A Wisp of Hair

I passed the envelope between my hands, first right, then left. When I say 'passed' I mean 'dropped' as each palm turned over, the other caught the green paper.

"Aren't you going to open it?" I stared at her and contemplated. Carefully picking with my stubbed fingers at the edges, I decided to tear open the envelope and reveal the tattered note inside. The writing was barely readable. "What does it say?" She knew what it said, because letters had to be read before being given to patients. I didn't tell her. "Who is it from?"

"My mother," I explained, purposefully wrongly. I smiled. I knew whom, where and when, but not why.

"But your mother died 4 years ago."

I began to twist my hair, entwining it with my fingers, letting the note and its contents become available for all to see, "Yes. Tell me about her."

"Well... Her name was Muriel."

"She was 20." With that the lady awkwardly looked at me, taking the paper and leaving.

12:00am. The wonders of the outside world were again visible to my eyes that had grown so accustomed to white over the past 5 years and audible to my ears that heard only the voices of the insane and the clanging of metal doors. But it was not over yet; the roof was going to be tricky. It was a choice of land or die. But the truth of the matter was that I was no Lara Croft.

Goosebumps stood out like mines on a minefield. The naked eye would not have seen them, but they were just waiting to explode like a rash across my frozen arms and legs. I shivered, noticing just how high up I really was now. I considered my lack of options: jump and land, jump and break my legs, jump and die. That was until I noticed my new main route of escape.

I would have slid down the drainpipe and landed. If it had been that simple. Flea-ridden dogs stood at the bottom, appearably famished and angry. Their mouths frothed as if they had a strong case of rabies, their jaws gnashing and barking wildly. But they had alerted the guards, who in turn had set off the sirens, and soon the whole convention knew. So I had to act fast.

I ran and leapt from the building, flying through the dark night. I could see black and only the darkest shade of black known to man for what seemed like days, but in reality was only seconds. Before I hit the floor, specks of grey flew into view and I was falling: straight towards the railings. I scraped and flailed about in the air, trying to land elsewhere, but I landed just where I was always going to land. The flowerbeds had recently become home to a pile of mud (a compost heap in fact.) Quite lucky really, as I had landed in this, breaking my fall, centimetres away from the railings. It tasted a hindsight better than the slush they'd fed me in there, locked up and pretending to be ill, but I spat it out anyway. It didn't exactly taste good.

The only way out now was up – again. The guards, luckily, still thought I was on the roof. The railings were lined with barbed wire, but they were my only chance of escape, so I took a step onto them, not before clearing my eyes of both mud and hair, and began to climb, first hands, then feet. However, the barbed wire proved troublesome, and I felt like Jesus on the cross for a few moments. I was doing perfectly well with my gown covering the top half of my legs, with which I had managed to climb over with very few cuts and bruises. The silver of the moon shone down on my face, highlighting my tired features, blinding me. It was only for a second, but that second was 1 second too long.

I slipped, tearing my gown in several places. A huge gash ran down my right arm and the blood poured from it like a crazy river, stained red. My hands didn't get away with it so easily either. This was all fine, so long as I escaped. I was on the other side of the fence now, dangling in mid-air. The barbed wire had caught me out, and some of my precious, frizzy, clumped hair was next to be sacrificed.

By now, the guards had noted my movement, and were headed for the gates. I promised myself never to escape from anywhere ever again, as it required fast thinking. If that meant ripping out my golden locks by the roots then so be it.

I fell to the floor in a crumpled heap, clutching my aching head in agony. I knew that I had to leave, so I struggled to my feet and ran, ignoring the numbing pain in my ankles. They could have my stupid DNA for their stupid tests if the really wanted it that much. I'd left it for them, on the gate, especially...

Finally, I could run no more and reached my destination. It was the cliff top where we used to sit. I lay on the floor and pressed my ear to the ground as if I was listening for its heartbeat. And finally it came.

I remembered our last conversation. I remembered it well.

"I'm breaking out."

"No, Mark, you can't!"

"But I'm innocent..." He was whispering now, but there was still a sense of finality to his tone.

I sighed. Of course, I understood. I tried to convince him, "So stay. Prove it. If not for yourself, do it for me."

He gripped my hands tightly across the table, shaking his head slowly and sadly. "No. I'm sorry, I can't. I'm breaking free." Suddenly, he let go of my hands and returned to his cell, for the last time. I sat there, stunned. His spell had hit me.

The footsteps drew nearer and my heart beat faster in my chest. The crashing of the waves was louder, more powerful, the rustling of the trees somewhat quieter and the grass a deep shade of crimson. Hot tears spilled from my eyes and I suddenly wondered why I had come. Because of course then there had been the suicide note... I had always known he wouldn't; he was far too selfish for that. Even so, 5 years is a hell of a long time to wait.

The world around just faded. I expected him to be glum, sour, at the least expressionless. He towered above me and inspected my form, complete with scars and bruises, gashes and a nightgown with slashes and red stains. Then I looked into his twinkling, green eyes, attempted to cover the bald spot on my head with one hand and wiped away my tears with the other. He smiled at me, "As beautiful as ever." I wanted to embrace him in a bone-crushing hug, smile and laugh with him for all of eternity.

But I ignored his statement. He abandoned me and so I asked him outright, "Why?" A wisp of hair fell into my face.