the voice drew her out of her head, up and out of memories tinged sepia. ones with the dust of years around the edges, locked for so long in a box she thought had been destroyed.
she couldn't remember where the conversation had been when she left it.
"the one who stood up for justice. the one who pushed back, who said how she was being treated was wrong. the one who would have called it injustice if she saw it happening to anybody else. where is she?"
"15" the answer came immediately. startled, she stopped to think for a moment and realized this was true. it's a funny thing, memories. awaken one and a whole series comes to life. it turns out she was good at hiding things from herself. after six-ish weeks of not really knowing, of being blurry there was clarity too surprising to be painful. at first.
"she's 15, locked in a closet somewhere. duct tape over her mouth. because how else would she be quiet so long?" she grinned sheepishly, a little embarrassed at how dramatic this analogy was. a little surprised at how honesty jumped out of her lips before her armor could stop it. she expected him to grin back, to believe her quick recovery that it wasn't nearly as dark as she painted it to be.
"eleven years is a really long time."
quietly. she wished he would look somewhere else. she wished he wouldn't be so patient about silences. she wished he would let her believe her denial.
"that says a lot. this girl who's been locked away for eleven years...she needs to come out."
damn his straightforward honesty! something about gentleness gave her no room for denial. she wanted him to allow her back her pretenses. her version, the one she built over years and years of not-quite-lying but not-really-telling-the-whole-truth either. where things weren't that bad. the one where she was just a little dramatic and weak for having baggage. the one where words like "abuse" and "survivor" didn't apply to her story. if he wouldn't look at her, she might be able to cling to that smudged, penciled, much-erased story.
but he just waited for her to react. waited for her to breathe, giving her space. and his silence let the truth seep out of her heart.