She hesitates at the gates of the cemetery. I watch her, curious to see if she’ll actually come all the way in this time. Yesterday she chickened out and ran back the way she came – it’s amusing how frightened she is of me, even though technically I can’t hurt her anymore.
It really is a gorgeous day, as late fall days go, though neither of us are paying much attention. I watch the sun bend around her shape, how it conforms and yields to it, with a sort of envy. It leaves a long shadow in front of her, shading the paper she is clenching in both hands. She sits cross-legged in the grass. Is she enjoying the warmth of the sun against her back? I can almost remember how it feels.
She is afraid even now. I see it in the veins standing out on her neck, the paleness of her lovely features, the tight whiteness of her clenched fingers. The stiff way she sits. The way she breathes.
She swallows and I wait. She has visited me every day for the past week, but until now, she has not said a word. I feel the change in her body, though, and I know that changes today.
She unfolds the paper with jerky movements, smoothing it flat over her leg, still not looking at me. It’s as though by keeping her eyes down, she can forget that I am there.
As though she could ever forget that I am there. Silly, foolish little girl.
She clears her throat. “I,” she says, then stops. Clears her throat again. “I forgive you.”
It is so hard for her to say those three words, and I almost chuckle. But she is trying so hard, and so I hold my peace, and allow her to continue.
“I forgive you,” she says again, with a little more confidence, and finally, finally her eyes come up to me. She takes a deep, ragged breath, and drops her head back down to the paper.
“I lost seven years of my life to you,” she says. “I was a child, and you forced me into womanhood. I still tremble when I leave my home, and I find it hard to watch a movie or read a book without remembering what it was like to be owned by you.”
Her voice is gaining strength. “Isolation is a terrible thing. I can never put into words how much I longed for another human to talk to, how much I needed another voice. They say for people like me,” her voice breaks, and I recognize that this is one of those things that always happens to someone else, that she still can’t quite wrap her head around the fact that to the world, she has become that someone else.
“..for people like me, that it is not unusual to become…dependent…on the one who….” She stops again. Takes a deep breath.
“You are in every corner of my life,” she says. “I have tried to cut you out, but the truth is, you became part of my bones, my muscles, my skin. And,” she shudders, the sun not enough to warm her anymore, “sometimes I almost miss you.”
I miss her too, but I can wait.
“You were a monster,” she says. “I repeat that to myself every day. I write it down. I recite it. I think it. And you were. A monster.”
A monster she loved. Loves.
“I wrote this letter to let you go,” she tells me. “It took a long time, but I’m ready to let you go.”
She is more confident now. Probably her shrink’s idea to do this, probably told her it would make everything all right. She’s still so innocent, poor thing.
“I’m laying you to rest,” she says. “I am burying you. You did a horrible thing to me. You took me from my home and you held me captive for seven years, and you made me…” her voice breaks.
You made me love you.
“They call it Stockholm Syndrome,” she says quietly, and her eyes are on me again. Interesting. She’s abandoned the letter, abandoned the words she has thus far stuck to like a script. “I grew dependent on you because you were the sole provider of everything I needed to survive. But,” and she’s going back to the words she wrote, “I choose life without you. I choose to leave you here. I can walk away knowing I’ll never have to see you again. I’ll be okay, and I’ll be okay one day soon.”
She leans forward slightly and leaves the letter at the foot of my headstone, then unfolds herself from the ground and walks away, back straight, not looking back.
I don’t chase after her. I don’t have to; I know she is wrong.
One day soon, she will succumb to her scars, the beautiful marks I helped create. Having tasted of the life I introduced her to, she will be unable to handle the one she is struggling to adjust to now. She is caught forever between two worlds. And soon, she will only see one way out – as I did.
She doesn’t realize we are entwined in death as closely as we were in life.
But she will – one day soon.
Karlie Hall is an aspiring writer who lives with her husband and nine cats, in a little town no one’s ever heard of. She writes mostly fantasy, but sometimes dabbles in contemporary fiction with a dose of the supernatural. Her hobbies include pizza, reading, and gardening – when she can get her head out of the clouds, that is.
Image by Andrew Lin