You Promised
by vali

She stared at her hands numbly, barely seeing what was right in front of her. Blinking a couple of times, she wondered why she never noticed how deathly pale her hands looked. Her long, slender fingers splayed across her jeans, palms up and relaxed, looked fragile—breakable. Her veins stood out prominently against the harsh white light of the hospital.

They really should get better lights, she squinted, hoping to ward off the unwelcome glare; it made her uneasy, as if she was about to be interrogated.

She went numb again.

She didn't notice when her left hand went limp and slid off her lap. It made a plop! against the hard, uncomfortable plastic chair.

Her fingers uncurled slowly, defeated.

Yet, a spark of life flickered behind her blank, listless face…but only for a second.

Why did hospitals like the color white so much? It seemed as if it was the only color there was in the entire building. She could almost imagine the painters that came in when the hospital was built. They must have needed truckloads of white paint----gallons upon gallons upon gallons. The image almost made her chuckle, but it died on her lips before it could escape.

She really wasn't in the mood to laugh.

The white wall stared her in the face, almost mocking in its monotony. You can't escape me it said. And maybe it was right. She couldn't escape it----this.

Not now. Not ever.

It almost made it easier in a way. There was nothing her mind could focus on. Just that unerring whiteness in front of her. She could almost go numb in peace.

The wall looked so blank…just like she wanted her mind to be…so blank and white…to be free from thinking, feeling, knowing…just nice and empty…just to forget…no…there wasn't anything she needed to remember…nothing…nothing…nothing…

A quick fluttering of her eyes snapped her back awake. Funny, she almost fell asleep there for a second.

Why was everything so white? It was kind of…nice, actually. Just like heaven, like the clouds in the sky. Suddenly, she found herself struggling to keep down the disgust that made her feel nauseated. This was a hospital! It wasn't at all like heaven; it was a place where people died. As quickly as the anger came, it disappeared. Her body couldn't handle the strain of being angry.

It was too much effort.

And she was tired.

So very tired.

She could barely muster enough energy to keep going. And going. And going. There wouldn't be an end, just that white…staring right back at her, every day.

From now on.

And then some.

Her body fell into a slump and she hunched over in her chair, looking as old as a woman twice her age. Her hair fell over her face, but she didn't bother sweeping it back. With some interest, she noticed that she needed to take a shower. Her hair was greasy; she had been sleeping at the hospital for the past week.

But then her interest dimmed.

She went back to staring at her hands.

Her thumb began making circles absentmindedly on her jeans out of habit. Around and around and around. The motion soothed her, and she couldn't think of anything else to do. Then she realized what was happening, and the dementia bubbled up in her throat. A shriek tore itself from her throat and suddenly she found herself on her feet, screaming.

The scream turned into laughter of sorts. It sounded oddly inhuman, and she had no doubt it sounded insane. But she couldn't make herself stop. She just couldn't.

There was no one around to hear her.

And there was no one around to care.

Her legs folded from underneath her, and her body slid gracefully to the floor. Her body was bent at an awkward angle, but she didn't bother to correct it. It wouldn't make her feel any better. She braced both her palms against the floor and went back to staring at the wall.

That white, white wall.

A loud rumble filled the hallway. It sounded like thunder, and she heard the rain before she saw it. A slow half-quarter turn of her head and she saw the raindrops splattering against the window, begging to get it. And she wanted it to wash her away, wash her clean of her memories, of her thoughts, of her pain. There was nothing she wanted more.

But the rain didn't come.

And she went on staring at the wall.


A faint noise echoed down the hallway, but she paid no attention to it.

Then came the steps of a hurried child.

And the slower ones of a patient grandmother.

She turned her head slightly. A bright yellow raincoat caught the edge of her vision and the voice followed after. "Mama! Mama!"

A fair little boy of six years bounded into view. He was all smiles and she could see the place where his front tooth had fallen out just a week earlier even from that distance. A mop of blond hair, like lemons, stuck messily to his face. She supposed it was the rain. The mess of freckles dusted his cheeks and his nose, the ones she would often kiss while he squirmed and claimed he was too old for kisses.

But he always let her do it.

Then she saw her mother following behind him. Her mother took one look at her and saw everything written on her face. Then the woman turned away, and the beginnings of a tear trailed itself down her cheek.

Her little boy caught her attention again. "Mama! Mama! Guess what? I won! I won! Papa's going to be so proud!"

She couldn't look at him.

"Mama? Mama?" he tugged at her sleeve. "Why are you crying, Mama? And where's Papa? You promised I could see him today."

The lump in her throat grew a bit.

"Where's Papa?"

No. No. No.

"But you promised!" he said accusingly.

You promised…you promised…you promised…

A wail rose up from her throat, the sobs choking her cries.

She let herself be swallowed up by the white