The year my mother and father were wed my father bought his wife a very beautiful Baccarat chandelier. It weighed one ton and hung down two entire flights of stairs. Because it was so large my father searched the whole of Britain for an estate that could accommodate it. He chose a very old palatial home in the Welsh countryside. The mansion was six stories tall and in the middle of the house was a tall, spiraled atrium with a glass ceiling. The stairs wrapped around the walls of the spire encircling the great chandelier at the top.
As far back as I can remember I would spend my days lying underneath the cascading crystals far above and watching the twinkling prisms catch the sunlight and cast vibrant, breathing rainbows across the walls. My mother would smile at me and giggle to my father behind her hands. I was a romantic, she said, a dreamer. Father would smile knowingly but never bother to glance my way. He only had eyes for my mother, at least until little George came along.
But I wasn’t a dreamer, no, I fought sleep with every breath. I much preferred to spend my evenings dancing in the star fields that twinkled in the spire on clear nights. If moonlight shone into the great atrium it was transformed by the Baccarat into a million shimmering, glittering tiny stars. The chandelier was always gently, gently swaying even without a draft in the house and it would make the crisp, vibrant celestials dance upon the wall to a song only I could hear. And I would dance in the star fields.
One day I awoke from an afternoon nap to the loud but sluggish groan of protesting metal. I arrived at the bannister just in time to see the Baccarat’s metal supports snap in two. The chandelier fell half a story until it was brought to an abrupt and violent halt by its last remaining support – a thick, nylon rope. George was playing with a train set far below and I screamed at him. He looked up at me for just a moment and then he was obscured from my view as the nylon snapped and the chandelier went crashing down five stories to the first floor where my mother had thrown herself protectively over George.
My father would only shed his tears for them behind closed doors. A week after their deaths Father had the Baccarat repaired and rehung. It had been my mother’s and he’d loved her deeply. Perhaps he liked to look at the chandelier and think of her. But I preferred to imagine that he rehung it for me because he knew how much I loved it.
But the chandelier wasn’t the same. The gentle cadence it had loyally kept since my birth was now replaced by a stillness as absolute as death. The rainbows were dull, almost colorless and the dancing stars that had once glittered upon the walls at night were absent and the spiraled atrium remained as dark as the heart of obsidian.
I still spend my days and nights lying on the floor looking up at the chandelier and hoping its magic will return to me. Some days I can almost see the vibrant colors and speckled starlight. Most days I see nothing at all.
But nothing at all is better than the nightmare that peeks through the veil sometimes, cruel and uninvited. Sometimes I can feel the cold and the hunger and the pain in my chest. Sometimes the dark nights and dull days make sense. Sometimes I can see the Baccarat for what it really is. Because sometimes I remember that it wasn’t the chandelier that my father hung at the top of the atrium that day – it was himself.