[BCOLOR=transparent]Maybe it had been the warm daylight filtering through the dirty windows or an exuberant friend (@Constance) describing how wonderful this wreckage of an apartment could become that had given Rose hope. She was without each now, and an old, dull emptiness filled her heart as she glanced around what was her apartment. All the places they hadn’t cleaned or repaired seemed especially grimy in the cruel, yellow light. [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]More like a dump and less like home.[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] What was home anyway? She would be the worst expert on that.[/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]The thing which troubled her the most was the blank expression on the eight-year-old girl’s face who stood just a few steps back, still in the doorway. It wasn’t of disappointment or fear. Just...[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]nothing. [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] She wished all of the sudden that Constance was here. Her friend would have been able to bring a smile to the girl’s face in seconds. Her friend would have made this into a home just by her presence, but all Rose had now was herself.[/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]“Your room is down the hallway, Katie. Don’t worry, it’s a lot brighter in there and less dirty.” Rose attempted to smile down at Katie, but the girl just picked up her small backpack and disappeared without a word through the doorway she had pointed out. Most of Rose’s cleaning and repairing time had been spent on that room. She had painted it purple and put up various garlands. Things she imagined a little girl might like.[/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]Rose didn’t follow Katie, figuring the girl had enough adjusting to do in her room without having an audience. Even with that decision, she felt much hesitation within her. Something telling her she wasn’t suppose to let silence be okay. For the next hour or so, Rose worked on a makeshift meal for dinner. It helped keep her mind off of the here and now. Once or twice, in between the various noises she made and those of the neighbors, she thought she heard sniffling coming through the wall, like someone was crying. She wanted badly to go and comfort Katherine, but even if there was a blood connection between them, her hands were not those of a mother’s. Hers had spent their time fighting against everything under the sky, good or bad.[/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]She looked down at her cellphone many times, almost persuading herself it was okay to call Constance, but she didn’t. In her mind, she already knew what Constance would say. Her friend had already said it before. [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]“I’m here to tell you that you’ve already practically raised the most difficult person in the world! This is just a step down….so...get them fists up!...whatever that means...” [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]Though, it was debatable if her words had been true.[/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]When the meal was prepared, there was no longer a reason not to follow the drafty hallway to the closed door and timidly knock. Rose heard the voice from within grant her access, and entering, she saw Katie huddled beneath the many blankets piled upon her bed. The girl didn’t stir much at Rose’s entrance. She didn’t even try to brush away the tears streaming down her face. She had finally given up the brave cover she had been wearing for the past week.[/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]Seeing Katie there so miserable broke Rose’s heart. [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]Why can’t I do any better than this? [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]She carefully seated herself on the edge of the bed, unable to shake the feeling she didn’t belong. “I made...some dinner, Katie. It isn’t much, but I’m good at cooking, and once the kitchen is set-up, I’ll do lots of homemade meals.” [/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]Katie turned towards her ever so slightly and sniffed the air. The bowl Rose held in her hand was just soup, but it did have a good smell. Katie hadn’t eaten very much at all the last few days so Rose was glad when Katie lifted her head and reached out for the bowl of hot soup. The girl took a sip or two before deciding it was nice and edible. [/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]Rose lost herself for a few minutes as she just watched Katie eat. She never really had a chance before to sit in the same room and be there with the girl who resembled her in an alarming way. Even with being absent in the girl’s life for only nine years, there was so much that she wanted to but couldn’t figure out how to say. So much she completely didn’t know. How did one usually go about adjusting to the role of mother in the midst of tragedy?[/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]“We’re going to be alright, Katie. I’m going to make things work. I promise you that.” Rose stood up to leave and give Katie silence for the remainder of the meal but was stopped by movement in the bed. Turning around, she saw Katie had rolled over and hid her head beneath the pillow.[/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]Rose crept back to the bed’s edge and seated herself down. She didn’t know what to do. Reaching out her hand, she placed it gently on the girl’s shoulder. That comforting touch was all Katie needed. The girl rolled over and hid her head in Rose’s lap, still sobbing. Rose could feel the tears soak through her thick jeans.[/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]“I miss them.” There weren’t any other words to vocalize the pain that the small heart held. Rose could understand that far too well. The many years between disappeared, and she remembered when she was that age. She could understand Katie’s pain, but beyond that, she felt it. [/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent][BCOLOR=transparent]“I know.” Rose brushed back Katie’s soft, brown hair, holding her closer with the other. Close enough to feel the steady heartbeat that she remembered hearing when it had first begun.[/BCOLOR][/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent](Takes place about a year and a half before 'Forget Me Not')[/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]All we ever search for is a love that will not fade.[/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]All we find are counterfeits; none that take a truer shade.[/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]Love unending isn’t real. If it was, would we be content with just one taste?[/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]May[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]be [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]it is just I who wishes for a steady hand and a faithful face.[/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]“You never wanted to get married?” Rose carefully dipped her toes into the calm, cold, silvery water that slowly ebbed beneath the wooden dock which she sat upon. Her eyes scanned the banks of the quiet lake, taking in all the peacefulness that radiated off her surroundings. Although it was Autumn, there was no visible sign of the changing seasons yet. The sun was still warm. The days only moderately shorter. Slowly her eyes made a full circle, returning back to her companion, Matthew Zinger.[/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]In answer to her words, he only shook his head. [/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]“That surprises me, Matt. I assumed you were one of those who had always dreamed about getting married and having a bunch of babies.” Her fingers found a misplaced stone on top of the dock, and she threw it into the water, trying to make it skip across the surface. It didn’t work but just disappeared after a nice, rounded [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]kuplonk![/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]“My parents were married for fourteen years. They always seemed happy, Abby. One of Dad’s favorite things to say was Mom made him a better person. He wasn’t truly a man till he met her. She gave him a reason to be responsible, to be honorable, to be kind.” Matthew hesitated for a moment, seeming to struggle over the next words. “After my dad died, Mom eventually remarried. She was never the same. She was wife to the man who lived down the hall, not my mom anymore.”[/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]Rose was reached out her hand to take hold of his and squeezed it tightly. Matthew looked over at her, a rather bittersweet smile on his face. [/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]“Marriage changes people.” [/BCOLOR]
[BCOLOR=transparent]“Sometimes in a good way…I hope.” Rose glanced down at the simple engagement ring on her finger that reflected the sun’s bright rays. She slid it up and down a little, realizing that she still felt surprised to see it there. [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]Just one more month till the wedding.[/BCOLOR]
[Reader's Discretion Advised][All writing for Constance was okayed]
All day staring at the ceiling,
Making friends with shadows on my wall.
All night hearing voices telling me
That I should get some sleep
Because tomorrow might be good for something.
-Matchbox Twenty, ‘Unwell’.
It was a scantily furnished, white-washed room at the end of the hallway lit only by the sun’s rays piercing through the glass and bars which made up a skylight that was perfectly centered over the lonely bed. The light filled all corners of the space with distortion caused by the way the walls reflected it. Placid windows soared high above the reach of the reckless and insane or maybe just those who yearned so much for the daylight and fresh air that they would break every piece of glass until they reached it.
The woman who laid on bed didn’t appear to be any of the above. She was extremely still with her head beneath the pillow, blocking out the blinding light from above. It was hard for one to tell who she was or what she had been like. There was something rather sad about her countenance. It wasn’t obvious whether she was there in the recovery unit because of a mental reason or a physical reason. The bandages that were over parts of her body and the vacancy in her eyes showed that either was a possibility.
Voices came from just beyond the door. They were low and masked in hopes that the occupant of the room wouldn’t hear, but if they truly had wished to have kept what they spoke a secret, they should have gone further away, for the woman heard every word. There was something spoken of about being careful in ‘Rose Ningolsham’s room’ for fear of a violent outbreak.
At the mention of ‘violent outbreaks’, faint recollection flickered over her face. Rose barely remembered having punched someone but wasn’t quite sure who. No one she knew or was suppose to know, she hoped. That wasn’t the only outbreak she recalled. There was a reason why the mirror and TV had been removed from the room. Both had been broken, shattered into pieces. When she had asked Constance why she’d broken them, her friend answered that she had said that she was tired of one-sided conversations, and the mirror was “dissing” her.
She had given Constance a despairing look and was reassured with the words that those nights hadn’t been high points in her life. Nevertheless, they still weighed rather heavily upon her mind. If she had cracked at such small things, what was the tie that kept her together when larger problems appeared? Her head sank slowly from its upraised position back into her hiding place beneath the pillow. She had just barely done it when the door was opened, and someone entered.
“Pull the curtain,” She ordered; her voice somewhat muffled from the pillow over her head.
There was silence and then an awkward motion about the room. It was enough to cause her to brave the brightness and remove her shelter. The person who stood in the room wasn’t familiar at all. He was tall, appeared skinny although his shoulders looked broad and strong, and his nose...His nose and ears seemed extraordinarily large. Maybe his broad, cheerful smile made up for the lacking in those two features? She blinked a few times to get a clearer view of him, but still she didn’t recognize him. His was a face she would remember for years.
Pointing towards where the control was on the wall for him to say, she spoke up, “You don’t have a nurse uniform on. Why are you in here? You don’t belong.”
The man pushed the button and raised his head to watch the cover going over the skylight, shutting off nearly all the light inside of the room. “That good?”
She silently nodded, still looking at him with suspicion. She couldn’t deny that his foreign presence was troubling to her. “You didn’t answer my question. Who are you?”
The stranger who called himself Matthew Zinger pulled a chair from beyond her view, evidently having brought it in with him. He seated himself down and glanced about the room, clearly ill at ease. Once or twice he tried to turn towards her and say something, but he appeared to struggle with his words and surrendered to the silence time and again.
“You don’t remember me?”
Finally the four words slipped out, leaving the room in even a worse silence than before. Her head did a flip or two as she fought against the blankness in it, but there was nothing there. Nothing at all about this man. As far as she knew, he didn’t actually exist. Rose slowly shook her head. “Am I suppose to?”
The disappointment was visible on Matthew’s face. The smile disappeared, and his head tilted downwards towards the floor where his gaze remained for a very long and awkward time. Eventually he faced her again with a bittersweet smile. “It doesn’t matter…Would you-would you go outside with me for a short walk, before I leave?”
Matthew stood up and came over closer to the edge of the bed where Rose had sat up. His approach and words caused her some discomfort, and she moved backwards away from him. “I don’t go outside. The light hurts me.”
“You haven’t ever gone outside since the accident when you lost…” Matthew paused, refusing to go on. She didn’t blame him. If the words reached daylight, they would be all the more real and unchangeable.
“Since selected memories were stolen from within my mind? No, the confusion, nightmares, and other things may just be side effects, but the pain from light is very real, trust me.” Rose watched as the muscles on Matthew’s face slowly tightened and loosened while he intensely looked down on her.
He seemed to make up his mind, and once that happened, her weakness was not a defense against his strength. Without asking, he retrieved some socks from the chest of drawers which he carefully put on her feet. There were also slippers in the same hiding place which he brought forth for her to wear. Two seconds later, somehow, she was being carried with the greatest caution down the hallway by Matthew. The nurses were visibly alarmed by the sight, and seeing them like that caused some calmness to fill her.
It still didn’t change the strangeness of the situation. Who was this stranger that thought she was his responsibility? She hoped beyond hope that @Constance would suddenly appear and explain everything that was so baffling to her, but her friend wasn’t there, and the nurses did not intervene in anyway other than bringing out a wheelchair for her to be placed in.
The moment she saw Matthew Zinger’s intention was when her heart jumped, and she attempted to put a stop to this insanity. Just ahead of them, and ever drawing nearer, were the doors of this place, and beyond was the world. The sun filled, colorful world. She put her hand on top of his and squeezed hard, trying to get his full attention. “Please...I can’t do it. My head hurts.”
Just in front of the door, Matthew paused the wheelchair and came to kneel in front of it so she could see his face clearly. “Abby, you’re going to have to do this. You’re going to have to face the world. That room isn’t going to help you. I don’t want to hurt you, but...I’m going to do what needs to be done. This is for...nevermind.”
Matthew pulled off his jacket and rested it about her shoulders and then laid his own sunglasses gently over her eyes. She felt unworthy of his concern and care. The person he knew, if he actually did know her, was gone, and yet he somehow thought it was his responsibility to do this for her. It was completely baffling.
The moment they came from the prison into the world, the old, familiar pain besieged her head, and it fell into her hands as if they could shield it from the sun long enough to gain relief. The sunglasses didn’t seem to help at all. In the midst of everything, she felt a hand come and place itself on top of hers. Some comfort came from the simple touch. “Open your eyes, Abby. It’s beautiful.”
At first she was reluctant, but slowly the smell, the feel of a slight breeze gliding along her skin as they moved forward, and the warmth on the few patches of bare skin from the sun caused her to stir. She opened one eye and then the other. It hurt, but she refused to shut them. It was beautiful. They were out in a courtyard.
Surrounding them was grass and many varieties of flowers smashed into the flowerbeds. There were so many, and she didn’t know any of the names, except that of the rose. Matthew pushed her through the uneven grass towards a flowerbed in the shade where a particular flower grew up a tree. It was dark purple and smelled lovely. Her lips turned up ever so slightly. “I must...have been a really nice person to have a friend like you.”
Pushing back the sadness that had persisted in lingering, he mirrored back the half smile and appeared as if he was remembering something, replaying some scene inside of his head. “Do you know what this flower is?”
Rose shook her head.
“...It’s a Morning Glory. They bloom every morning and usually wilt when the sun and heat touch them towards the middle of the day, but since they are in the shade here, their lives are prolonged. I always thought they were beautiful, but the sad thing is no camera I can afford ever captures that purple color. I planted a bunch once, but they never came up.” He plucked one of the flowers off and brought it down to place in the palm of her hand. She played with it for a moment or two as she listened to him point out a few other flowers in the other beds and say a thing or two about them.
“How do you know so much about flowers?”
“I didn’t really, until I met you.” Matthew seated himself down on a pile of bricks that supported one of the flowerbeds. “Gardening was one of the things you began to enjoy after meeting me. Once you were stationed on a ship, and you were so bored that you read every single book on gardening you could get your hands on. Ever after that, you would always point out different flowers to me and tell me about them. I was interested because you were interested, I guess. Anyway, I was so surprised you actually enjoyed things like gardening that I wanted to encourage you…”
His words were the most comforting ones she had heard since the accident. Certainly, people said she was going to be alright. That the pain would eventually stop. That...she’d find her feet again, regain her memories, but he was talking to her as if those things didn’t matter. She couldn’t help but smile. It hurt, but she did feel alright for once. “Remind me, why do I like flowers?”
Matthew’s face brightened considerably at her initiative but not so much at the answer he had to give. “I asked you once...You answered and said plants were the only living thing that wouldn’t ever leave you, and you wouldn’t ruin.”
Rose’s eyebrows drew together as she pondered upon his words. She couldn’t remember ever saying that, but how much could she actually remember these days? The words were suppose to be foreign to her, but as they made circles inside of her mind, her heart felt as if a large burden had been placed upon it. A burden that was far too heavy. She fought against its troubling presence, but the smile she was able to salvage was far from genuine. “Why did...I say that? Is there something I need to know about myself that no one else has told me? The accident...was an accident right?”
Matthew’s face told her nothing as she searched it thoroughly. Her words didn’t seem to have been processed yet. “No! No, Abby. It was an accident.” He reached out his hands and took hers, holding them tightly. The darkness that started to creep into her mind receded with the comforting touch. “I know who you are and what you are made of. Abby, don’t let the darkness win.”
What he spoke were a few words, but the expression on his face, the grip of his hands around hers, and the tone of his voice told her much more. She leaned forward and planted a kiss on his forehead. “I don’t remember who you are, Matthew, but I wish I did.”
Matthew nodded. Letting go of her hands, he stood up as if struck by a thought that caused him unpleasantness. He distanced himself from her. “I have to go. I’m sorry.”
The announcement of his departure surprised her. “Did I do something wrong? Will I see you again?”
Matthew struggled visible; his hands fidgeting. She noticed the sun reflect off of something around one of his fingers, and after a closer look, she recognized it a golden ring. Realization passed over her face, and some of the care departed from hovering over her heart like a cloud.
“No, Abby...I don’t think you will…”
“Is it because I don’t remember you?” Now it was Rose’s turn to fight against the disappointment that slumped down in her stomach. She didn’t understand why it was there. Matthew was a complete stranger. There didn’t need to be any emotions involved. There shouldn’t be.
“No, Rose...it’s because I still remember.” Matthew’s face was solemn, expressing absolutely no emotion as he stood up straight. There was a few moments of silence before he respectfully saluted her and then turned away. She watched him go, feeling the weight of the quiet more than ever before. His face might have betrayed nothing in his farewell, but she knew. She knew he felt more.
He paused in his departure but didn’t turn around.
“Take care of yourself, and don’t you worry about me.”
Matthew tilted his head towards her in recognition but then continued in his way. He wasn’t entirely out of sight when Constance appeared. Both of them seemed surprised at the meeting, and a few words were exchanged before Matthew disappeared, and Constance came near to her. Her friend would have the answers.
“Who was he?”
Constance seemed reluctant to answer, but she did. “The love of your life…”
“He has a ring on his finger, Constance…” Her tone was level despite the many thoughts that rushed through her brain and maybe the slight panic. If Constance was right in what she said, then...why was the ring on his finger?
“Uh, right...the ex-love of your life.” Constance offhandedly answered as she quickly put Matthew’s forgotten jacket closer around Abby and began to push her back indoors.
Her heart sank at the words as a clearer picture of the situation began to form within her mind. More than once she had wished to keep certain memories from her mind, and this was one of those that she could have gone without. Even though it was so vague, the added, unexplainable sorrow was there. “Do I want to know what happened, Constance?”
Constance didn’t answer until they had found their way back into the safety of the prison, and even then she just shrugged and answered softly, “...I don’t know what happened…”
Separate names with a comma.