gliding in and out of the shadows. My mother always hated dancing.
“You have got to be out of your mind Lisa” she said.
“But I want to leave mom, I’ve been left no choice!”
Her face darkened and her wide eyes squinted.
“Fine, go and scurry off to Europe, for all I care. This idea is not good enough Lisa, this idea is not good enough for me.”
It wasn’t until I arrived in Rouen Airport, France, when I realized the greatness of what I had gotten myself into. There were no goodbyes from family at home. I stared into space until my suitcase rolled around on the conveyor belt. The coldness of arrivals made me feel alone, with nothing but some spare clothes and a set of keys. I couldn’t return home, as it would
prove Mom right. I scraped together the remainder of my little money and found myself in the streets of Paris much later that night. A hostel will surely take me in , I told myself. I was incorrect. Most of the grumpy hostel keepers couldn’t understand my basic French, and when it was understood that I had no money, I was rejected. I stumbled down dark alleyways, the only sound being the flickering lamps and laughter from pubs. I found a small, bricked cubby hole in an unlit street. I sat and curled up, resting my head on a scarf from my suitcase, my only warmth being my hooded jacket. My eyelids were heavy. I drifted off to sleep.
I woke up and felt a cold, numb feeling in my legs from lying on the hard ground. My eyes stung as I was exposed to the bright cloudy sky. My eyes fluttered and I rubbed them with my fingertips, only to open them and see an older man. Staring at me with twinkling, starry eyes. His hands were resting on his knees as he was bent down. I got goosebumps as rain started to fall onto my face. He gently grabbed my arm and ushered me towards a pub. “I think we’d be better off inside,” he exclaimed.
Immediately I was given a drink and I ordered some food. This man who assisted me was the manager of “Bull Brothers Pub.” The man approached me and introduced himself as Peter Bull. He was old and quite tall compared to me, he had white, tufts of hair on his head, which was combed back. His heavy London accent made me feel at home. I looked around and the place was deserted. There were only two other waitresses, but they were behind the bar, blabbering and giggling in French. Peter sat opposite me and crossed his arms.
“You from London?” He blurts out.
“South,” I snapped.
He curled his lips and nodded in approval.
“Listen, I saw you out there. You didn’t look like you were from here and I want to let you know I’m happy to lend a hand-”
“With all due respect,” I interrupted “I’ll do fine on my own.”
He snorted and shook his head. “I believe you.”
His eyes were twinkling again. I tried to read him but I couldn’t grasp what he was thinking.
“There is room upstairs that is free.” He said, pointing to a back door I assumed led upstairs.
“At least wash yourself,” he said as he got up. “You stink.” He hesitated before he walked away. “Just… don’t go into the room at the end of the corridor.” He started walking away.
“No matter what.”
Although I didn’t want to go upstairs. I did. I don’t even know what I was thinking, going into a stranger’s spare room above his pub. I found a comfortable, single bed in a plain room with a little wooden wardrobe in which my suitcase lay. I collapsed onto the bed, and drifted off to sleep to the smell of fresh linen.
I woke to the sound of loud banging and screeching. And an indistinct jingling noise was ringing in my ears.
I rubbed my eyes and pulled off my blanket. The bitter cold of not being in my bed hit me. I opened my door a crack. The hinges creaked as I opened the door further. I looked to my left and saw the door at the end of the corridor. Peter’s words echoed in my head. “Do not go in the room at the end of the corridor”. Light shone through the gap at the bottom of the door
and the jingling and ringing in my ears loudened as I approached the door. “No matter what.”
I bent down and peered through the keyhole. I saw nothing but light. Opening the door, I knew, was a risk. Little did I know a day would never pass again without me being reminded about what was behind this door.
But I decided against it. I trotted back to bed and tried to go back to sleep. But the thoughts kept lingering in my mind. It was so distracting. The next morning, I thought it would be best to alert Peter of my awakening. And tell him he was too loud. To be honest, I was just trying to squeeze some information out of him. I found him outside, emptying the bins.
“Oi you” he retorted, not looking at me, “how’d you sleep?”
I was going to tell him, but something told me not to.
“Fine. Room’s kind of cramped.” I realized how ungrateful that sounded. “Sorry, just couldn’t really sleep last night”.
Peter darted his eyes at me. “Why don’t you go and explore Paris today,” he said, swiftly changing the subject. “Weather’s not looking too good, but it’ll get rid of some of the tourists?”
As much as I wanted to go, I would rather have stayed and waited until Peter was busy, so I could see what he was doing at the room at the end of the corridor. I didn’t want to seem suspicious so I thought it was best that I got out of his sight for a while.
He even gave me money too. I explored all around the city of Paris. I walked along the Seine and over many of the bridges. For a moment I felt relaxed and breathed in the culture of the beautiful city. I took a boat ride for an hour and I felt the sun on my back. I went to a wonderful museum and marveled the artwork and sculptures and I still wonder how we managed to acquire such beautiful history. I found a nice bistro and sat outside and I watched the many people walk by while I had a meal. I wandered back to Peter’s pub late that night, giddy from a few drinks. I stumbled up the stairs and down the corridor. I was faced with the same problem, the loud noises coming from that room. That stupid room at the end the end of the corridor. I
was too drunk to comprehend what was happening, so I plopped onto my bed and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
The next fortnight played out the same way, I kept meaning to ask him, but then felt intimidated. I found myself in his living room one afternoon, the gusty winds outside whistling and the television blaring in the background with news reporters interviewing people about the hurricane outside. All shops and restaurants were closed, so it was just Peter and myself, cooped up in the upstairs of the pub. He had gone to get us something to eat, so I was standing up, observing all of the trinkets and ornaments he had on his shelves and mantle piece. There was no specific theme or colour scheme to them. I heard his footsteps down the hall, so I scurried back to sit on the couch. Peter trotted in with two trays of stew.
“Thanks” I said as he laid it on my lap. “I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve helped me with the past few weeks.”
“Oh it’s no problem, I’ll do it anytime,” he said. “I mean it.”
“I don’t mean to sound rude,” I said. “But all your ornaments, they don’t… why don’t they match or anything?”
“Oh these aren’t ornaments” he said, changing his tone. “These are nothing but treasures,” he said.
“Treasures?” I repeated, confused.
“Yes, many things I’ve collected or received my whole life.” He looked around the room.
“That pot over there” he said, pointing to a pot in the corner. “My mother used to put new flowers in that each day. And that ashtray on the mantle, my uncle used that every time him and my father would smoke. And that book on the shelf, my best friend gave that to me for my fifth birthday.”
“That’s…” I said. I didn’t know what to say or think. Was he mad for keeping all of these, or was it incredible?
“Always keep your treasures, wherever you go.” He said looking at me with a twinkle in his eyes.
“Peter?” I said. This was it. I was going to ask him.
Something kept telling me not to. I hesitated. “Nevermind.”
That night, not even the winds could cancel the noise coming from the room at the end of the corridor. I decided right then and there. I was going to open the door. I got out of bed and marched down the corridor. My heart was thumping out of my chest. I grabbed the doorknob and twisted it quickly before I could change my mind. What hit me was a beam of light. I covered my eyes and walked in. What I saw was beyond words. It was a small dark room, with wood hammered all over the walls. There were many shelves and the lighting of the room was deep red. I saw Peter, turning around. On the shelves were jars. Jars of all shapes and sizes. In these jars it looked like there were small, twinkling lights, but they were all different colours. Peter gasped when he saw me “What are you doing?! Get out!” He yelled, startling me. Those things in the jars started moving rapidly. “Look what you’ve done!” He screamed.
The ground blurred below me. I continued running for what seemed like longer than it should have, but I figured it was because this maniac was after me. The only things that could hinder me from getting away were my physical limits and my doubt. I grabbed my suitcase as fast as I could and dashed out of the door. “Wait!” I heard. I stopped and turned around, heavily panting. “They’re stars!” He said, walking towards me. I took a step back and he stopped. “I catch stars.” “Wha- why… how?” “Somehow I always knew, it was my duty to mind these things. I don’t know why, but I do.” He gave a sad smile. “It’s beautiful, I open these jars and they come flooding in.” His eyes were twinkling again. “Then I release them when I know they’re ready.”
“Ready for what?” I was intrigued. “Ready to, watch over someone, provide light to living things,” he was interrupted by a car honking at me. I didn’t realise I was standing in the middle of the road. I began to turn around, looking in his starry eyes once more, and then I walked off. Never to see or talk to him again, or so I thought.
I continued travelling around Europe, and then made it to Asia, somehow. But I eventually went home to England, I settled down too. But Peter began sending letters. I don’t know how he got my address, but I don’t care. We became quite close, he was someone I could tell things to, and we shared advice like no other. He told me all about his adventures with star-catching and I told him all the stories I picked up from travelling.
I’m sitting here now, old and frail, telling this story, clutching the last letter he sent to me twelve years ago. It came with an oddly familiar polka dot ribbon in the envelope and a tea stain at the bottom, which I find funny. The last line of the letter reads ‘Always keep your little treasures, and when the day is gone, I will follow you into the sun.’ He knew it would be the
last. I read this letter again and again, until I find myself afloat among the stars.
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