The world seems to spin around me. My eyes dart around the room; looking at anything but Hans. Outside? Not yet. Mother would never forgive me.
“I’m not ready,” I choke out, grabbing onto the rail of the staircase. It provides little stability. I do not know magic-I’ll be torn to pieces outside by the sheer brutality of other people. Hans is an exception, of course. But he does not understand.
“If you are not ready now, you will never be ready.” Hans reminds me gently. He walks over to me, and I rush backwards. His words are full of wisdom, but he must be tricking me. I think about running to my room, but Hans will follow me.
“I-I don’t know magic.” My excuse sounds feeble and pathetic. “You need to know magic to go outside.”
Hans thinks for a moment. His eyes cloud as he thinks of a solution, and I watch him, rooted to my place.
“I know magic. We will be safe, I promise.”
I narrow my eyes, recalling something Hans said earlier.
“But-but you said magic was illegal befo-“
“I know I did. I was lying, I’m sorry. I just wanted you to come outside.” Hans holds out his hand to me.
If he can protect me, what is the harm? Mother said outside is not safe. With Hans by my side, I will be safe. That is her sole reasoning for keeping me inside. I do not want to defy Mother, but suddenly an urge to go outside overpowers me. If I’m back in time, she will never know.
I try to swallow the feeling of betrayal and guilt, and selfishly take Hans’s hand. He squeezes mine gently, smiling softly. I smile back at him, feeling a feeling of intense happiness.
Still holding hands, we walk towards the window. When we reach it, I stop suddenly and watch the world outside. It is early morning, a beautiful autumn morning. Everything seems to be engulfed in a golden light. The only sound is the light breeze and sound of a distant river.
“Ready?” Hans asks.
I take in a deep breath, trying to fill myself with pure air. This will be the first time I ever openly defy Mother.
Hans smiles, turning towards me and taking me by the shoulders. I look into his eyes and feel safe once more. Everything inside me knows in this moment that this is the right decision.
“I’ll go first,” I nod, focusing on his words. “All you have to do is climb-it’s easier than you think. I will be there to catch you if you fall, which you will not.” I feel full of a previously unknown bravery, and before I would strongly object to climbing the tower. Now, I want to.
Hans drops my hand and quickly kisses me on the cheek. He leans away bashfully, and climbs onto the ledge. He disappears from view, still blushing red. I touch my cheek, where days before a bruise had blossomed. The kiss made me feel warm inside. Affection is limited with Mother. Hans barely knows me, and in that moment I want to know everything about him. Was it romantic, or friendly?
In my daydream, I did not notice Hans had reached the ground. I watch him, trying to eliminate the feeling of fright inside me. Hans walks forwards, crunching leaves under his boots. He calls up to me, his voice reassuring.
“Firstly, sit on the ledge. Try to find a part of the tower to put your foot on, and then gently lower yourself out. It will all come naturally after that.” I say a silent goodbye to my tower, pledging I’ll be back later. I sit on the ledge, and turn onto my front: blindly finding a hold in the rough tower to put my foot.
The rough brick scratches my foot and almost makes me cry out with pain. I bite my tongue and find another foothold. Saying a silent prayer, I gently lower myself out.
Climbing down the tower is surprisingly easy. If I do not look down and ignore Hans’s praising words, I am fine. I determinedly keep going, even when I lose my grip slightly.
I am about four metres above the ground when I notice I cannot find a foothold. I wipe one sweaty palm on my skirt and try again. I can still hear Hans saying something distantly, but panic begins to surround me. I look down, and notice I’m still very high up, and I’m beginning to lose my grip on the brittle wall.
“Hans,” I say gritting my teeth, which stops him talking. “I cannot find anywhere else to put my foot. I-I’m stuck.” I cry out in pain as my foot slips and my knee is scraped along the tower wall.
This was not such a great idea, after all. I curse myself, and Hans. Mother was right all along.
“I’ll catch you,” Hans promises, and I hear him running forwards. “Just let go.”
“Do not be ridiculous! I’ll hurt you!”
“No, you will not. I promise.”
I grit my teeth together, trying to swallow rising hysteria. I feel sweat creeping down my back, and my other foot slipping. I know I cannot hold on much longer.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, just let go.”
I close my eyes and gather all my previous bravery. I’d go back up, but I cannot. I’m going to fall. If I do not put all my faith in Hans, I’ll most likely hurt myself extremely badly. Almost gently, I loosen my grip on the wall. I push myself back, and suddenly the world is a flash around me. I can’t scream, because there’s something pushing down on my chest, suffocating me.
The extremity of what I had done catches up with me in those few seconds. I was really about to go outside. My defiance was a new side of me; surprising myself. A few days ago, I would not have dreamt of even considering going outside. Time itself slowed down as I plummet downwards, close my eyes and brace myself for a possible blow.