Cellar door. Attic window. It was all the same. She smiled as the iron became fashionable, his hands growing riddled with tiny, pin pricked holes, an etch-a-sketch of who? What? She is whoever he wants her to be.
And he looked so very tired.
"Almost done," he smiled, and he imagined the dawn coating her skin like honey, piercing the fibers that held her together; cotton bound with twine, but he pretended it was silk. He imagines, and she is. Silk, burlap, or a queen. Elegance, or the churns of machinery throbbing in and out of his ears, sliding down the threads, the weaving of a fantasy.
Even now, he wears her laughter like a glove.
"Is it done?" She asked, so hopeful in that desolate way. The needle wove in and out of her back.
"Almost," he whispered, and he was anything but graceful, hair graying prematurely in parts, sweeping the curve of his chin, a brush of chemically polluted dawn. "Have you ever worn lace before?"
She tugged on the life line of string dangling from her finger, threatening to unravel her arm, unable to feel the seams on her sides anymore. The iron bars he kept her locked in, a shield from the rest of the world, if only to keep her for himself… How flattering, how not, and how very forgettable, a splash of white in a dark cage. "You know that I haven't."
Self destruction is the ultimate act of kindness;
Yet he would always keep her for himself.
His footsteps pounded down the cold, concrete stairs, candle in hand, but only a shadow not quite forgotten by the eventide harking, fingers calloused in determination. "I am out of black thread…" He muttered, and she turned his way, halting his footsteps with a single glance. Something about her; the anxiety, the creeping disposition of remorse. Something, something – not an object, but the person she had become.
The tears in her eyes had grown surprisingly animate.
"What is wrong?" He cooed, leaning close to her cage, hands wrapped around the bars in ten little bows of worship. Eyes so clear, breath unreal – her hair fell in waves of onyx satin, fabric he'd sewn into her head, one by one – too deeply to infer with reason. He looked to her feet.
"I pulled the string," She whispered, and her voice bled into the candle flame. "I'm sorry."
"It's alright…" He consoled, touching her cheek in a gentle stroke, savoring the texture of each thread that formed her "skin". His mind made it real, tangible as the stone; sometimes he could hear her breathing. "There's always tomorrow." He sank to the floor before her, threading the needle, prepared to spend another night awake with his precious doll, more than a toy – and nothing at all.
Words became startling fragments as she replied, "I don't want tomorrow," and brushed his skin, so chilled beneath that white, linen shirt, pinching together in mounds to save heat. "I want you to feel warm for once."
Hidden in droves of dust motes. Secrecy. Seclusion. Something about the beauty of the dark, allowing all colors to remain vibrant. What is the point of shining brightly if you can never be seen?
A few more days passed. He paced down into the cellar again, putting the needle down on the desk, the room so very austere, yet childish. He'd made her things. Tucked into the corners of the room were piles of dolls, glass eyes half way closed, some cracked down the middle like a splitting glacier, lined with frilly lace and copper curls. She'd touch them; brush their hair, smooth the creases out of their gowns with tentative fingers as if running through the calendar dates - still the same, fixed into position. They were just dolls.
"You look so beautiful," he smiled, unlocking the cage door, and his face was a plot of wells and ditches, pupils swallowing her into oblivion. Unnaturally pale (he'd designed her that way) with glittering eyes of pearl sewn into her head. Painted precisely, night after night, until perfection became blue.
She clutched her hands to her collar bones, tucked just beneath a yielding, colorless chin, looking down in shame.
"Is something wrong?" He asked again. They'd had this conversation before. She gazed gently up at him, enjoying the sweetness of his words, trembling as if her bones were turning to ice.
… Fountains of string were pooling at her feet. How long had it taken her to commit this act of self harm? She removed her hands and revealed the wound, the gaping pit of string where her shoulders were, eyes burning with tears. They were real. Of course they were. She was more than just a doll (to him), she was an actual person (in his eyes), not a shape of stitches and cloth, locked away in a little cage.
"Why?" He asked, whispers echoing away.
She bit her lip, quaking, gesturing to the pair of freshly formed mittens on the ground. Her fingers were so tired.
"There was a boy outside the window," she smiled wistfully, a gaze that would capture him forever – then turned her sights toward her creator, expecting to be scorned like a stubborn child. "His fingers were cold."
He picked up the needle on his desk with a kind smile, eyes beholding salt water, pressing the tip into her shoulder to sew her into the perfect toy she was -- admiring how self destructive compassion can truly be.
"You're not well," she sighed, seated on a stool in the corner, surrounded by miniatures of her own kind – tiny, china faces painted into smiles. "I can see it."
He was seated across the room, pencil in hand, designing a new dress for this beloved figurine. A mind for calculating stitches. Lines of one, two, three…"Why do you say that?"
She rose from her perch, hips so unsure of the weight. A girl that was constructed of cotton stuffing, not blood, flesh, or bone. A few fumbling steps led her to him, every moment collapsing over her skin. "Because your hair is falling out."
A few strands dissolved into her hand as she touched his mane, entwining on her palm like scratches from a pen.
It's his turn to look away as he replies, "I'm fine," and he knows that she will never believe him, because he never believed it himself, wrapping the years into balls of twine. He could hear the charity in her voice, the way she was so willing to destroy herself to keep him alive, knowing that he'd done just that for a very long time, now… For so much more than just a doll.
"You're too cold."
He shook his head with a sigh, never realizing that as he murmured, "I have you to keep me warm," that his fleeting smile would be the end of her, not even as she took him into her arms, the string of her lips tickling his cheek with a murmur of,
"We all need help sometimes."
A basement littered in string. A spider could relate, slipping down the walls, climbing between the fibers of shamefully high cheek bones, the tip of her thumb, the edges of her knee cap.
How very beautiful.
A breath caught in his throat, breath condensing into the air in tiny, frigid crystals. A shiver ran through him, but he doesn't feel it anymore, unable to feel cold like he had back then, eyes falling across a sepulcher of white… And black satin, and something he couldn't explain.
His years of devotion were sprawled on the floor.
Her ribcage had dissolved into nothing, the ends of her limbs intact, clutching at the string… Her hips were puddles of cotton. And as his eyes trailed across the room, he saw the beginnings of what she'd done, the horror of her sympathy, what she'd dedicated the last few hours of her life to, those precious strands of time. Neither of them had wanted it to be like this, life narrowed down to it's most intimate of lessons, those painted, blue pearls drowning in an ocean of white tendrils…
Limbs, insides, string: a haphazard, tragically knit garment.
She had unravelled herself to make him a sweater.
The buttons of his shirt slipped away easily enough, unveiling his skin, the clothing so very soft and caring in that artificial, suicidal sense, a blossom of knots, of stitches imperfect. Her arms wrapped around him once, finger tips soothing away his strain, the feeling of overwhelming comfort and the mercy a well known joy. Hair that tumbled so delicately, frayed in parts, yet still so helplessly perfect…
Her lips still brush his skin as he whispers, "Thank you."