When I awoke the world was dark. The air was still, everything held its breath as if it was waiting to see what would happen. I struggled to sit up. I reached up and held my pounding head. Where was I? It felt like I had a wad of cotton in my mouth. I tried to swallow but my mouth was so dry. I rubbed my throat and slipped to the edge of the bed. It wasn’t far to the floor and I stood up. My body wavered for a moment but I scolded myself and ignored the weakness. A faint glimmer of light shone from one end of the room and I slowly made my way over.
My fingers brushed heavy velvet. I paused. He didn’t, he wouldn’t. But then I remembered the prick in my arm. Everything had gone black. Who knew where they had brought me. My fingers trembled as I grasped the material in my hands. I took a deep breath and threw the drapes opened.
Outside a late afternoon sun shone down on a very familiar sight. Trees, flower beds and benches covered the lawn showing off their dresses of white. I shook my head and slowly turned around. With a sigh I sank to the window seat.
The blue walls seemed to have grown smaller and the large bed more menacing. Standing, I made my way to the door and twisted the handle. It didn’t budge. I tried again. It was locked. From the outside. How dare he?
I lost it then. My mind snapped. They couldn’t do this to me. It wasn’t right. They had no right. I screamed like a trapped animal. I poured all my anguish, hatred, sorrow, pain and anger into one long cry.
When I ran out of breath I sank to the floor and led the tears flow. They fell, silent and heavy. I couldn’t sob, I had no strength but still the tears came. A whimpering sound came from somewhere in the room and I looked around, trying to find the other prisoner in here. Then I realized it was coming from me. I pressed a fist to my mouth and tried to muffle the pitiful sounds. I couldn’t let them know that this was killing me. I had to remain strong.
Who was I kidding though? Shut up here like a bird in a cage would kill me and kill me fast. Dante would be sorry he ever did this to me. He would rue the day he decided to take charge of my future. Who gave him the right to tell me what to do? I didn’t remember getting a message from someone telling me that my life was now to be dictated by a man who had always gotten what he wanted. Did he even know what he was getting into?
Sure, he talked smart and reasonable. But how did he know the poor actually wanted help? And why had he waited until now to find me and ask for my help? Oh, wait, he never asked, he demanded. And why was I worried about him? I wasn’t going to help no matter how hard he begged. He was on his own. Him and his ‘Vision of the Future’ groupies. They would be ripped to shreds before they got five steps into the slums. And I would laugh as I watched.
My pain had long since been replaced by anger and I used that anger to rise up and march into the bathroom. I flicked on the light and looked at myself in mirror in disgust. My hair was everywhere and dirt and tears smudged my cheeks. Under the dirt my skin as pale and my eyes sported purple bags.
“Alright, Crystal, this isn’t the end. You need to keep your wits about you. You can get out of here.”
I nodded to my reflection and then turned to the bathtub. A relaxing soak in the tub would help. As I waited for the tub to fill I gulped down cup after cup of water. Whatever that man had pumped into my veins had dried me up. When my thirst was finally slacked I stripped and slipped beneath the soothing waves of warmth.
As I soaked I banged on the gates of heaven, begging, demanding to know why this was happening to me.
“Why, God, why? Are you punishing? Because I think I’ve been punished enough. Are You trying to make me stronger? I think this will just make me harder. Please, You have to get me out of here. I wasn’t made to live inside four walls. I was made to fly free like one of Your eagles, to feel the wind in my face, to smell the earth, the leaves. I’ll whither in here.”
Words long ago read began to filter back into my mind. Those who wait on the Lord shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall walk and not faint. They shall run and not grow weary.
I clung to that promise. I would wait on the Lord and stay strong. One day when the time was right I would mount up with wings as eagles and fly this gilded cage. But as I looked around the four walls I felt the despair creep back into my soul. It would be a constant struggle to remove it all, but I was determined not to let anything crush my spirit.
The sun was gone and the world outside had lost all colour when the door to my room finally swung opened. I stood by the window in a dark blue dress I had found in the wardrobe. I was the picture of calm, but inside I shook. Dante was going to get it when he came in.
But the person who walked in was not Dante, it was Elise. She carried a tray and Truscott trotted at her side.
“Truscott!” I knelt to the ground and my arms filled with a wriggling bundle of fur and warmth.
“I’m sorry, Crystal.”
I tore my eyes my dog and looked up into Elise’s face. She looked ready to cry. In her eyes I could see shame and dismay.
I stood up and took the tray from her shaking hands. She hid her hands behind her back and stared at me. I reached out and squeezed her arm.
“It’s alright, Elise. This isn’t your fault.”
Elise looked around the room and shook her head. “But this isn’t right. Keeping you locked up like a prisoner.”
“But that’s what I am, Elise. I’m a prisoner of people’s whims. First my grandfather and now Dante. Both of them seem to think they know what is best for me.” I pulled the cover of the tray and snatched up a piece of bread. “I won’t be here forever. I’ll get out.”
Elise shook her head and went to tend to the fire. “No, they have someone watching the door day and night. You can’t get out.”
“When God closes a door somewhere He opens a window.” I sat down in one of the chairs and began eating the bread.
Elise shrugged. “I have to go. I’m not allowed to stay more than ten minutes. They think I helped you leave.”
“That’s ridiculous. I left all on my own. If you have any more problems, tell Dante to come talk to me. I’ll tell him what happened.”
“Thank you, Crystal.”
There was a knock on the door and Elise hurried away. She gave me one last smile before slipping back into the hall. I ran across the room and arrived at the door just in time to hear the lock slide into place.