How surreal it all seemed now, the time before.
The long, dark corridors of the Asylum and the smell of disinfectant, the clicking sound of her low court heels and the distant moans and shrieks that ever played in the background. The smell of filter coffee and aspirin. Watching the wind whip the tree tops from her office window, which was never warm. The sound of locks clicking and glass doors whispering shut. A body curled up in the shadowy corner of a padded cell.
Like a dream.
Funny to think that was how they met. Funny to think she met her soul mate in an asylum for the insane. Funny to think she was an inmate in that same asylum now.
But she'd always known she'd give her all for true love. When she found it.
She remembered preparing for each session as though it were a ceremony. She would plump the cushions on the hard little couch. She would fill two plastic cups with water. They were both for him. Dimming the lights, so the room seemed less severe with its stark white walls. Nothing on them. Anything could be a weapon. Her fountain pen. A graduation gift. Expensive and engraved with her initials. She only used it for him. The notebook, large and leather with heavy, creamy pages. She'd bought it for him.
She knew they'd confiscated it when they found out. That they read it.
They read it to try and understand them. What had happened. Who seduced who.
She couldn't tell them. She didn't know. Love didn't happen like that, after all. She knew that he had wanted her, but she'd noticed him first. He had clicked his fingers, but it was she who followed. They believed he'd ensnared her. They didn't understand she'd walked willingly into the trap.
So who could say, either way? And who had a right to besides? Things were as they were, it was done. She was here and he was there and they were together.
It had had a sense of the sacred. She, sitting there in the dim light, trying not to hold her breath as the hour ticked near. Knowing they were there, punching in the code to unlock his cell. Securing him in the straitjacket. One on either side, ham-fists on wiry arms. They grim, and he grinning.
She thought she could feel him, through the strange, twisting corridors of Arkham. Like they were already one. Like he had reached out and touched her softly, right there between her breasts. Trailing an invisible thread that undulated gently between them. She could feel him moving. Step after step. The cold of the floor bleeding through the thin sole of his slippers. The face, stretched into a smile. Feel him reaching out to her. I'm coming. I'm on my way. Are you ready? You better be ready.
She thought she could pinpoint the exact moment they turned the corner. Her heartbeat sped up. Breathless. She would pick up her fountain pen to steady herself. Her hand would shake. The nib would spatter ink on the nice, fresh cream page. Soil it.
She'd still be sitting there staring at that stain when they arrived. It always made a face. A face that was smiling.
He'd step in, and the small ugly room would become a temple. The walls crept inwards, they would glow. He'd stand there, his eyes glittering and quiet on her. They'd strap him down. The room would grow warmer. The guards would leave, they were safe. The room would start to hum. Like a hymn, sung quietly. She never quite understood it.
But she didn't quite understand anything anymore.
Life was strange but it was her life and she'd chosen it. Red gloves twining through green hair, joy buzzers that could be harmless or could kill. The smell of charred flesh and the taste of cream and honey. Blonde pigtails and spandex clinging to her hips. Tailor made purple suits and a rainbow of shirts, creeping in-between them and wrapping them around her body. A whoopee cushion on her chair and later between her legs. Girlish giggles, strange and high and a laughter like sin, driving her a little crazy. Making her love him even more. The thunk of a fist against her cheeks or a sharp pain in her ribs. Peeing blood. Laughing so hard she cried. Red lips pressed to her stomach, cold hands pushing her away. Being frightened for her life but never frightened enough.
The heavy clank of a cell door shutting. Her cell door. The darkness, thin, scratchy pyjamas. Curling up in a corner of her cot. The faint murmuring of doctors' voices. She'd walked beside them, once. Now they sat in a chair near a couch she was strapped to and tried to make sense of her. They wiped drool off her shoulder. They gave her shots. She always cried when they did.
Sometimes being allowed in the cafeteria. Sometimes not. Meal trays put onto her tiny table. Watery peas and dry mashed potatoes. She never ate the meat. Orange juice, made from concentrate. Sometimes having her Mistah J doll. She cried when they confiscated it and once she twisted her bed sheet so hard her hands bled.
Now she was the body curled up in the corner of a padded cell, hiding in the shadows because they wouldn't give her a blanket.
Pressing up against the glass of her cell door, straining. She could still feel him. Stronger than ever. That thread left from the print of his hand still there, growing stronger, from his heart to hers and she was bound to him. If they had asked, she would've told them.
It didn't matter. Didn't matter that they separated them, kept their common room times apart. Did not allow her to keep his scarf, or her doll, or a photo of him on her wall. They put her here. Here where it had begun.
It was still her temple. She had found her path and committed to it. She always had. Gymnastics. Her degree. The internship. Now Him. It had all been a matter of degrees. Of finding the one thing she was meant for. And ultimately, they had all led to Him. And he was the end, and the everything and all that there ever would be.
And one final note, the finishing touch. His whistle, rising up through the walls. Carried on the air to her. Sharp and high, sweet and bright. Ghosted to her on that binding thread. The walls began to glow, and she knew he was with her; she grew warm beneath her pyjamas, her heart soared and the room began to hum.