I look at the autumn leaves and clear sky. I feel you with me. It helps while I’m taken to the courthouse.
My vision steeps in the raw oranges and flame reds of the leaves. They may be out of sight as I enter, but they are not out of mind. The colors follow me, painting the old building, cascading along dingy columns. I sense you smiling with me at the playful romp.
I am guided by grunts and nudges until I stand in the filled courtroom. Artificial silence settles with a sigh upon us as the crowd recognizes me. The colors they wear meld with the others, bronzes, rusts, all rising to silently roar around the chamber. They wash away the stale air, the intense attention of the gallery, the blank faces radiating curiosity. I gear my gaze upward, where the season’s splendor rinses age from the whitewash on the domed ceiling.
A tug on my sleeve draws me down to a waiting chair and we sit. Maria’s voice is a warm burble, the message sinking in as I throw shades of gold into a darkened corner above. I nod, you nod, we all three nod. Our attorney is intent upon me. I listen, roll around her words to shake loose the reality they try to soften. I reassure her, place my hand over hers on my arm. You whisper and I laugh softly, meaning I must pat Maria’s hand again. She worries so.
The music begins as Maria leaves us. Her voice spills over and through the barriers of judgment masking those gathered. My upward glance glides along the words, sliding down to the jurors. Raw hatred in dark eyes chisels through my palette of colors. I cry out at the splatter. You tug on me and we murmur to rebuild peace. Maria joins us. Her hand is warm against my cool cheek. Her words spill forth with ardor.
The short man who smells of cloves speaks my name. His kindness murmurs down to me. I go with him and the choreography begins. I don’t want to dance, but I must. Our last dance, you tell me. I shake my head. Another awaits. A wave of your hand sends a spray of oranges and bronzes around me. I watch them fade up toward the woman in dark robes at the big desk. I sit beside her, below her, and her gray eyes are stern. She tells the dancers to take their places.
As they pepper me with questions, rude invasions from the squat man, gentler inquiries from Maria, you settle in beside me. You stroke my neck. I savor the relaxation. The gray-eyed woman speaks sharply. You stop and I straighten, apologize. The dance is a serious dance, a tango without the fun. I promised Maria I would be serious. Serious and honest. It’s all a blur. Am I being serious and honest? Can they understand the truth? I’m not sure I do.
The woman smacks her desk with a mallet. I lift my head from the table. My gaze is furtive amid the choreography gone horribly awry. You stroke my back and peace settles into my belly. Maria hands me a tissue. Am I all right? Do I need Dr. Griffin? Do I need my medicine? Yes, no and no. Definitely no. Dr. Griffin and his meds make you go away. Do they think I can go this alone? I need you here. I give Maria a firm response and squeeze her hand. She smiles and cups my cheek. Over her shoulder, she calls out. The clove-smelling man helps me back to Maria’s table. He’s kind. He helps me with the sagging chains so I don’t stumble.
We’re in a quiet room now. Maria’s strategy time, getting her dancers organized. I speak only to choose chicken enchiladas, your favorite. You persuade me to eat for you, teasing me into it. I get a little sizzle of love behind my heart when you tell me I must take care of myself for you. I eat, taking time to enjoy it with you. My part of the dance is nearly done, they say. I don’t tell them how glad I am.
Too soon, Maria begins leading the afternoon’s complicated dance. It is watched over by the gray-eyed woman in black robes. She sits at her desk across from me. I see she has dark hair up in a French twist. She wears glasses when she reads, silver ones. I’m not sure she seems nicer from here. I am sure I’m happy for the distance.
Dr. Griffin sits for his part of the dance. You say I’m the person he’s describing. “No wonder I have to take all those meds,” I whisper back. Abrupt silence. Everyone stares at me. “That wasn’t a whisper,” you murmur so others can’t hear. I put my hand up and mumble I’m sorry. Maria leans close and asks if I need my meds again. I’m mortified. I keep my face hidden by my hands and just shake my head, “No meds, no meds.” You stroke my neck and back. The scary feeling of my heart racing in my throat goes away while the room is quiet again. Maria runs her fingers over my hair before the dance resumes.
People are tired, even the jury as they file out. We wait in the quiet room. Maria interrupts our soft conversation with reassuring words. She doesn’t feel their assurance. How could I? You’re the only one who understands. You always did, even when you acted like the others. No need for that now. I freed you from having to lie.
Now, never apart yet never fully together, we wait. Soon the gray-eyed woman will give us permission to reunite completely. I rub my wrists together and the scars slide soothingly. What Dr. Griffin refused me, the gray-eyed woman will order done. I wrap myself in what’s left of the autumnal colors and wait.
© 2010 Jessica Rosen
Based on one of my own #storystarters, this story mutated wildly as I drew it out of the dark corners into which it scuttled every time I looked away.