the news steps

linda lowry

Lexington, United States

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Steafan frowned, pondering the events that brought him to Edinburgh, Scotland, a fair distance from Philadelphia. He loved his ma, sure, but traveling so far, was it worth it?

Exiting Waverly Station, he shielded his eyes from the sudden onslaught of sunlight, but caution had not prevented the sneezing—four quick bursts. “You get that sun-sneeze from your father,” his mother used to say. As a child, he’d smiled, thankful for any comparison to a father he barely remembered. Now grown, Steafan wished he had inherited a more useful trait.

Once his eyesight regained equilibrium, he gazed around him, in awe. Edinburgh’s Old Town, towering above him to the left, seemed a city frozen in an earlier era. Cars zipping about looked strangely out of place. He began walking towards the scene, afraid to blink, fearing it would disappear, abruptly thrusting him back into the twenty-first century.

At the top of the hill, he crossed the street and turned left, his senses filled with ancient sights and scents. Aileen Maclaren’s directions were exact, much like everything else in his mother’s life—everything but her son.

Since graduation, Steafan had drifted, not choosing college, not really choosing anything. He worked for his uncle’s construction company because it was handy, easy. Any greater life plan was a mystery to him, but his mother never fretted over her son’s lack of direction. “You’ll know when the right thing comes along.”

Turning another corner, Steafan spotted his destination, just ahead on the right. He could read the sign, The News Steps.

“Your father and I met on those steps.” Aileen’s voice spoke clearly in his head. “Long before that, as wee bairns, my sister and I made them our fairytale world. We owned the steps.”

Aged mossy stones gave the staircase a fantasy look, bringing her stories to life. “Your father’s great-great-great-grandfather was the stone mason. Kirk records show building the steps took him and his mates most of a year.”

Steafan counted as he started up, stopping at the twenty-sixth. Pulling a plastic bag from his pocket, he opened it and sat on the step above to get his bearings. East was to his right, he determined, as he slowly spread his mother’s ashes across the twenty-sixth step. “Let the rain, when it comes, wash me down the steps, into all the cracks and crevices.”

Hesitantly, he pushed against the wall cap to the right of the step. When it gave way, he lifted it and retrieved the aged piece of paper nestled underneath, scribbled in a childish hand.

“Whoever finds this,
We are the princesses of the steps.
Anyone who goes up or down must ask our permission first.
Moira and Aileen Macgowan
9 September, 1964.”

As his single tear fell to the yellowed paper, a voice above him asked, “You lost, eh?”

Steafan looked up, finding the voice belonged to a pretty girl with eyes the loveliest shade of green he had even seen, besides his mother’s.

“Not anymore.” He smiled.

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