Read part 1
When I was very small, I had a porcelain doll. She was all I ever saw. She had big blue eyes and soft yellow hair, her skin as smooth as ice. The silky dress cocooned around her perfect little body. It was a delicate lavender, a floral comfort I had always wanted wrapped around myself, keeping me warm and safe. She was just like me, but better, because she did not have to be afraid. Every day I’d sit with her and brush her hair and smooth her dress. She was the prettiest doll, and I knew all the other dolls must have been jealous of the attention I had only for her. I felt her watching me, and it was comfortable. Until it wasn’t anymore.
“Get it right, get it right, get it right.” The unsteady words continue to tumble out of me, leaving me breathless. Eventually I crawl out from under my shame. Robert is sitting across the room. He looks paler than I remember, a frozen image against a blank scene. He stirs with my movement, going from weary to alert in the wispy haze of my eyes. We look at one another. I move carefully, fearful of losing this. When I pass the mirror, I hesitate. My face twitches with an uncontrollable tick, repulsed by the marks I can still see. There are so many cracks, ugly, ugly cracks. It must be a trick reflection, for now all I can see is the bedroom at home. I admire the familiar pastel walls with the little yellow ducks waddling around the basing. I’m hanging up a mobile. And then, at last, I can see my Robert. I’m so relieved I almost call out to him. He saunters over to me, kisses my cheek. I can still feel the warmth. He pats the bump that has only just begun to show itself and I lean into him contently. How did you end up ruining this?
The image slowly fades as the train whistle blows and once more I am in that wretched room that dares to judge me. Just as before, Robert comes up behind me, placing his hands upon my belly, but now the touch brings with it the stench of failure. I close my eyes and try to steady my breathing, but the words come out before I can stop them. “I hear it crying in my sleep.” Robert doesn’t answer, but I hadn’t expected him to. We cannot speak of it. We do not speak of it. The mind takes pleasure in forgetting – but in its sickness it also takes pleasure in reminding. It’s in the moments between forgetting and reminding that I trust it the least, because that is when the mind plays tricks. I feel the tears burning through my lids and I cling to what I can of Robert. I almost feel him grasping back. “It was never supposed to happen,” I murmur, but stop myself before I’ve chased away the last shred of him.
The train gives a sudden heaving lurch, and this time I lose myself completely. I’m on my knees and the pain is everywhere again, just like before. I squeeze my eyes shut, blocking out what is left of the oncoming crash. “Not now, not now, not now,” I whisper. It takes me a moment to realise that we have stopped moving. Why does this have to happen now, I’m groaning, gnashing my teeth. I get shakily to my feet. Robert stands anxiously next to me, but does not move. I poke my head out into the hall. People are fluttering up and down the corridor, whispering to one another. I hunch in on myself. Eventually a conductor struts down the hall, calling out that we’ve had to make an emergency stop but will be up and moving again shortly. I feel my throat close. I slam the door shut, before anyone can notice me. I pull at my hair, whimpering. “Not now, not now, not now. I’m not ready yet. I can’t do this.” I’m rocking back and forth, holding my head tightly in my hands, trying to stop its pain. I sense Robert brush up close to me, feel his breath across my neck.
“We’ve only stopped. We’ll start moving again.”
“I don’t want to be here.”
“Tinny, you can do this. There’s nothing to be afraid of. I’m here. I’m keeping you safe. We’re not trapped. We can leave here together.”
“We’ll fly away?” I whimper quietly.
“We’ll fly away.” He answers simply.
I can sense his calming touch, familiar still. I shuffle to the bed, rearranging the pillows so that they form perfect rectangles. There, that looks better. Much better. I straighten out the sheets, smoothing away the creases. I can breathe. I will not let it happen again. I am strong; I can beat this.
“Do you want to rest? I can wake you when we start moving.” As he speaks, my eyelids grow heavy. Everything feels slow and murky, like traipsing through muddied water. I’m still so tired. A nap, a nap would be nice, but that means battling once more with the issues that sleep always brings. Will sleep ever truly come? All I want to do is close my eyes, but will things still look the same when I open them again, after being subjected to the dreams of a cruel subconscious? The vision of Robert rocks away my troubles, and I’m drifting back towards the darkness with the closing of my eyes.
Robert used to tell me that if ever I grew too scared, I shouldn’t be ashamed to scream. Screaming was allowed when things got bad. Screaming meant that he would come for me. You are worth what they say you are worth. You do not define yourself. All my life I have been taught that, not with words, but through the things that people would do to me, the way they looked at me. Robert told me that if anyone did anything bad to me again, I should scream and then they’d be the ones running away, and he would find me and wipe clean the sadness. We had found each other for reasons beyond my understanding, but even I could understand that we recognized in one another someone who had been loved in a way they shouldn’t have been by those they trusted most.
My skin prickles, and for a moment I do not sense Robert beside me. Instead, in this moment it is only me alone with the haunting eyes of my childhood. The eyes are a glassy blue, always a glassy blue. They are watching me even now, after all that has passed since their existence. I used to see them everywhere, staring back at me. I no longer need to see them to know that they are there. Even broken and hidden away they remain staring into me, filling me with despair. I am not worthy of their presence. I should have known better. I shouldn’t have been playing where I didn’t belong. But Robert wanted me. Didn’t he?
No, no, no, I have never doubted Robert, don’t make me start now. Please let us be. But still, the eyes will never stop watching.
The train begins to move again. It is a steady movement, but still makes me sway slightly. I sit with my knees tucked beneath my chin, wondering how I ever found my way here, and if I’d ever be able to find my way back. Perhaps it isn’t so healthy after all to cling to something as desperately as I am trying to.
Read part 3