The shadow of her brush pauses along the rungs of the ladder, the thin stick of darkness breaking in half-radials along each step- it reminds him of the opening fan before a red and black dance.
A movement, above, after the brush has retracted, a careful withdrawal, a swipe.
The glint retreats a little, slower to call his attention now, slower to breathe in the light.
Koschei looks up, his hand quivering over his face, in case the glint returns.
Flamina calls down, her voice sudden and coiffured as she answers him. She doesn’t see him grab the ladder and start up.
“It’s nothing. Something I couldn’t save. Just a bit of foil decoration on the ceiling. Faded. I’m covering it over and replacing it from memory. Don’t look at it yet till I’m done. I’ll let you know when I’ve-”
He grabs a rung, halfway up. The rough wood is cold, like old windowsills after a long rain. He feels his shoulders quiver a little, and takes another step up, reaching for the next rung. But the glint breaks his focus on the climb, and he stops.
Then his eyes widen, and he looks at the floor.
The clean marble slides like glass under the old wooden ladder, interrupted only by the occasional sweep of air. There is a clear disruption in the entry area from which he came, but the dust layer leading into the hall shows only one pair of shoes.
He looks again toward the high ceiling and his lover, and begins his climb again, opening his eyes on the fresco and her hand poised below the white and the gold.