Time to Regret

She walked down the staircase, gazing steadily ahead at the towering double doors set in a wall covered by blood-red banners with gold symbols. A second later she would be passing through those doors... free. Dusk was falling and the stars were hanging like twinkling lights against the darkening sky.

"Rumi, what do you think you're doing?" a voice asked softly in her ear. "You know you shouldn't be down here."

Rumi swore under her breath, then stopped in her tracks. "Not him again..." she thought. "Why can't he leave me alone?"

"Now that's not very nice." The voice scolded gently. "Where were you planning to go?"

"You know very well where I'm going." she replied. "I'm going to get out of here, and you can't stop me!" she added hotly.

"I'm afraid I can... you know no-one is allowed to go outside without an aide with them. I think you should turn around, go back to the maid and ask her to take you for an hour of meditation."

"But I don't wanna meditate," she lamented. "I want to leave NOW!"

The owner of the voice sighed. "Rumi," he said patiently. "Sweetie, we've been over this several times already. You cannot leave here for quite a long time."

"Why not?" she asked.

"Can you remember why you're with us?"

"Yeah... cause' I hit my head..."

"How did you do that?"

"I was playing with my father on a grassy meadow... My mother couldn't come with us because she was sick, so we wanted to surprise her with a pretty crown of flowers... Soon, it started raining hard, and we started to head home... My father told me if we ever got separated, all I had to do was scream and he'd come running... Not long after, we took a wrong turn and I slipped and hit my head on a rock..." Her voice quivered. "When I woke up, I couldn't see father anymore..." she stopped.

"And then you were brought here to be taken care of..." He paused for a moment before continuing, "Rumi, don't you like being here? Are you really that unhappy?"

"Yes - no - argh! I just want to go home!" she answered. "Why won't you let me go home?"

"I'm sorry. The time isn't right for you to go home just yet."

"But I'm fine!"

"That is true... but you must still stay for a while."

Frustrated, Rumi sat down on the floor, arms and legs crossed. Then she asked quietly, "Why can't my parents come and visit me?"

"They will come, I promise." He said. "But not yet."

"But I want to see them... I have to see them!" she began to cry softly. "If I stay here any longer, I'll go crazy... sometimes I think I really am crazy..."

"No, Rumi, you are not crazy. You have been-"

"Then why can I only hear you?" she interjected. "You're just a voice in my head. Are you my conscience?" Her voice grew louder. "I never see you! Who are you? Are you keeping tabs on me somehow? You always know where I am and what I'm doing!"

The voice chuckled. "No, I'm not your conscience. My name is Yuki. I guess you could say I'm one of your Minders, to put it in a better word. And no, we're not keeping tabs on you... although we do monitor the whole place very carefully. We wouldn't want anyone to hurt themselves."

"You mean you wouldn't want anyone to escape." she retorted bitterly.

"Rumi, you're not a prisoner... but everywhere has its rules and for your own sake, I ask that you obey ours."

The red-haired girl was silent for a few minutes, deep in thought.

"Yuki, if I wanted to pass through those doors right now, would you try and stop me?"

"Only by pleading with you not to be so silly. If you go through..." He stopped. "Rumi, if you leave here too soon, I assure you that you will have a lifetime of regret. We won't be able to help you any further. Once those doors close behind you, you are on your own. Please think about it very carefully."

"If my mom and dad aren't allowed to come and see me here, then I'll go home to them." Rumi said with finality.

She walked to the doors and lifted her hands to the handles. They were unlocked.

"Rumi, please! I beg you not to do this!"

"I have to. Goodbye Yuki... Thanks for looking after me."

With that, she pushed the doors open and charged through...

The darkness outside the building didn't seem to end. Rumi gave a small cry of alarm as she plunged forward head first. She seemed to fall for a very long time, and she couldn't remember where or how she landed. She lost track of time, half sleeping and half dreaming in the darkness; she was warm enough, and she could hear odd noises... Sometimes she thought she heard voices, but no-one came to her.

Just then, everything was moving. She was being pushed and shoved by unseen forces and now she could definitely hear the voices getting closer. When will the buffering stop?

Suddenly, a blinding light pierced her eyes and a scream ripped through her lungs, unaware of the gentle hands that were lifting her and placing her in a circle of warmth. Dazed and confused, Rumi blinked twice and looked upwards-

"Hi there, sweetpea. Welcome to the world."

Shocked brown eyes met bright ruby and deep chocolate, as Rumi stared into the faces of the two blood relations she thought she had lost.