It was dark.

And it was frigid.

She was trapped here, in this room.

Not for murder, or for anything of the sort that one would think to require such punishment.

I've scratched it in the walls, written what they taught me, what they made me realize

you are filth. you are disgusting. you are horrible. you do not deserve happiness

But simply for not being perfect.

is there a way out? help me, someone help me...

There was a knock at the door to the room.

who's there please don't hurt me please

The knock was firm and clear, but not loud.

they're coming for me now I guess this is the time to pay the price I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm so sorry

The knock grew more insistent.

please

The door opened.

don't hurt me

She heard footsteps, but she was curled on the floor crying, awaiting pain.

then again

The footsteps came closer.

I guess since I'm horrible I'm getting what I deserve

She could feel the figure right next to her.

it's my fault

She braced herself.

"No."

She was confused now. She knew that voice.

"I would never hurt you."

She could never forget that voice.

"but don't you know how bad a person I am; don't you know that I am dirt?"

"That's not true." The figure knelt down, and touched her shoulder. She flinched at first, instinctively expecting to be hurt. "It's okay." She relaxed a little, though still a bit wary. Why would she ever have a source of comfort?

"but if I'm not dirt what am I?"

"Guess."

She attempted humor. "a magical flying rabbit?"

He smiled a little. "Close, but not quite."

"close enough?"

"Close enough."

She realized that there was a sense of warmth now. She hadn't felt warmth for what felt like years.

He put an arm around her, slowly, watching her carefully to see that this was alright with her.

She welcomed the touch, moving closer to him.

He noticed how violently she was shivering.

He carefully took off the hooded cape he'd been wearing over the robes, and draped it over her. The room was indeed cold. Very cold.

How long was she here?

She was in bad condition. She probably hadn't eaten much recently, there were dark circles under her now-open eyes, and the room had gotten even colder since he'd walked in.

If he'd come much later, she might have died.

"We need to get you out of here."

"but I'm supposed to be here"

"What?"

"I'm supposed to be here because I wasn't good enough"

"Good enough for what?"

"good enough for them, good enough for anyone, good enough for anything"

"You know that's not true. Who told you that?"

"they did... they made me see it; they were the ones who guided me here, even if they may not have realized

well

maybe it's all my fault they didn't realize

I never could convince them that what I felt, who I was, was real..."

"How could that possibly be your fault?"

"because I didn't try hard enough"

"because I'm useless"

"Stop. Please. Stop doing this to yourself..."

"but I deserve it"

"No. You never, ever deserved this. You don't deserve to be in so much pain."

He took her into his arms, trying to return much-needed warmth to her cold frame.

"...okay...I'll go...if you'll stay with me..."

"Of course I shall stay with you."

He helped her up. She was weak, and needed his support to get up. He didn't mind.

She held his hand as they walked out of the room, as they left the messages scratched into the walls, left the freezing cold.

When they were out, they sat down next to each other.

There was silence for a moment.

The silence was broken by quiet sobs.

He held her close to him as she cried, stroking her hair.

She clung to him, even after she stopped crying.

"I'm...I'm sorry..."

He gently put his hand under her chin, lifting it so he could see her face.

"You didn't do anything wrong. Please, don't be sorry."

She nodded, looking into his eyes.

"I'll try, I'll try my best; I promise"

They embraced, the tears on her face slowly drying.

"...I love you"

"I love you, too."