I spent a happy time exploring the library. Finally, I turned to the shelf ladders. Biting my lip, I looked up to the top. “Ok, Cassie,” I muttered, “It’s not that high, you can do it. It’s your job.”
Taking one last deep breath in and out, I reached out my slightly shaky hand and grabbed a rung. Slowly I started climbing up the ladder.
“Cassie!” a voice called out below me. Startled, my foot slipped and I felt myself start to fall. Desperately, I grasped the ladder with my now slightly sweaty hands and found the rung with my foot. Then still feeling shaky, I hooked my elbow around the ladder and lay my head down, breathing deeply, trying to stop my heart from pounding out of my chest. I could feel tears streaming down my cheeks.
“Cassie?” the voice called from below me. Blinking to clear my vision, holding tightly to the ladder, I looked down to see Caden standing beneath me. Quickly, I closed my eyes again fighting dizziness from the height.
“Cassie,” Caden called, “What are you doing?”
“Sleeping,” I bit at him, “What does it look like I’m doing?” Then realizing my rudeness, I called out, “Sorry, I’m practicing climbing the ladder.”
“You’ve never climbed a ladder before?” he asked.
“Not if I could help it,” I replied, “Heights are not my favorite thing.”
Still sounding confused, “You don’t like heights, so why are you climbing a ladder.”
Laughing at how silly this all seemed, I replied, “Because it’s my job and I need to do it, so I thought I would get the first time over with before everyone arrived.”
“Okay,” he drew out the word, probably still confused at my behavior. “Well, it’s time for dinner. I thought I should show you where we eat.”
“Thank you,” I replied glancing up the ladder. I was three-fourths of the way to the top, just a few more rungs to go.
“Cassie, come down and we can go,” he called up to me.
“No, I’m almost to the top. I need to get there first,” I protested.
“Alright, so what are you waiting for?” he asked.
Laughing, I replied, “Wings to fly?”
Finally, with that statement, I felt calm enough to try again. Slowly, conscious of being watched I climbed to the top of the ladder and made sure I could reach the books at the top. Then I froze.
“Cassie?” Caden called questioningly.
“Are you going to come back down?”
“I want to.”
“So why aren’t you?”
“Remember how I said heights are not my favorite thing?”
“Well, I may have lied a little.”
“Oh?” I could hear his question.
“See, it’s worse than a dislike of heights. I’m actually pretty terrified of them.”
“Okay,” he replied, “so come down from there.”
“Well, Caden,” I called down, my voice shaking as I could feel more tears spill down my cheeks, “I’m not sure I can come down.”
“Cassie, you can do it,” he encouraged me, “Just one rung at a time.” I nodded but didn’t move.
The ladder started to shake a little as I clung tighter. I could hear Caden climbing the ladder.
“Cassie,” Caden soothed from right below me, “I’m right below you and I won’t let you fall, but either you climb on my back or you have to go down yourself.”
“Myself,” I whispered.
“Brave girl,” his voice took on an almost hypnotic tone as he encouraged me to start going down the ladder.
The logical side of my brain told me I’d better start heading down on my own two feet, or I would fall down in exhaustion. Counting to ten, I slowly lowered my foot to the rung below it. Then a hand, then the next foot, and finally the next hand.
“Good job, Cassie, you are doing great.” Caden continued his hypnotic encouragement. I continued to slowly move down the ladder, half-listening to Caden talk to me as he went down before me.
Finally, my feet felt the hardwood beneath it and I sighed as I let go of the ladder. Caden hugged me to him and I admit I clung for a little bit to his strength.
“Well done, brave Cassie, you did it.” he congratulated.
I pulled back out of his arms and smiled at him, “Thank you for your help.”
“No problem,” he waved it away, then smiled, “All part of a knight’s duty.”
I gave a small laugh at his reference to earlier, when he declared himself my knight.
Looking back up the ladder, he returned his blue eyes to me and commanded, “Next time you need to go up a ladder, come get me. I will do it for you.”
I shook my head, stubbornly, “Look, I appreciate your help, but this is my job. I’m sure it will get easier the more I go up and down the ladder. It will just take time.”
His eyes took on a mulish look and I knew he would argue, so I raised my hand to stop him. “Thank you for wanting to help. You have your own classes and will not always be available so I need to be able to do it myself.” The stubborn look stayed there so I changed the subject, “You mentioned something about food?”
He sighed and held out arm, “Yes, milady. Please let me escort you to the dining room.”
Taking his arm I asked, “Actually could you show me the way and then to the nearest bathroom? I would like to wash my face first.”
He nodded and we left the library by the door leading to the main house.