I never knew her name all of those years under ice and mud. I only knew that she was drawing nearer to me.
I saw her in my soul when she was an infant, cradled in the cold arms of her mother. I willed my love to comfort her hunger for love. Can love travel through so many layers of death and time?
I watched her take her first steps, speak her first words. . I saw her hair grow to her waist and her soft childlike body change. She became a violin. Curving, glistening, and singing a mournful tune. I saw her even in my grave. My soul saw her.
She was the daughter of a rich man and his rich wife in their rich home. When she was small she played by the large leaded windows. The light flooded into the windows that had only moments before been drenched with the rain. The silver drops shone with prisms on the floor as the evening sun burst into the room from behind their cloudy prison. She touched her small fingers to the cold glass, looking with the face of a person so much older than her body into the beauty of the light. In moments like this I hoped she could see me. As she furrowed her brows and stared out, I think she almost could.
I waited for her. There was no logic in the waiting. Just a cosmic longing for our souls to finally find each other.
I never told anyone about the man I saw in my playroom as a child. I thought he was an angel. When he came I tried to be very still. Sometimes I held my breath. He never stayed long and I was so afraid to stir lest he spirit away again for years and years. Like he always did. I never moved but to put my fingers onto the distorted reflection of his face on the window. He only ever came when it was sunny and raining at the same time. Just before the rainbow.
One time he came after she hurt me. I rolled up the sleeve to my dress to show the deep crescent shaped cuts that mother put into my arm. The blood dripped onto the floor while I stared into his liquid eyes. I was seven then and I hoped that he could help me. He never did. But his face stayed longer in the window that time, and for the first time I could make out color of his eyes. Blue. Ice blue. I didn’t see him again for many years after that.
I attended a boarding prep school in a small town near Salem. As soon as I was old enough to be sent out of the lives of my parents I was ushered out of my cold, city apartment to the sea side school which was meant to prepare me for a life of success. It was the only kind thing my mother and father ever did for me.
The school was a haven to children like me. Unlike that girls and boys in the books I had read, I loved boarding school. It was my home, my teachers were my mothers, and I was safe from the fierce hands of my mother.
There were three hundred girls in my school. My small friends and I often went to the meadow beyond the back of the lacrosse fields to pick lupines and tall grasses to bring back to our rooms. In the meadows I was happy. My little friends and I lay together in the tall, enveloping grasses, small and wrapped in God’s great quilted skies. The skies were vast and the sea winds pushed tremendous, great cumulus clouds to delight us with the shapes of dragons and ships in the sky. I found God in those fields. I found him on the dew of the grass and the delicate feelings of the flower petals between my thumb and forefinger. I found him in the massive and encompassing arc of the sky. The gentle kiss on my skin was not the wind blowing in from the sea, it was the comfort of my Father in heaven. I forgot about my angel in the playroom, because I found something greater, something nearer and more constant.
It was spring when I realized that I was no longer a child. I knew my friends were all women now, with their gently curving bodies and defined faces. In my mind’s eye, however, I was still a bird of a girl; androgynous and frail.
Graduation was this weekend and I felt as I always felt when going home was looming on the horizon. Nausea, pain, and fear grip my stomach in a tight squeeze that doesn’t leave till semester begins again. Only this time semester would not begin again. This time my haven is gone forever. No one will keep me safe. This time I graduated into the guilded cage my mother had contrived for me.
It was Saturday, the sun soaked my room in gentle, golden light as my best friend and I lay together in bed. We had stayed up late watching French films and gradually fell asleep together. She was my sister in all ways but blood and it was not unusual for us to share a bed.
I saw the soft light touch her bare legs and was filled with awe at the womanly beauty of this friend who had been a small child with me. I then realized that my own form beside her was as soft and curving as her own. I had imagined myself as a small and vulnerable child for so many years that I felt as if I would always be one. When, all at once, I saw that I was no longer small nor vulnerable nor even a child the old fear began to waiver a bit.
A strange stirring of small hope began to grow. I had been eighteen for months now, but the reality of my adulthood only just then began to materialize. As I was faced with the rest of my life away from the school and this sweet friend beside me I began to see that, perhaps, things were not so bleak. Frightening, exhilarating thoughts began to weave about in my brain. I was washed with the novelty of being suddenly an adult when moments before I was only a child.
Things could be different now.
I was right.
When I arrived home in the car, I parked on the street and walked softly up the steps of the brownstone home that has been my lovely prison all these years. With each stony step my confidence faded and the woman I had begun to become shrank smaller until she was again a little bird girl with weak bones and broken wings.
Mother and Father had accepted my success in school with expectation and had paid tuition for Harvard long before my senior year was begun. They were glad to tell their friends of their daughters prodigious mind and claim her intelligence as their own. Graduation would mean parties. Empty, endless parties with my parent’s friends. My parents friends who all hate each other almost as much as they hate themselves. Champagne and empty congratulations would flow freely and I would be poised and impressive as always. Failure was never an option. Failure meant blood.
For hours or sometimes days, my mother would enjoy the novelty of having me at home. She would dress me up and parade me around the city like a pretty accessory on her arm. But like always, time would soon fade the novelty and I would become a blight like a bauble that’s lost its allure. The abuse would begin. But maybe not. I’m bigger now. Maybe I can run fast enough.
I was wrong.