“Take me with you.”
“I can’t. You know that.”
“But you know you can’t leave me here.”
I sighed and stared at my feet. My toes stretched and clenched in my shoes, a dance which held my attention, diverting it from the matter at hand. A dilemma, one where I knew she was right, but I also knew I was. Two sides of the same coin. The faces of Janus tossed in the air.
“I wish…” I mumbled, almost having to force the words out, “I wish I could.”
She was right. I could. If I could figure it out for myself, surely there’d be room for one more on top. But, what then? Where would either of us go? I hadn’t told her my intentions. She thought I planned to, I don’t know, go on the run. Hide in barns or garden sheds. Perhaps steal clothes from washing lines until I could find someone to give me a job and pretend I was normal and respectable, rather than an escaped lunatic.
Was she expecting to run with me? An on-foot version of Thelma and Louise or Bonnie and Clyde? Or Jekyll and Hyde, for that matter? Today was a good day for her, but it wasn’t always so. She popped from sweet to sour faster than a fart could slap you upside the nose. She could be nicer than a 99 ice cream on a summer’s day, chased down your throat by a perfectly chilled pint of lager. Then she could wake up, turn or blink and a woman scorned would hath no fury like hers.
Recently, her dark side had taken a witchcraft bent. She’d not be specifically nasty, keeping her teeth and nails to herself, but she’d throw curses at you in offbeat rhythm. Spell casting for the tone deaf. She wish a plague of poisonous toads on you or that the next time you showered (baths weren’t allowed), your skin would wash away down the plughole.
Then she’d smile and completely forgotten she’d just requested that the heavens rain down rabid dogs on your children. And she’d want a cuddle or to play hopscotch or to talk about what would be for the evening meal – slop or slop.
If we left here, and I had thought about striking out a path through a shadowy future where I wouldn’t know if the dogs snapping at my heels where going to eat me all up or drag me back to their cave. This cave. The asylum. If she were with me, how long would the smiles last? How long before someone turned her into the wicked witch and was smitten down by her wrath?
But, if she stayed here… The ridicule, the isolation, the pin-cushion arm and endless sedatives. It was wearing her away. She had entered with cheeks rosier than Dorothy’s poppies. Now, her skin had a blueish-grey pallor. Her eyes were darkened circles of ash. A wind would blow her away like the remnants of a funeral pyre.
“OK,” I whispered.
“What?” she responded, a smile threatening her unaccustomed lips.
“OK, Cindy, I’ll take you.”
“Thank you, Sin.”
I wished I hadn’t told her I intended to leave. I wished I had kept it to myself. Some things are too big. Some things, if you don’t let them out, will grow within you, consuming your insides until there’s nothing left and they split you apart and show the world anyway. So I had to tell someone and no-one knew how to keep a secret more than Cindy. She had so many of her own, much of the reason she was a resident here, and shared none of what she was told. Even the ‘strong suggestions’ of the orderlies to give up some of the information were unsuccessful.
I hadn’t expected her to ask me to take her with me.
I had to agree. I had to tell her yes and to bring a spark of hope to her heart.
I smiled and nodded silently, then turned away before the tear of deceit rolled down my cheek. I heard her bump into someone – I didn’t see who – and begin a curse. It included the blood of a thousand tumorous testicles and drowning, but I didn’t hear the rest. I returned to my room.
I needed the padded comfort.