Within the white walls of the medical ward, a young nurse sat by a bed in a quiet vigil, silently meditating on her past mistakes. Grudges. Regrets. Sins.
Feelings she wished she could forget. Her stomach sick with memories.
The first time she saw his face. High cheekbones, the soft brown eyes of an angel. Grinning like a demon. A child, a man, a monster.
And the day he stopped smiling. When he blinked his eyes. When he looked at her consciously, a man whose face had been shaved by attendants. He smiled at her, gentle and dear, a boy-next-door.
One conversation they had, a conversation she kept locked in the secret of her heart, now flooded the surface of her brain. It was early morning, before the sun rose. They met during odd hours, like star-crossed lovers evading the wrath of their ties, their mothers and doctors.
Tension mounting between them, they spoke, breathless, chests heaving, eyes like trusting does. He had found something to hold onto.
"Tell me something," she had said.
The aging youth was ever amused. "What would you like me to tell? I don't have any secrets. You know t-the worst of me already."
"Then give me a memory."
She crossed her legs. "When I first heard of you, I was sitting at my kitchen table, and I thought to myself, 'What a terrible man!' I was wrong."
He frowned, with a smirk at the corners of his mouth.
"And you would think," she continued, "that you would be violent and cruel, but... you're not."
He hesitated, feeling sick, no words to say. "Thank you."
"And now you."
He tilted his head, his voice grim. "Are you trying to provoke her?"
"No! Never. Just tell me something... something no one else knows. Something everyone has forgotten. Remember your childhood. Remember Norman."
"If you're willing to listen... it's something awful."
She braced herself. "About your childhood?"
And he wove a story.
He had been thirteen years old.
He had walked in his backyard, his private domain.
His foot fell onto a bird's nest on the ground, crushing an egg.
He ran to the house and was sick on the doorstep.
Presently, he was waking. Rays of early morning sun filtered through the blinds to fall on Margaret's hair. His bandaged wrist reached up, his hand touched her lips.
"You remind me of the Virgin Mary," he whispered.
She closed her eyes.