Suri held her arm above her head as she walked alongside the wall, letting her fingertips brush the top of the bricks, pushing off small stones and loose dirt.
She knew the wall as if it were part of her. She knew where it changed colour, where it was short and where it was tall, where it was smooth and where it was rough. She knew where the white bells grew in the secret holes along the south wall and during the hot days she would water them to keep them strong.
She loved every part of the wall, even the big iron gate that never opened. It was taller than the wall and darker, and the man always stood next to it, never moving, never speaking.
The wall was Suri’s only friend and it kept her company. She told it the secrets she wished she could share with the other children.
As she reached the clearing in the silverbirch trees she could see the children playing in the courtyard. The boys were wrestling and laughing as they fell in heaps. The girls were holding hands, skipping or sitting and talking with their arms locked together.
Suri watched from the wall. She was different to the other children. She was no older, but she was taller, much taller, at least twice their height and growing more each day.
Every birthday she marked her height on the wall behind the small pond where the bricks were painted green. She hoped she would stop growing before she reached the red bricks at the top, but she didn’t know if she would. No one did.
At meal times Suri ate by herself at a separate table because she couldn’t fit under the little tables with the other children. At night all the girls snuggled up together in bed while Suri slept by herself on a long mattress made especially for her. The others thought she was lucky to have her own bed. Suri didn’t think so. She could hear the girls whispering and giggling together as they drifted off to sleep and wanted so much to be part of it.
The other children were scared of her. Suri knew this, but didn’t know how to change it.
Tomorrow Suri would be thirteen and she wanted to mark her height. She turned away from the courtyard and continued her walk to the pond. She reached into her pocket, chose a soft white stone from her collection and stood up straight against the green bricks. Suri marked the wall and stepped back to look.
Tears started to well up in Suri’s eyes as she stared at the mark on the red brick. So it had happened. She had grown past the green bricks and was now as tall as the thin row of red bricks that lined the top of the wall. Was she ever going to stop growing?
Suri stood quietly for a while, staring at the bricks as she let herself cry. Slowly she calmed herself and wiped away the tears. As she rubbed the blurriness from her eyes, Suri realised she could see something other than the red bricks.
Suri found herself looking at a landscape she’d never seen before. It wasn’t the courtyard and it wasn’t the wall…. It was over the wall. Suri had grown so tall that she could now see over the wall. She rose up onto her toes, staying there for some time looking out. The sun moved around in the sky and the afternoon shadows lengthened and still she looked out over the wall. She stood in a world of her own, absorbing the sights before her.
Then… she felt it. A tugging sensation. Starting in her fingers it ran along her arm, spreading into her chest and pushing up into her throat, tickling the back of her neck.
Suri looked down to see Eva holding her hand. Eva’s face was uplifted towards hers, an uncertainty in her eyes. Eva squeezed Suri’s hand again.
The touch that Suri had so longed for was finally hers. Suri’s heart beat more quickly and she squeezed Eva’s hand back gently.
“Can you see Suri? Are you tall enough?”
“Yes Eva, I can.”
“What’s there? What can you see?”
“What can I see?” Suri looked out over the wall, hesitating for a moment, “Oh it’s beautiful, let me tell you all about it.”
“There’s a green meadow with a shimmering blue stream running through the middle. The trees along the far hill are smothered with pink and peach blossoms and a road runs down between them, over a golden bridge and then passes along just a few feet from the wall.”
Suri looked back down at Eva who now sat at Suri’s feet along with Peter, Mikael and Maria. “And can you see over the eastern wall?”, Peter wanted to know.
Suri turned to the east, “Yes, yes I can see.” Maria reached up and tugged Suri’s skirt. “Oh please, tell us what is there.”
“There’s a huge round harbour filled with boats. Sails of every colour and shape you can imagine. People are loading and unloading baskets of flowers and trays of bread and fruits. On the far side here’s a whole zoo of animals being lead to a white and yellow tent. The circus has arrived!”
“The biggest ship sits in the middle. It has red sails decorated with silver patterns and has a crown on its flag. It must be the Kings ship.”
“Hurrah for the King!” cried Peter and he jumped in the air. “That’s a good sign for sure.”
The bell rang out for dinner and Maria and Eva grabbed Suri’s hands as they skipped towards the huts. Suri stumbled along doing her best to not pull the girls arms too hard as they giggled and twirled about.
“Can we sit at your table and you can tell us again about the harbour?” asked Maria as they reached the dining hall. “Yes, of course,” Suri nodded eagerly and Maria ran to gather a group of girls to Suri’s table.
It was the first time in many years that Suri sat with anyone for a meal and she enjoyed it immensely. She recounted what she’d seen and the girls listened quietly and eagerly, imagining the detail as if they’d seen it themselves.
Suri could almost not believe she was sitting with the children she had so longed to have as companions. They weren’t afraid of her, they were smiling and laughing, sharing bread and corn cobbs and reaching out to touch her hands and arms as they asked questions. Suri delighted in the warmth she now felt from her new friends.
The next day a larger group of children followed Suri to the western wall. She stood tall on her toes and looked out. “Are you tall enough Suri?” “What is there? What can you see?” the children gathered close, touching her skirt and hands.
Suri looked down into their excited faces, “What can I see? Oh it’s beautiful, let me tell you all about it”
“The circus people have come down to the town square. There’s a fountain in the middle and the acrobats are doing somersaults around the edges. The jugglers are juggling ten, no fifteen balls and the clowns are squirting each other with water. The animals are parading. There are elephants, peacocks, monkeys and lions! The tamers are following and those loud cracks you hear are their whips.”
For hours they sat as Suri described what she saw. The people, the town and its roads in and about, the mountains in the distance and the sunsets as they threw blankets of colour over the sky.
That night as she settled down to sleep Eva crept over. “Can I snuggle in with you tonight Suri?” and she tucked herself in, squeezing Suri around her neck in cuddles. Suri could feel her eyes filling with happy tears feeling that finally the children were no longer afraid of her and loved her as one of them.
Suri woke early the next morning before the other children, like she always did. Her bones hurt in the mornings and a walk around the wall warmed them up. She slipped on her cardigan and crept out to the wall.
She walked along running her hand against the bricks, thinking of all the wonders she would see over the wall today.
As she approached the gate the man who stood there never moving, raised his face to hers. He watched her closely and once she was near enough to hear he said in a low voice. “They will find out, you know”
Suri stopped and turned to look at the man. For a moment she stood still, surprised that he had spoken to her. Unaware that he had noticed her telling the other children.
“I know,” Suri said slowly. “But not yet,” and she turned and continued her walk around the wall.
Later that day the children sought out Suri who was watering the white bells. “To keep you strong,” she told the little flowers.
“What’s all the noise Suri?” Luca asked. “Over the wall? Is it the Kings march today?”
“Yes, what is it?” Eva asked, “What can you see?”
Suri looked out over the wall, silent, taking in all she saw. [here the illustrator shows the true desolation of the landscape and the endless walls stretching out in all directions]
“What can I see? “, she turned and looked down at the excited, eager faces of the children. “Oh it’s beautiful, let me tell you all about it.”