She laid awake in the dim light of the room, listening to the muted voice passing by her door. Nurses came and went, never staying long and never speaking to her more than necessary. Even her visitors had dwindled, though Ruby came by like clockwork every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for lunch. The girl who wasn't Belle (though that name rang true more than the one she remembered being called) lay still as a stone. Voices grew louder as a pair of nurses made their rounds, and she couldn't help but catch little bits of their conversation.
"This rain...soak everything...miserable weekend..."
The voices faded away, but she remained still for another few seconds to be sure. It was raining? She turned her head to look out the window, but the curtains were drawn tight, the flourescent bulbs overhead the only source of light in the small room. Holding her breath, she twisted in the bed and set her bare feet on the cold floor. When no one burst through the door to reprimand her, she pushed herself to her feet and padded over to the window. At first she just peeked through the curtains, but after one look she threw the heavy fabric back. She could see the fingers of rain running toward the sill through the frosted glass, but she couldn't actually see through the window. This particular one faced the central garden, she knew, and she suddenly felt sad that she couldn't see the rainfall on the flowers.
But was disturbed her most was the silence. The sound of rain hitting the window should have filled the room, but she heard nothing but her own shallow breathing. She tried in vain to lift the window to let the rush of rain fill her senses, but it wouldn't budge. She didn't dare try harder, unsure if there was an alarm on her window or not. One final tug proved fruitless, and she laid her hand against the cool pane of glass longingly. She didn't remember much beyond the basics, but she knew she'd loved the rain. It had always reminded her of her mother, though she couldn't remember the woman's face or even her name.
Suddenly, being able to hear the storm became an imperative she couldn't ignore. She pressed her cheek and ear against the glass, hoping to catch even the patter of rain on the pavement, but all she heard was the rush of blood in her ears. Her breath fogged the glass in front of her, shallow and desperate as the need to hear the rain overwhelmed her. She didn't dare cry out for a nurse, or even ask the kind old woman who volunteered on weekends. No one would help her. She was alone.
Not completely, she remembered. Her eyes left the window and fell on the bed. Her phone had been left to her, provided she didn't use it over much, and Ruby brought her charger with her on her visits so Belle could keep it powered up. She'd only had cause to use it twice - once when Ruby failed to show up for lunch a few Fridays ago, and once to receive the most heart-wrenching phone call she'd ever had. She could still remember the depth of emotion in Mr. Gold's voice as he'd told her who she was, as he'd laid his heart at her feet. He'd been dying, he told her, and he wanted her to know who she was before he was gone. She couldn't remember this woman he spoke of with such love and devotion, but suddenly she'd wanted to. She'd tried to remember, even asked Ruby some questions about her old life to no avail, but she just couldn't remember Belle.
He'd recovered, she found out later. No one would tell her exactly what had happened, but then again no one told her much of anything. No one, except for Mr. Gold. He'd always been so open and honest with her, even when she'd pushed him away. If he loved her as he said he did, then he'd surely help her now.
Before she could talk herself out of it, she'd grabbed the phone from beneath her pillow and found his number. Shaky fingers pressed the green button, and it only took two rings for him to answer, as if he'd been sitting by his phone waiting for her call.
She ignored the immediate protest that sprang to her tongue, pushing it back in favor of her need. "Mr. Gold. I'm sorry...I don't mean to bother you..."
"No bother at all, sweetheart," he said in a tone she somehow knew he only used with her. "What can I do for you? They're treating you well, I hope." His tone had darkened then, and she remembered the confrontation with Mr. Gold and the nurse who had taken to drugging her rather than simply talking to her to calm her moods. As she thought about it, she hadn't seen that nurse since that day, but she couldn't think about that now. Her eyes had returned to the window, and she took a shaky breath as she spoke.
"Yes, they are." She worried the blanket underneath her with her fingers, her voice unsure. "I was wondering...this is strange, I know, and I'm sorry. But...I can't hear the rain in here. I need to hear the rain." She held her breath as his silence answered her, and she knew he was probably staring blankly. What kind of request was that? Hear the rain? He probably thought she was just as crazy as her dreams told her she was.
Finally she heard it, a soft huff of breath that hid a relieved laugh, and then his voice. "Of course, Belle. Of course." White noise crackled over the line as he moved, and she thought she heard the click of a deadbolt unlatching. Had she disturbed him at home? She felt bad for interrupting whatever he'd been doing, but then the soft rush of rainfall came over the line and she forgot her distress. Her eyes watched the rain hit her window as her ears heard it falling miles away. Finally she just closed her eyes and tried to picture the last storm she'd seen. Disjointed flashes from a hundred rainfalls mingled in her mind, no one clearer than another. Even this simple memory seemed to escape her, and she let out a sob.
"Sweetheart are you alright?" His voice broke through her thoughts and she took several breaths to compose herself. If the nurses came in now, they would take her phone and probably give her something to keep her calm despite her friends' protests.
"I'm fine," she managed in an almost steady voice. "It's just...I can't remember the last time...everything's just so fuzzy."
"I know," he sighed, and she could picture the heartbroken expression on his face. He seemed to take her failures as his own, as if he were responsible for what she was going through. She didn't know much about him, but from what the others had told her he was a hard man, cold and unyielding. He certainly had his dark moments, but whenever he'd come to visit her she seen nothing but hope and desperation in his features.
"I'm really sorry to have interrupted your quiet Saturday, Mr. Gold," she began, but he clucked his tongue and cut her off quickly.
"My dear, you can call me anytime - day or night. I am at your disposal, whatever you need. Just ask it of me and I will do everything within my power to make it so." Something about the way he'd said the word "power" made her shiver, her mind flashing back to that dark night in the street when she'd woken in the arms of a stranger. "Belle?"
"Yes, I'm here. Sorry. Thank you for..." she took a breath and looked through the frosted glass of her window one last time. "Thank you."
"You are welcome, Belle." He hung up then, not saying goodbye. But he never did, save that one moment he thought was his last when he'd used the end of his strength to try and remind her of who she really was.
Her resolve hardened to steel in that moment, and she vowed to remember Belle. She owed to Mr. Gold, and to her friends, and to herself most of all. She would remember herself, and her friends, and the love of a man everyone feared.
She would remember the rain.