This was how she named it. Carla stood on the verge of this new world, unwilling to take the step to enter it.
It was a world she’d dreamed of, for as long as she could remember. She had been born to a woman who hardly ever noticed her, in the darkest corner of a failing city.
Somehow, Carla had survived a city that destroyed so many of the people she knew. Her mother had died young. Carla had fled to live on the streets for a while until she was captured – as she saw it – by the Social Services that were as negligent and hopeless as her mother had always been. Somehow, Carla knew how to survive the drink, drugs, prostitution and other traps that caught and often killed her contemporaries. If they did not die a physical death, then they suffered a living death, which seemed far worse to Carla.
She did not know when the dreams first began. To Carla they had always been there, the true parent she’d never had and the only carer that actually did care about her.
When her world got too much for her, Carla was able to escape into her green valley far from any city and the people that poisoned it. The valley had soft green hillsides, rising above a slow meandering river. The valley had woods where a girl on the run could hide and never be found.
She had always thought that the valley was more than a fantasy, more than a dream of escape. Carla felt the valley must exist somewhere.
The office at the orphanage always had a calendar with photographs of rural scenes on each month’s page. Carla searched through every year, when the new calendar came, looking for somewhere like her valley. Carla assumed she must have seen something like those calendars when she was very young and created her valley from that memory. Every calendar she searched had places not too unlike her valley, but had no place that was her valley.
When she was older, she’d hunt libraries, museums, art galleries and then the Internet, searching for her valley, or someplace like it. Somewhere far from the city that still held her trapped, waiting to take its turn with her.
Then one day high up on a city roof, a few streets away from the orphanage that she would leave forever the next week, she saw a door.
It looked like an ordinary door, leading to a stairwell from the flat roof. Carla knew it was no ordinary door and that it was a door only for her.
Then when she opened it, she saw the stairs leading down, like any other rooftop door. She felt as though her dream had died. Eventually, she took a step forward, even though she only wanted to slam the door and run away.
Once thought the door, she saw the valley she’d been looking for all he life, there spread out before her. It was then, when she stepped all the way through the door into her valley, that Carla gave the place a name for the first time.
‘I’m coming home,’ she said.