As I was walking along the lake outside my house, I took special notice of the way the cheery yellow and blue of the paneling reflected off the lily covered water. The image filled me with an intense longing I couldn’t quite place. My face turned up to the sky and watched as a pair of white moths flitted throughout the garden, then came to dance near my head. They moved so fast it looked like ten instead of two. One came to rest in my hair, and a wash of calm spread over me.
My mind slowly came to, awakening as my internal clock struck six. My eyelids remained stubbornly closed, holding that yellow and blue house close to my heart. But then habit prevailed, and unwilling eyes opened to see a dreary wall. My feet hit the cold floor as I swung them out from under my thin gray blanket and walked to the window. Looking out, I found a puddle, filled with algae, and utterly lacking of lilies. Sad for a reason that eluded me, I turned away from the view to have a rusting birdcage meet my gaze. A birdcage that held two dejected moths captive. Their dirty white wings fluttered feebly, remembering better days gone by.
Behind me, the other girls started to stir. As they stretched, my brief window of reprise slammed shut with a bang. I sighed deeply but quietly, and swiveled to survey the familiar scene unfolding in front of me. Skinny, sallow, selfish people got dressed, and one by one each girl began to shoot daggers at my neck in the form of stares. As if they could erase my tattoo with only the powers of their minds. As if they could cut it out with a knife. They can’t.
No one can.
My eyes hardened as I walked into the ivy filled garden. It had once been so beautiful, gleaming along with the reign of the Czars. But as the Czars faded, the ivy spread, choking the beauty that once was.
However, no more was the garden, and no more was that life. I forced myself to look away, and to look instead upon the potential new recruits. Their skin gleamed with sweat, and their horses coats were similarly soaked. One girl’s tattoo was partially covered by an escaping curl of hair. A low chuckle was released from my mouth as I took in the scene. Eventually, she would be punished, but for now she could enjoy it. She could savor the normality of it, and the freedom of unimportance.
The queen bee shot me a glare from across the cleaning station as I set another spotless plate down on the raggedy towel. Her glare was just as damaging as the bleach in the buckets, but there were safety precautions for both. Don’t let your guard down. Don’t take off your gloves. Don’t look her in the eye. Don’t touch your face with bleach-soaked towels. Some were straightforward, but others took more getting used to. However, the safeguards didn’t always work, because Ashley was the one with the sharpest blades, both in her eyes and her tongue. The goal was to stay quiet usually, but she knew how to get me angry. She turned her head and whispered to her lackey, likely planning another confrontation. Like the other girls, she was curious about why I was in the House, but instead of talking about it behind my back, she asked me to my face. She asked me about my parents, and then called them names. She asked if I was a criminal, and then made up stories to fill the unknown gaps in her mind.
She then snapped her head up, as if sensing my thoughts. Her perfectly mussed raven hair matched the black stripes on the hazard-yellow of the kitchen walls, and it bobbed as she met my eyes. The stare lingered for a moment, then broke as her demure friend looked up to watch us. I forced myself not to bark out a laugh when the girl turned pink and spun to face her laundry at the wall. The other girls, they would make snide comments when Ashley was around, but when she wasn’t they turned scared. They hated tats, but they were afraid of them - us - too. Tats were not supposed to be here. They had a very… special… place back in St. Petersburg. Ashley knew that. She wielded her knowledge of me, and of St. Petersburg, like a dull knife. It didn’t do much after one strike, but many blows later it began to hurt.
Her words had struck so many times, I had grown callous and indifferent towards my past. I had to learn not to care, and to forget, so the many barbs thrown my way wouldn’t hit home. It couldn’t be personal. But sometimes I wondered what it would be like without that barrier. Should I be curious? Should I want to know why I had a ringed tattoo on the front right of my neck? But I was never allowed more than a cursory thought. Someone always found the chinks in my armor, therefore I could have none. That tattoo became no more than a birthmark, a noticeable thing, but nothing remarkable. I became unremarkable as well, blending into the background of gray blankets and the smell of bleach.
My palm slammed against the hardwood surface of the war room’s table. The legs creaked, and groaned, but I didn’t care. All that mattered was scaring the stupidity and carelessness out of the so called officers of defense sitting at the aforementioned abused table. Some of their tattoos turned taut as their neck muscles jumped out of their skin, and I could clearly see the light blues and teals of the rings. I almost laughed. What did they know? They had never had the experience of being in the House. They didn’t know what it was like, being a unique tat in a room full of unmarked and ignorant people.
“They hate her already! I’m surprised she isn’t dead by now, the way you lot have let this carry on! We have to get her out of there. Now.” I spoke with a quiet conviction, a voice perfected over the years in order to convince just these people.
The pudgy officer turned red, embarrassed at being called out. Recovery was allegedly his department, and he tried to cover up his unease by blustering out, “She can stand up for herself, Michael! She doesn’t need us and we don’t need her!” To emphasize his ‘bravado’, the rest of his face turned purple.
I groaned in frustration. I knew perfectly well that she could take care of herself, hell, I probably knew better than any of them. I was tasked with analyzing her thoughts by the General, as I was, how did he put it, ‘most likely to not get punched in the gut by the girl whose life we screwed up’. I had nodded, agreeing with the fact that I was the only one who hadn’t supported the way they handled the House situation. But I suspected that it was more than that. I figured that he put me on the job because I, like her, was different from everyone else around me. My deep blue, almost black tattoo, set me apart from my coworkers and friends alike. I took to wearing a high collar to cover it, not wanting to endure the glances and murmurs of people who envied the unreachable ‘perfect’ they they thought I was. That dark blue defined what they thought of me, just as their corresponding light blues defined what they thought of themselves. With her, with Ella, she didn’t know what she was except for the bogus thrown at her by that shrew of a girl, Ashley.
I forced my thoughts back to the discussion at hand.
“—recover her now, all our work will be ruined!” The other councilmen were now turning a similar shade of grape.
My eyes started to water as I attempted not to roll them, and I regained my composure by patiently stating, “If we recover her now, we can talk to her, and study the anomaly instead of watching through a screen.” My voice had taken on the tone of someone placing a child in the time-out chair. “Here, with fellow tats—" They winced at the slang - “she can understand and learn more about who she is.” And, I said to myself, she could be safe. I wouldn’t have to flinch every time the girls whispered about culling Ella, and I wouldn’t end up sketching her curled in fear, crying silently in her sleep. I knocked over my chair as I stood, suddenly feeling stifled. I righted it, cheeks threatening to burn, and walked out of the room. When the muffled voices of self assured dumb-asses faded away, my straight face gave way and I sagged against the wall. Tears threatened to push their way out, and my hands shook with rage. After all those months of watching, speculating, letting them control her, I broke. I silenced a howl of frustration as I placed a hand against the dilapidated design of the wallpaper. Pallidly colored chips of the stuff fell as a leaf did, slowly wandering through a dance only they knew. I watched as they pirouetted and leaped. And I swore that if they didn’t recover Ella, I would. I would break into the House and knock over Ashley and everyone in my path if I could only see her eyes in person. If I could only see them light up, just once, as she realized the world wasn’t all bad after all.
I was back in that yellow and blue house, only this time clouds tinged the clear skies. They cast an perpetual twilight upon the flowers, and the water started to ripple as the clouds swelled and cried. Gray moths flew away to someplace safe to await the coming thunder. Lilies were slowly forced underneath the water from the driving force of nature. Safe from the water, and only the water, I stood under the eaves of the house. Shadows flit at the edge of my vision, and my head seemed to snap around without a thought. Behind me crouched a grimy, rugged, and armed woman, a smirk crossing her face. Behind her rose a man in a similar state, tattered clothes ripped and hanging. I withdrew, meeting my freezing doom as yet another came up behind me. I opened my mouth to scream, but not a sound was heard as a ringing peal of thunder shook the heavens.
I gained consciousness with a shriek, the first time I had called out in my sleep since I was a child. Outside, a gale raged, rumbling with the best of them. A window cracked, then shattered into shards of glass. I inched closer to inspect it, and then stopped dead. The edges of the glass shards were tinged with a thick red substance. The blood spilled over the once whole window, creeping closer and closer to where I knelt. It acquired my full attention, so when a hand scrabbled for purchase on the sill I remained oblivious. I remained unwitting still even as the hand gave way to a head and neck decorated with a maroon tattoo. Then that head loosed a howl, and I dove to the side to escape the knife that was previously hidden by the loose sleeves of my attacker.
He was a blur as only the blade of his knife came into focus. It descended, glinting dully with a brown substance that looked suspiciously like blood. The man wore a condescending smile along with his red tunic, and his eyes became maniacal as his knife seemed to turn of its own accord. I could then see my gray eyes reflected in the metal, and they started to shine. I tasted salt, and closed my eyelids, forcing more tears down on my parched lips. I was about to die, to die like Nicholas did, assassinated in the dark of night. My eyes closed even tighter, and I readied myself for what was to come.
Silence penetrated my thoughts as my hair was released from the grip I now realized was restraining me, and I shrieked when I felt a cold hand grab my arm. My eyes still shut against the swirling dust, but I struck out and hit something soft. It gave, and I went after it with all my might, struggling to get free of my captor.
“Holy sh -!” A dazed and startled voice broke the fog of adrenaline, and I opened my eyes. Two green eyes shone like emeralds, but they were clouded with hurt and surprise. “What the hell was that for, Ella?” His mouth moved, I could see it, but what met my ears made anything but sense.
My anger intensified as my tongue betrayed me and stuttered out, “H- how do you kn- know my name?” My voice grew stronger. “And what the hell yourself? Who are you and what are you doing in my home?”
I took in his dark shirt sporting a high collar, and I studied the way he moved. Lithe, and confident, but still unsure of the outcome to this situation. “Ella.” The man, no, not quite yet a man, spoke softly as if to a skittish animal. “This isn’t your home anymore.”
My initial anger faded, and I murmured quietly, “It wasn’t really my home to begin with.” He looked at me with understanding, and his gaze grew so intense I glanced away, studying the familiar gray walls and blankets. But then I snapped my head back, forgetting my embarrassment. “Where is everyone? What did you do with them?” He sat back, surprised.
“They’ve gone away, to hiding, but I thought you hated them. Why do you care?”
On impulse, I spat, “I don’t care! I mean… What? Why am I explaining myself? It’s your turn, buster!”
He sighed, face portraying an emotion my mind couldn’t quite identify. Exasperation? Amusement? Satisfaction?
“Whoa, okay, jeez.” Now he licked his lips, fidgeting. “It’s true I haven’t introduced myself, but I’ve been a little busy, you know, saving our asses.”
“Yeah, yeah, fine. Who. Are. You?”
“Michael. My name is Michael.” He paused.
“Finally, we’re getting somewhere. Not. Why are you here and why do I have to spell this out for you?” I felt freer than I had in 16 years, and my natural sarcasm was coming out of its cage.
“Wow, okay. I’ll explain everything to you in a minute, but first can we move somewhere more comfortable than glass covered floor?” I felt an immense amount of pride as I managed not to flush. I put as much cynicism as possible into one nod and beckoned dramatically towards the tattered couch by the kitchen that held memories of bleach and war.
As I walked nimbly in front of him, I thought, why am I here? Why haven’t I left? But I couldn’t answer my own question, so instead I curled my legs in front of me on one edge of the couch.
Buster? Really? I was thrown by the sudden introduction to sarcasm in our conversation. I had only ever heard her speak quietly, as to avoid attention. I guess I’ve only really heard her talk when she was scared. I recovered quickly but was surprised by how much anger she had built up over the years. I was something so different from what she had grown used to over the years, and her first reaction was to attack. My face contorted from the memory and I massaged my sore and bruised shoulder. A quick glance at her expression gave me no sympathy, however, and she only regarded me with a pale and empty air. It was clear she wasn’t going to budge until all was disclosed.
My face tightened, but I began.
“This is the deal. You’re not going to like what I have to say, but since you want me to explain everything, I have to say it. So you’re not allowed to hit me until I’m done. Fair deal?” She only started to pick at a tear in her jeans, but I figured that was the most expressive response I was going to get. It was important, I thought, to meet sarcasm with sarcasm, otherwise she wouldn’t take me seriously.
“Your name is Ella, but everyone on base calls you Blades. I’ll explain why later, but you should know that. I’m Michael, and I know I already said that.” Her mouth twitched, and she went back to pulling at a loose strand of denim. “You were put in this House when you were two years old, by the Council of Blues. They are called that because they are head of all people with blue tattoos. But you’re different. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but your tattoo is gray. Maybe sometimes red.”
“Well duh, I was born with it, of course I’ve noticed. The real question is, how do you know that?”
Damn. I hoped she wouldn’t catch that.
“Well, um. Your House is kind of…”
“Kind of what?”
“Kind of bugged. Your house is bugged. We’ve been listening and watching all of you for about ten years now. I don’t know much about it, I’ve only been with the project for only two.”
I studied her face, and while it didn’t move, her fist started to strangle the blanket beneath her. She refused to speak, and I took it as an invitation to continue talking.
“The project is dedicated to studying, well, you, mostly, and your tattoo and lineage. The color of your tattoo determines if you were descended from the Czars or the Bolsheviks. Blue for royals, red for rebels. The problem is that yours is barely blue, but you have the most powerful visions out of everyone except one. And yours turns red when you feel highly charged emotions. That’s not normal, in case you were wondering.”
Only now did her facial features change to form emotion. “Wait. You were watching us? Like, all the time?”
I flushed. “Well, not like all the time. Just when people were interacting. The bugs and cameras were mostly there just to observe the ‘anomaly’. That’s their words, not mine. I’ve been fighting to get you out of here for a while now. When I saw him—" My hand flew outward towards the still body near the window, “-sneaking towards the building I ran straight here. But they never wanted to come here before, and they wouldn’t have let me come if I had asked.”
“You… You came here? Voluntarily?”
I stole a look at her face and was surprised by the fact that it was unguarded. Her eyes were soft, and the hard line around her mouth had relaxed. It was then I realized how beautiful her eyes were when she wasn’t angry or scared. The gray shone through with flecks of blue and green, and they were the kind of eyes that enveloped all of your being with just one glance.
“Yes, Ella. I wouldn’t have stayed if held down by the Council themself.” She looked down, and I could sense her walls snapping back into place.
The next glance given to me was defiant, and she said firmly, “Why?”
The simple word brooked no argument, and I tried to compose an answer in my head that wouldn’t give away what I was really feeling. Because I care about you, Ella. Because I couldn’t bear to see your gray eyes go dark. Because you’re like me, and I can’t lose you.
“Because. Analyzing your behavior was my job, and you dying would have screwed it all up.” I gave her a half smile to let her know I was kidding, but I started talking before she asked any more questions.
“I’ve told you everything, I think, that I can right now, except one thing. Your past.” Her eyes hardened, but before she could berate me for telling her something she already knew, I stumbled on. “When you were only about 15 months old, I believe, your mother called us up. She was crying, saying that she had nowhere to go and would we please help her.”
Ella turned stock still. “My mother… you know her? You know my mom?” Her voice had turned extraordinarily small. I swallowed and prepared myself for what was to come.
“I… I knew her. Ella—"
“What? What happened? Tell me now or I will walk out that door.”
“Ella, your mom… She passed away right after- after she put you here. When she called us asking for help, and I wasn’t there at the time, mind you, the council turned her down. Saying they- they didn’t have time for any more wards. I personally think they were scared of you. Scared of your tattoo, and scared of anything different.”
Silent as the wind, she seemed faint. Like a feather suspended from a cliff, and she was ready to fall into the water below. If she falls she will dance to the end, swirling and tumbling down into the roiling water. If I have learned anything from her, it’s to fight forever until a conclusion has come to be made. And one hasn’t.
I felt a crushing weight on my chest and mind as I attempted to comprehend the muddle of words coming towards me. The silence pressed hard on my ears, on my eyes, on my mouth, feigning deafness, blindness, muteness. The tear on my pant leg came into perfect focus, while everything around it was blurred. Faintly someone was whispering my name, but they spoke too quietly to be understood. Michael stood up as if to leave, and my hand lifted and then fell. He disappeared, and I slumped farther against the frayed blanket as my mental walls began to decay . A choked sob escaped, and the noise sounded just as a gunshot would. My last guard fell, and beads filled with salt and sorrow traced tracks of brown down my grimy cheeks. One dropped onto my collarbone, and the sudden warmth and pressure of a single teardrop caused my previously unafraid body to flinch uncontrollably. My wrists shook, and bursts of insuppressible shudders racked my shoulders and legs.
“Ella… Ella, come on, talk to me.” A warm hand accompanied the concerned voice, slowly massaging my hands open and placing a glass of cold water in them. “Ella, you have to drink.”
He left. I know he left… I struggled to wrap my head around the thought of someone who comes back. Get it together, Ella. For all you know, he’s gaining your trust to kill you later.
“I- I’m fine.” I curled my legs against my chest even harder, and I felt humiliated. “I’m sorry, I—"
“Don’t apologize. Did you know that… that your mom gave you up?” I shook my head, still pink faced.
“No. I didn’t know that she had died, either. But I had assumed. Keep going. Please.”
“Are you sure? I can wait—"
“No. You can’t.” I could sense his silent agreement as he continued.
“Right. So, after the council turned your mother down, she took you here. I assume that she heard about it from some non-tat - this isn’t a blue or a red safehouse. Once the then-General got wind of your existence, he set up a system of cameras and bugs. You would have been about six or seven then.”
“I think I would have noticed if a bunch of people came in and started to spy on us.”
“Yeah, probably.” He matched my tone with a smirk. “But you might not have noticed, if you were, say, out of the house.” I raised my eyebrows, but he plowed on. “I’m pretty sure the general provided an all expenses paid trip out to those old buildings up in Moscow.” I did recall some sort of unusual outing around that time, but then I was too awed by the towering citadel and swooping architecture.
“Anyways, the council was intrigued by the fact that your tattoo changes colors. Right now it’s very pale blue, almost gray, but when you are angry, or scared, or sad, it turns pink. It turned just now, actually. My point is, you’re an anomaly to them. They’re scared of anything different, therefore, they’re scared of you. They hid behind their technology, studying you from a distance. Even when they saw the harsh conditions you were under, emotionally and physically, they wouldn’t pull you out. That’s part of why some call you Blades. Because you withstood so many thrown by the council.” He took a deep breath, as if his story pained him to tell it.
I copied him, filling my chest with air as I tried to register all the information on the table at the moment.
“Ok, so recap. When I was two, my mom dropped me off here because of reasons I don’t understand.” He nodded an affirmative. “Then your council—"
“Not my council.”
“Whatever. Then your council found out my tattoo changes colors and bugged the House.” Michael wrote a check mark in the air in front of him, and I smirked. “And so they’ve been listening and watching us - me - for the better part of ten years. Only because they’re scared of me and what I can do. The only thing I don’t get is how you’re involved.” My tone suddenly became harsh as I recognized that all he had told me was that he had joined the project two years ago.
Not having any desire to get pummeled again, I quickly began to talk. “Yes, that was an accurate summary. I was assigned to this project a couple years ago, and I moved up the ranks quickly. Like I said earlier, I was put in charge of analyzing everyone’s behavior. I’m pretty sure the General—" I saw her eyes turn curious, and I hurried to explain. “The General is the head of the Blues. Anyways, I’m pretty positive he put me there because I would maybe understand you more than any of the Council.”
“Because I’m the closest to being similar to you in the whole Blue complex.”
I reached up, hand shaking, and pulled away my high collar to reveal my tattoo, ink black in the low light.
“I- I’m confused.”
“No one else has a tattoo quite as dark, or as light as mine or yours, respectively. They consider me to be perfect, the unreachable idealism they attempt to grasp. But obviously that’s not true. And you, well, they think of you as unstable and a danger to their community.”
“Well, it’s not like they trapped me in a locked house with catty, aggressive teenage girls, and then spied on it. That would make them deserve an unstable and dangerous enemy, but of course that couldn’t be me. They treated me so nicely.” I spat out a surprised laugh, grateful to have someone by my side that wasn’t captured in the thrall of the Council.
“Yeah, agreed. But. There’s one more thing.”
“What?” Her smile shifted, becoming wary.
“Now that I’m here… the Council will want me to bring you with me back to headquarters.”
“You mean… I’d leave? Leave the House?”
“Yes, you’d stay with the female recruits at base. The recruits are blues training to be a soldier, or a council head.”
Visibly, her entire body relaxed, and her smile crept back. Her eyes glinted with hope.
I spoke again. “Would- would that be okay?”
“Yes. Yes, that would be—” I thought about leaving, about setting foot outside the ring of trees that marked my childhood. I thought about leaving behind the smell of bleach that accompanied the rythmic sound of towels on porcelain plates. But then I turned my attention to what was outside these gray walls. I thought about seeing people, real people, in a bustling city. I thought about finding where my mother was buried and lying a bundle of lilies on the cold stone of her grave. I thought about how they would wilt, given time, but I was free now. Flowers could be replaced. Closure, and grief, they needed to be felt, and they could only be felt given time and space.
I released my protective grip on my curled legs, and they stretched out on the couch. As I completed the movement I felt oddly exposed, as if my thoughts were written on my arm.
“That would be… amazing. Thank you.” The mention of lilies reminded me of something, and I rose to cross the room.
“Shh.” I brought my hand upward and with a flick, unlatched the birdcage that held the two moths. They darted out, and as I lifted my hand toward them they flew once, twice, three times around my head. Then towards the window they sailed, oblivious to the carnage that rested below. They painted a picture of calm for me, dancing a dance only they knew. I said a silent goodbye, thanking them for being beautiful in the face of chaos. Now that you are free, I shall forever be yours, I thought wordlessly.
“When do we leave?” Swiveling to face Michael, I prepared myself for the next chapter of my life.
I was speechless for a moment, taken aback by the grace and power she held over her own body and mind. In the face of the most chaotic day in her life, she was also freed. But the first thing she thought to do was release two broken hearted moths. I suppose they had served as a metaphor for her life. Once pure, they had become dirty and dejected as the years of captivity dragged by. Ella had gone through the motions every day, not showing any emotion. But as the days wore on, she visibly became drawn and haggard. However, once she was freed, her shell of indifference cracked.
“That would be your cue to talk. You know, like, give an answer.” A dry voice intercepted my thoughts.
“Oh! Yeah, sorry. It’s about a days walk to base, so we’ll leave preferably soon and stop at a safe house about half a mile away from the main building.”
“Why not just go all the way there?”
“Because they don’t know you and you don’t know them. You’re gonna want a day to catch your breath.”
My gait was steady as I gathered up a gray sheet and placed bread, cheese, and dried jerky in the center. I then pulled the corners together and knotted it with a strip of leather pulled off the dead man’s jacket. Finished with my makeshift travel bag, I turned to find Ella standing behind me, wearing a worn out leather jacket and carrying nothing but a hand-lamp.
“Don’t you have anything else you’d like to bring from here?” I wanted to know.
“Okay, then.” I raised my eyebrows at her terse answer, and glanced down at her thin shoes. She’s going to have to acquire some better clothing and gear at the safe house. I made a mental note to contact the quartermaster once there.
“Alright. Let’s go.” I motioned toward the door, and I wondered if she was scared.
We headed out the door, and a stab of panic shot through me as I put one tentative foot outside the House boundaries. But nothing happened. There was no sharp cry of anger, no sting of a belt. But I could hear the birds singing, and all my fear melted away. I couldn’t hear the birds before. I could only see them flit from tree to tree, unaware of their surroundings.
Michael was sparing no time, and he was already a good twenty feet away from me by the time I looked up. I bounded to meet him, reveling in the freedom of running without consequence. He looked up as I reached his side, and a companionable silence took over as we set one shoe in front of another.
As we walked, my feet crunched by flowers and grasses that I hadn’t seen before. I half wished I could draw, if only to capture the silvery white petals of one or catch the sunlight shining on the vibrant purple frond of another.
Seemingly sensing my thoughts, my silent companion spoke gruffly: “That one’s a flower of Michaelmas.” Our lull was pierced by his voice, but I was glad. He taught me the names of many other plants, including the one with leaves like polished metal.
“Grass lily?” I wondered at how such a beautiful thing could have such a dull name.
“Grass lily. Although it is occasionally called the neutral flower.”
“Named because both the Reds and the Blues admire it for its beauty. It allies with no one.”
What about me? I thought to myself. Where do I fit in?
“Are there many grass lilies where we are going?” I tried to figure out how far we had to travel.
“Why don’t you see for yourself?” Came the voice from beside me, and I looked up to watch his hand go up and point. I followed his finger, and my breath caught. In front of me was a house. But the house had yellow and blue paneling, that seemed all so familiar to me. A pond rested solemnly beside the structure, and it twinkled softly with white and pink water lilies.
I walked slowly to the edge of the water, not understanding how it could be possible. I sat down, and perched silently on the small wooden dock. I don’t know how long I remained there, but night came quickly that day. I stared into the dark reflection of the lake, my only source of light the moon. It glinted off the lilies, and darkened the yellow house behind me. I could not breathe, because I was there. There at the house that had previously rested only in my dreams, and comforted me when my unknown past came to haunt me. At the house where a man and a woman attacked me in my sleep. And now at the house that was to keep us safe throughout the inky black of night.