The rest of the trip went much easier for Gus, in spite of the fact that the stairs always went up and were sometimes difficult due to the steepness of the winding staircase. It helped that he no longer had to carry the lunch box and he could concentrate on scaling the steps and staying close to the railing that he used to move more quickly to keep up with Marigold’s pace, using the other hand to hold onto the center pole as he rotated around the staircase’s center.
Gus finally looked up and noticed that above his head the very small patch of blue became a dark blue ceiling as he approached it, and at first he thought he was staring at the sky even though clearly the stars weren’t like regular stars but were painted on. And he began to see a railing at a small balcony that overlooked the stairs and soon a door appeared little by little as he scaled each step. Behind him he made out the clatter of tiny clicks against the steps he left behind, and he glanced around as he remembered Randy’s offer.
“And here we are!” Aunt Marigold removed the backpack just as she threw open the door and strands of muted light greeted Gus as he followed her inside. It took a few moments for his eyes to adjust but when they did, he made out a cozy room painted cornstalk blue, the walls lined with bookshelves filled with books and toys. “Now what do you think?”
Everything in the room wanted to command his attention. “It’s very nice.”
“Why it’s more than nice, Gus. It has everything a boy or girl, or two girls growing up, might need.” She walked over to one wall and turned a knob on a small door in the wall. “This is the dumb waiter. I’ve asked Theodore to prepare a nice supper for you and send it up here very soon.”
Gus felt uneasy. “But what about you, Aunt Marigold. Where will you sleep, and what will you eat?”
She knelt down in front of him. “Now, Gus, it would be no adventure if I stayed around. You’ll have everything you need here—food, books, things to play with, even music from the special music boxes.”
“And what if I wanted someone to talk to?”
“Well, there’s Randy and all you need to do is open the door and summon him or any of a number of others like him into the room.”
That fact did not settle Gus’ disquiet. “What about school?”
“It’s only Saturday, but come Monday morning, you’ll be expected to continue your studies. I’ve made all the arrangements. Now give me a kiss and a hug as I need to make my way down before bedtime.”
Gus accepted her kiss and embrace but reluctantly as he did not believe that she understood his concerns.
She stood. “Ah, there’s one more thing I need to show you before I go, one thing that I think will take your mind of any fears that you have at being on your own.” She took his hand and lead him to the window, pulled back the gauzy curtains.
His Aunt Marigold then revealed to him a view as he’d never seen before, a sky so deeply blue it was almost black, stars like scatterings of glowing salt crystals, some white, some golden. Below the window, a carpet of treetops as far as his eye could see. And darting through the skies a myriad of nightly glowing creatures like lightning bugs, but he knew that they weren’t bugs at all but other beings like he’d never seen before. They popped into view, appeared, disappeared, emerged and faded. And in the midst of it all, the most beautiful and hugest moon he’d ever seen.
Gus’ attention so fixed on the view outside the window that he barely noticed the footsteps moving away from him and the door closing just as his aunt said, “Goodnight, my sweet little nephew.” And he barely perceived the low sigh just on the other side of the closed door as his little unusual protector curled up to sleep there all the rest of the night.
Next month: Wonderella, Ninja Princess