The door was stuck, your fingers aching as you gripped the hard edge to pull harder. You wanted to go home, to your room, curl up on the bed and never leave again. A sob rattled your throat hearing whispers, feeling the fog lap at your calves thick enough it felt like wet gauze. With a loud screech, the door finally opened more than an inch, squeezing your fingers deeper for a better grip, and putting your body weight into it.
Even without lighting, gurneys overturned with the thin pallets fallen to the floor, you still recognized the hallway. Eagerly squirming through the just wide enough opening, you felt something catch the fabric of your stolen clothes and rip it. Not that it mattered, you were home now, and the doctors would care for you, the nurses would make sure you had your medicine. Pausing, fingers lightly resting against the wall you couldn’t remember the last time you had your medication. Happy tears welled up in your eyes as you peered into the dark, barely cognizant of the sound of voices echoing towards you.
There had always been voices, scrambling over a makeshift barricade, you fell prone on the floor, something gritty sticking to your cheek. A bath would be wonderful, you decided pushing yourself back onto your feet. Did the nurses still use those long handled brushes to scrub at the skin? It has always hurt but you knew that you’d been clean in the end, cleaner than you’d ever been. Yes, a scalding hot bath would get the mud off you, clear your pores.
Cackling not far ahead of you made you pause. Everything. You stopped breathing, you stopped moving, you stopped thinking. Instead you stood in a hallway black as the space between the stars and waited. There was no fight or flight in you now, just a mind numbing terror that had been smothering since the nice hospital you’d been transferred to had closed and you’d been left to fend for yourself. The biting grip of terror’s nails had long since sunk too deep to feel piercing, insinuated itself deep into the tissue of your brain and spilled itself inside like ink soaked up by a sponge.
But then the moment passed, you could hear the laughter moving away. The first few breaths were almost heaves, body forcing as much of the foul air into your lungs as it could before finally mellowing. Picking your way down the hallway once more, you turned left and tried to find the stair sign that had once been mounted on the wall. Nothing. Despite the fact your life had been one large upheaval after another when you’d found yourself committed, experimented on, shipped off to many different mental hospitals, before finally being left quite literally on the curb when the final closure hadn’t offered a new bed and cupboard sized room, you still knew these hallways.
The whispers started again, soft, hissing, like the dark had carved itself a few dozen physical forms that had begun to circle tighter and tighter around you. Scrambling to get off the floor, you knocked several things off a gurney, including several thick pieces of something cold and somewhat malleable. Nothing wrong with snakes, but it’s the darkness that you can see, feel pressing against you, all you can think about is the snake’s venom somehow being the same. Dark. Hands clapped over your ears, your body curled as small as possible, you squeeze your eyes shut even if there isn’t a modicum of difference.
And there you stay, though you couldn’t say for how long. It’s the promise of finding safety in your room that has your hands falling away from your ears to wipe at your face. There’s another sound in the dark now, someone breathing light and fast, your eyes blinking as they pass right by you with a green glow. A will o the wisp if you’d ever seen one, slipping off the gurney and trailing behind the figure. More often than not you stubbed your toes, any one of them, more times than you could count. But you were hoping the light would take you to other lights, light did that just like dark did. Gathered together. Didn’t it?
“Where are you darling?’ A voice cried out, the words echoing and bouncing down the hallway until you couldn’t remember where it had started.
The figure with the light paused, froze, and the light went away. You couldn’t understand why the other person was panicking, you recognized that voice. Eddie had been a few floors below where you’d stayed, but sometimes his voice would carry through the vents when you lay in bed at night. He had such a lovely singing voice, and the few glimpses you’d had of him had been enough to make your heart flutter. He had looked… capable. Not necessarily good or bad, but capable of both, possibly in the same breath. And the idea alone had made your breath short and your pulse race. Safety and danger in the same soft, sweet touch of a hand reaching out to you.
“Eddie…’ you sighed, without realizing.
Going very still, you felt more than saw the figure in front of you whirl around to look behind it. A flicker of jealousy trickled through you, if Eddie was calling for his Darling, then that meant he’d finally found the one he’d been singing about. And it wasn’t you. He couldn’t possibly know you were here. To be fair he hadn’t known you’d left either but that wasn’t the point. A soft humming noise reached your ears, there and then gone again as you stared into the dark.
“Darling please! These pre ceremony jitters are just that! Let me comfort you, you silly little thing.’
Oh… teeth biting down into your bottom lip feeling it quiver, you take a slow breath. Well, you’d probably still hear his singing, happy people sang all the time. But you wanted at least one last look at him, and then you’d be a good little patient and go to your room until the doctor had use for you. When the figure finally moved again, so did you. Weddings were very bright occasions, and if the little green glow was going to the place where light was…
After a while you began to realize that the figure ahead of you seemed to purposefully avoiding lighted areas, scowling as it turned left instead of right. Irritation shifting to rage, you kicked hoping to send something soaring towards it. You did, but it didn’t hit the figure, it hit a locker that let out a loud echoing noise before falling over with a crash. The entire wing seemed to hold its breath before many things happened at once. You were tackled from behind by something, the figure you’d been following ran like a mouse startled by a shoe stomping on the floor, and you heard Eddie laugh.
Arms wrapped around your middle, easily lifting you from the ground despite the fact you hadn’t tried to run. Hot breath washed across the back of your neck, and you could feel a chest rising and falling quickly behind you. From running or just plain old excited you weren’t sure.
“There you are!’
Yes? Yes you were, feeling the arms around your middle squeeze until it hurt to breathe, your head swimming as your hands curled over his forearms. When he finally dropped you, you couldn’t focus on anything but taking a full breath, coughing and heaving as your middle ached. Fingers gently threaded through your hair before gripping tightly and yanking hard.
“Now if only you’d stop running off! I understand the need for movement to rid yourself of nerves, but surely a small walk-‘
Your hands wrapped around his wrist, held on tightly trying to alleviate the ache he caused by dragging you down the hallway. He was right, you shouldn’t have ran away, shouldn’t have let them send you away.
“I’m sorry, Eddie.’
His steps didn’t falter, but he did stop speaking for a moment, his grip on your hair shifting as though surprise had caused his hand to begin to slacken before tightening again. Staring back down the hallway, you could see the walls now, realizing that he was dragging you towards a more well lit area. Which is what you wanted, almost. You wanted your room with the little cot bed screwed tight into the wall and your blanket, but that had always been well lit, bright so the doctors could keep an eye on you at all times. So attentive….
“Now you’re going to sit here,’ your body’s lifted, an arm going around your waist to drop you into a wheelchair. “And wait for me to get everything rea-‘
Staring up at him, you watched his eyes widen, jaw going slightly slack as his hands that had been slicking back his hair held the back of his head. You just seemed to keep surprising him, blinking to clear the tears from your eyes. It was the same strong jaw, the sharp cheekbones, but there was some sort of burn or rash down the right side of his face. His right iris burned in a sea of red, but his nose was still so… aristocratic. You couldn’t help giggling at the thought, the word, sounding absolutely delighted to be there. And more than a little mad all things considered.
Eddie’s arms fell to his side, and you followed them apart way before stopping at the broad expanse of his shoulders, his chest, wanting to reach up and touch the fabric. It was a patchwork of blacks and blues, following the stitched lines before lifting again to see him still staring, still disbelieving of the current events unfolding in front of him. You wanted to stand and touch him but he’d said sit, wait, so that’s what you were going to do.
“I know you…. I know your face.’ The sing song quality his voice had used only moments ago was gone, replaced by a too normal sounding rasp of a whisper. “Why do I know your face?’
Shoulders lifting, you held them there and then let them drop, gaze moving away from his intense stare to the stitch work of his shirt, the fabric pulled taut against his upper arms as his hands clenched and unclenched. When he moved it was sudden, your back hitting the wide spread of leather as his fingers bit into your jaw.
“Why do I know your face?!’
You couldn’t have answered even if you’d wanted to, as far as you knew he’d never seen you. Never caught you watching him as he was dragged, carried to his next session. This close you could see the red that seemed to be threatening to spill in from the edges in his left eye as well. Waiting, you didn’t see a flash of recognition, or a flicker of memory. His eyes seemed to glow, and you couldn’t resist reaching up to skim your fingers along the right side of his face. The skin felt rough, your fingers skimming over it again when he didn’t stop you.
“You’re so handsome…’ you murmured, not realizing you’d said the words out loud until his fingers gripped tighter.
The surprise was fading away, replaced by an arrogant mask, a too jovial smile. He looked happy, and you tried to lean closer only to have him stand abruptly and straighten his clothing.
“You think so, even in these old things?’
Nodding, you watched his semi gloved fingers adjust the bow tie, smooth over his vest before giving it a few sharp tugs. A self made gentleman, your hands coming together quick and hard when he gave a quick bow. He seemed genuinely delighted, before his expression became wary, glancing towards the doors on either side of the room.
“Excuse me a moment, I need to… to…’
Your hands curled around the arms of the wheelchair, wanting to stand, wrap your arms around him until he was less agitated. But he’d said sit, wait. Still feeling where his fingers had gripped your jaw, you watched him move towards the door and peer out into the hallway. Were there guests coming? Looking around the room, restlessly shifting in the chair. There was blood everywhere, on the woodworking saw table, on the floor, and possibly the ceiling though your eyes could be playing tricks with shadows. Blood on the walls, and on your skin, you could see that now, pleased you matched the motif.
Finishing your perusal of the room, you turned your attention back to Eddie. Eddie who was staring at you from across the room, Eddie who kept looking you over before coming back to your face. Unable to help it, your thighs rubbed together as you shifted, a soft noise in your throat as your center gave an insistent, appreciative pulse. When he moved closer, holding his hand out for you, you didn’t hesitate to leap out of the chair to take hold of it as soon as it was within reach. He seemed pleased, and pulled you tight against him, other hand moving to rest at your lower back. Humming the Bridal Chorus, he slowly spun you both out into the hall, swaying and dancing down it to another room.
There were four rows of chairs, long columns that lead to a figure in white at the end of the long white streak on the ground. Eddie continued humming as he waltzed you down the aisle, reaching out and shoving the figure over so it fell out of the way. The veil, stitched to the forehead, fluttered up and showed you the face of a man who looked terrified.
“Don’t look at that whore, she wasn’t ready for marriage.’ Fingers lightly skimmed along your jaw, guiding your face back towards him. “Not like you, my darling. Right?’
“You’re not another one of those teasing sluts, are you?’ His voice was a low growl, the slur snarled as his hand moved to begin wrapping around your neck. When you shook your head, the touch shifted to something more gentle, cupping the back of your neck to pull your head close, pressing a kiss to your forehead. “I knew you weren’t.’
Hands resting lightly on his chest, you couldn’t help closing your eyes with a soft pleased hum. He smelled like blood, and cedar, and sweat, and a bitter sort of aftershave. Lips brushed against the bridge of your nose, your breath catching with anticipation only to be disappointed. He didn’t kiss you, instead he stepped back, hands moving to hold yours.
“Repeat after me, darling.’ Your gaze flicked towards the portrait on the wall and then back to Eddie. Apparently he was groom and priest all in one. “I promise to honor my husband above all else, cherish our love until my dying breath, and most importantly gift my adoring husband with as many children as possible.’
The words came easily, as well as whatever else he demanded of you, feeling his hands tighten around yours as each syllable passed your lips. Even to your mind some of the promises were ridiculous, but Eddie seemed to be glowing with happiness and you’d promise him anything to see him like that. When he finally did kiss you, it was exactly what you’d hoped it would be, melting against him as his arms wrapped around you. It wasn’t until he was leading you down a hallway that you realized he hadn’t said any vows of his own. Not that you minded, not really, your fingers tightening around his palm as he led you into the dark.