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The Girl and the Unicorn

Eleanor stood on the roof-top. She could see the unicorn clearly now, on the front parapet of the building. It was a statue, of course. What else was she expecting it to be, she asked herself. Just a statue, poised there, reaching for the sky. So why did she feel disappointed? A girl her age, expecting to find magic here in this city ….. ridiculous, pathetic …… just as well no-one saw. “Just as well I’m invisible,” she told herself, walking slowly towards the unicorn. “And so are you,” she murmured, reaching out to touch his face. “Both of us, invisible.” She patted his solid neck, “Though you, dear one, have more substance than I.”

She put one arm around the unicorn’s neck and took in the view he had of the sky and the city. So peaceful up here, so quiet ….. She could see the dock where she’d been heading, could see the boat at its moorings, then swept her gaze across the sea towards the island. The sun was low in the sky, making it hard to focus as it flared out over the water. The boat would be leaving soon. And she should be on it.

Eleanor sighed, leaned against the unicorn. She was weak, letting the city beat her and send her scurrying back to the island like the timid little mouse she was. If she could be like a statue she could stand beside the unicorn and gaze at the moon and stars with him. From up here, what a wonderful sight that must be, even in the city. Together they could watch the sun rise and set, see the clouds scudding across the sky.

“Here we’d be, dear one, just you and I,” she whispered to him. “Never have to go back down to the streets below. I was running away when I saw you up here. Running away from a world that hurts and tears and shreds the heart and soul. If I could be a statue, too, my heart would be of stone, my soul of stronger stuff that none could hurt and tear and shred.”

She rested her cheek on his neck. He didn’t feel so cold now, the marble smooth and soothing against her skin. “Look at them,” she continued, gazing down at the people in the street. “Who are they really, behind all those masks, all that pretence? Why would we want to be like them? You are more real, inside your marble skin, than all of them. Do you see, dear one? Reality is a treacherous place, where things are not as they appear. All is pretence, contrived to deceive.”

For the first time in a long time, Eleanor didn’t feel invisible. She looked up into the unicorn’s eyes and felt a presence there, a presence that could see her, hear her, feel her pain. She smiled. Empathy from a statue. She took his face in her hands. “If I could breathe life into you, I’d set you free,” she told him, “… and you would take me back to where we both belong. I know of such a place …. a sanctuary, where we can breathe, be who we are ……”

She watched the boat move out to sea, towards the setting sun. Now she had to stay. She hated the city, hated everything about it. The pavement hurt her feet, the air hurt her lungs, the noise was unbearable, but now she had to stay until he too was able to leave.

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from The Girl and the Unicorn

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